Grecian formula

David the Greek is not your standard, garden-variety Greek guy. In fact, he’s not Greek at all. But I imagine he looks kind of like Plato or Aristotle or some other famous Greek guy, because large numbers of “Grecians” accept David as one of their own, which comes in pretty handy once a year or so, whenever the annual Sacramento Greek Food Festival rolls around, or when a food reviewer who knows nada about Greek food needs an unofficial expert on the subject to accompany him to dinner.

The latter being the case one recent Saturday when David the Greek, his wife the Bo Weevil, my wife the Junebug and myself made the long journey out to El Greco, located between Fair Oaks and Folsom in a fairly new strip mall known as Folsom Village. You can do a lot with a strip-mall space nowadays, and the only thing that detracted from the pink glow enveloping El Greco’s hardwood wine bar and partitions, neatly arranged tables and spacious outside dining area was a large boom box haphazardly positioned against the restaurant’s back wall.

Although Plato advised moderation in all things, El Greco has chosen to ignore this advice, as we learned with our first dish, an appetizer plate “for two” loaded with gyro meat, skewered hunks of lamb, olives, the freshest dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves) I’ve ever eaten, and a crumbly block of Feta served with wonderful, puffy house-made pita bread and three dipping sauces: tzaziki (cucumber), taramosalata (fish roe and olive oil) and skorthalia (garlic). The plate easily fed the four of us, and as we were washing it all down with Mythos and Kourus, domestic Greek beer and wine, a voice suddenly emanated from the boom box, informing us that Carolina (pronounced “Caroleena”) would now begin belly dancing.

I thought belly dancing was strictly a Middle Eastern or Turkish activity, but apparently not, and once David the Greek and I got a look at Carolina, all misty and mysterious in her powder-blue veils, such concerns weighed but lightly on our minds. I for one was mesmerized by the gyrations of her narrow hips, which I tracked by focusing intently on her pierced navel.

“She’s got abs,” criticized the Junebug, who, besides having abs of her own, knows a thing or two about dance. “They’re supposed to have some meat on them.”

“Yes,” agreed the Bo Weevil. “She’s much too thin to be a belly dancer.”

Carolina twirled and flitted about the tables, accepting dollar bills from the patrons, which she folded and tucked into the brass chain encircling her thin waist. David the Greek got his wallet out and generously loaned me a dollar, which I awkwardly folded and inserted into the tightly wrapped chain. My fumbling left my face flushed with red, boyish impotence.

Truth be told, the appetizer plate had finished off the Bo Weevil and the Junebug, and what little appetite David the Greek and myself possessed had been done in by Carolina. Nevertheless, the four of us ordered entrées, which proved to adhere to the El Greco philosophy that “more is more.” To put it plainly, no one who eats here will want for food.

David the Greek selected Portofino, a steamy melange of squid, shrimp, scallops, tomatoes, mushrooms and garlic served over thick, ropey spaghetti. The Bo Weevil went for Pastichio, which was kind of a Greek version of lasagna topped with bechemal sauce. The Junebug ordered Kokinisto, heaping mounds of sirloin in a nutty-flavored tomato sauce atop more of the thick, ropey spaghetti. Feeling dainty, I had spanakopita, a delicate filo pastry crust stuffed with fresh steamed spinach and feta. The portions of this hearty, family-style fare were generous, and we ended up carting most of the food home, where it was devoured by our respective starving broods during the course of the week.

All in all, El Greco is as good a reason as any to explore the fringes of Sacramento, requiring little besides a reasonable amount of cash and a healthy appetite. Oh, and don’t forget the dollar bills. Carolina needs to eat, you know.