“We use only Greek olive oil, of course,” Mamakos said, and laughed.
“Our priest, Father Constantine Newman, and his sons make all the galaktoboureko themselves,” John Housiantis said of the honey-laced, custard-filled filo dough dessert.
But by far the most popular item on the menu is the lamb shanks dinner, which for $18 includes rice pilaf, rolls, salad or green beans. They’ve prepared 630 this year — a few more than sold last year — all ranging in size from one and three-eights to one and a half pounds.
“People see those lamb shanks and they think they’re getting a piece of dinosaur it’s so big,” festival chairman Charlie Neos joked.
“The lamb shanks are our signature dish,” said Milton Monoxelos. “Years ago, the committee didn’t want to offer lamb shanks, but I’d make them anyway. I make 100; we sold out the first day.”
Since then the men of the parish have been trimming, brazing, seasoning and roasting more and more lamb shanks every year. Slow cooked for a total of almost three hours to produce a tender, succulent piece of lamb, it’s an ambitious undertaking, which this year is headed up by Christos Patrinos.
And for the first time this year’s festival will offer an ATM machine, for those who may not have brought enough cash, but decide they want to buy extra to enjoy at home at a later date.
“We’ve been fighting for four years to have credit cards,” said Housianitis. “The ATM’s will help.”
The importance of the earning power of the Greek Festival for the parish can’t be overestimated. Housianitis calls it the “financial lifeblood of the parish.”
“The church would run a $3,000 a month deficit without the festival’s income,” Neos said. “If it weren’t for the festival, we’d have to close the church doors.”