As American as baklava

Somewhere in a parallel universe, we consider Greek food an American tradition, as inherent to our way of eating as pizza or tacos. As evidence, we submit Santorini’s newest restaurant in Idaho (literally the parent company of the Santorini’s in Spokane).

Consider the following:Greek food comes from a culture whose ancient roots laid the foundation for Western civilization, including our American political, legal and other systems.

Second,it’s humble yet hearty food, the Mediterranean equivalent of meat-and-potatoes, with lamb instead of beef and orzo (ricelike pasta) replacing the potatoes (and waaaaaay more garlic!).

Finally, it is prepared by people like Dino and Fotini Tsakarestos, who embody the Horatio Alger attitude of our immigrant past. Nearly 40 years ago, they arrived from Crete, and they have since spent a lifetime building restaurants and relationships throughout the Northwest — including Coeur d’Alene’s Olympia restaurant, which they sold a few years back.

Their new restaurant is located in an unassuming strip mall across from Kootenai County Fairgrounds, home of horse shows and the annual demolition derby (doesn’t get much more American than that). With scant attention to ambience, Santorini’s offers plentiful portions of good food at extremely reasonable pricing (and menus you don’t need a flashlight to read).

Make a meal of appetizers like dolmades — grape leaves stuffed with ground beef and rice ($6.75). Hummus is traditionally made with ground garbanzo beans and a sesame paste called tahini, but it’s also available with roasted red pepper ($5.50-$6), smeared thickly over warmed pita bread, sliced veggies and fabulous with a glass of Kretikos wine ($6).

We love Greek appetizers so much that we had the sampler: roasted potatoes, Kalamata olives, spanokopita (phyllo pastry with spinach and feta cheese), dolmades and hummus ($12).

Other temptations include the kabob platter ($12.50-$15), gyros — sliced meat served on a pita with tzatziki sauce ($5.25-$5.85) — and moussaka, a casserole of potatoes, eggplant and ground beef ($12.50).

Save room for dessert like baklava ($3), made with butter, phyllo pastry dough, crushed nuts and honey. Since America is the land of milk and honey, consider it your duty to try some.