LENOX -- When a new eating establishment like Electra's Café opens for business, it's a good sign that customers feel at home right from the start. Owner Peter Lepotakis brings with him a 25-year history as owner of the downtown Pittsfield restaurant and bar, Patrick's Pub.
After a four-year break following the sale of Patrick's Pub, Lepotakis said, "it was time to get back into the business."
He opened Electra's Café in August on the main Route 7 and 20 thoroughfare between Pittsfield and Lenox, opposite Holmes Road, set back from the road between a day spa and a pizza parlor. It has quickly become a fixture in the neighborhood, earning a reputation as a friendly breakfast and lunch spot with Wi-Fi and local newspapers, and a number of local businesses regularly treat themselves to its take-out lunches.
The restaurant is named after Lepotakis' Greek grandmother, Electra, who was known to the family as Yia Yia. She inspired both the name of the café and many of the Greek-themed dishes it serves.
"Every Sunday was a special day at my Yia Yia's house," Lepotakis said.
After church, he said, the house would be packed with family and kids, and the table was loaded with her Greek dishes.
"Most of the Greek things on the menu come from her recipes," Lepotakis said. "They have gone over extremely well."
His grandparents opened the Union Lunch in Pittsfield back in 1938. Since then, owning restaurants has remained the family business.
It's certainly the case at Electra's Café.
The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch daily. Omelets and pancakes are popular with the breakfast crowd, who also enjoy scrambled egg wraps and Sunday specials such as Eggs Benedict. Lunch choices include a wide selection of Mediterranean and American panini sandwiches, as well as gourmet burgers made with Angus beef on a brioche-style bun.
Early dinner specials are served from 4 to 7 p.m., Monday to Thursday. They change on a regular basis and may include chicken and dumplings, meatloaf with mashed potatoes, lamb and bean stew and specialty pastas.
Lepotakis said nothing on the menu is pre-made: Everything is made to order, with house-roasted meats.
Diners place their orders at a long counter. Booths offer views of the bright front window and the clean, organized kitchen. Pleasant radio selections add to the relaxed, casual atmosphere.
On a lunchtime visit, we were in the mood to sample some of the Greek dishes. The thinly sliced lamb gyro (pronounced "hero") ($9.99) recalled the traditional upright spit-roasted meat and was served in a thick grilled pita with tomatoes, onions and a refreshing yogurt and mint tzatziki sauce.
A plate of two spinach and feta cheese-filled spanakopita pastries ($6.99) arrived accompanied by fresh fruit -- on that day pineapple, melon, grapes and orange -- and was perfect for sharing.
We decided to top the fresh greens, crisp raw veggies and calamata olives in a hearty bowl of Greek salad ($8.99) with chopped chicken souvlaki ($4.50 extra). Along with the feta crumbles and tangy house dressing, it offered a rich mix of flavors and crunchy, chewy textures.
For a special treat, we sampled the baked goods offerings with a generous slice of old-fashioned pineapple upside down cake ($2.50), a moist, sweet classic with rings of pineapple and a hint of almond.
No self-respecting Greek meal is complete without baklava ($3), and so we indulged in a crisp, flaky triangle of filo pastry richly filled with chopped nuts and drenched in honeyed syrup: Truly, decadence on a plate!
What: Electra's Café
Where: 439 Pittsfield Lenox Road
Hours: Monday to Thursday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Accessible: Wheelchair accessible
Price range: $4 to $10, credit cards accepted
Information: (413) 442-1000
Rating: Four Chef's Hats