Thursday October 18, 2012

WILLIAMSTOWN -- It has been well over two decades since Jim Alimonos took over as owner of the Cozy Corner Restaurant in 1989. And while he has maintained some classics of the previous owners, such as the fish and chips, he also has strived to put his own spin on the menu.

"When we took over the restaurant, that's what it was known for, so we just added on to that," explained Alimonos in an interview some time after our meal there. "I am Greek, so we try to throw something in there, whatever people like. This month we're running a moussaka special, and we have different types of Greek items throughout the year -- tourists really like that stuff. You kind of just see what season you're in, pick a lighter fare for the summer, or if seafood is the right thing ... it depends on the type of season and what's popular with people."

"Your customers decide what you do anyway," he said philosophically.

Alimonos previously owned a pizza restaurant and sandwich shop in Vermont. After having a partner who owned Village Pizza, he decided to relocate.

"We were partners for a long time," Ali monos said. "The last four or five years I've been on my own here and owned it outright."

Cozy Corner, while known to some for its pizza, is more a full-service restaurant than Alimonos' previous venture. He has an uncle who was in the pizza business and a father who loves to cook, so family recipes provide some of the inspiration for the Cozy Corner menu.

"I think we like to go back to simpler foods, instead of overdressing things," Alimonos said. "Simple meals with good, quality products and ingredients is probably the key, and that's where everybody's going to with the local farming. ... If you can get a good tomato, you don't really need to do much to it."

Cozy Corner is a bit noisy, but otherwise it has an unassuming typical mom-and-pop family restaurant sort of feel. For a starter, there was a small chickpea salad with olive oil, herbs and some mild bits of onion to give it some crunch. A pleasant change of pace from bread.

The menu had various pizzas, calzones, seafood and Greek specialties. I find it difficult to turn down a large plate of fried food, so I ordered the Fisherman's Platter ($18). The onion rings were very thick, both the onions and the breading, which held up very well when dipped. The scallops were nicely plump and, although a little chewy around the edges, still tasty when dipped in the tartar sauce. The shrimp also were pleasant, a fairly standard treatment with light breading and cocktail sauce on the side.

The clam strips, while cooked to an appropriate texture, were somehow a little bland and tasteless, which came as a disappointment. The fish was just the opposite; decent flavor, but a texture that was simultaneously a bit too chewy in some places, and a bit too soggy in others. Even the fries were a bit mushy in the middle.

The Greek food, meanwhile, was less hit or miss. The moussaka ($13) came with a Greek salad that included onions, Greek olives (pit in) and a generous pile of soft feta atop all of it. The slices of green pepper seemed a bit out of place to me, but the whole thing was quite tasty and I was too busy enjoying all the feta to care.

The moussaka itself was a good-sized square of meat, eggplant, potato, and oddly, zucchini. Why each Greek item had one ingredient I did not expect, I cannot say. But I also did not expect the moussaka to be as delicious as it was; after a few bites the zucchini didn't seem out of place at all. The whole thing held together quite well -- both structurally, and in terms of taste -- and was a surprisingly good moussaka that was even better than I had hoped.

I couldn't resist a chocolate peanut butter pie ($3.25) for dessert, a layered dessert with a chocolate cookie crust, solid chocolate top, and the bulk made up by a peanut butter creme with the consistency of cheesecake. I'd never had PB cheesecake before, especially not topped with thick solid chocolate, but I would certainly be eager to have it again.



What: Cozy Corner Restaurant

Where: 850 Simonds Road, Williamstown

Hours: Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 10 p.m.

Handicapped accessibility: No

Price range: $10 to $15

Information: (413) 458-3854

Rating: 3 chefs' hats

Chefs' Hat rating system

1: Avoid

2: Decent

3: Good food, with no reason not to try

4: Worth repeat visits

5: Take visiting friends here to impress them