A Family Run Greek Gem in Sleepy Hollow 

The bronzini is served whole or filled. Photo by Alain Begun

In January 2008, the New York Times ran a review of Santorini Greek Restaurant in Sleepy Hollow. The review read in part, “Westchester has a decent share of good Greek restaurants these days, but Santorini is a cut above most.” And based on my most recent visit, that claim still stands. 

But before I get to the food, a little backstory about how this gem of a spot a little off the beaten path on Valley Road came to be.  

In 1979, Yorghos “George” Samaras came to the United States after living and working as an architect in the Ivory Coast of Africa. George, who was raised in Lebanon to a Lebanese mother and Greek father, planned to continue his architectural career in the US but because he didn’t speak English, he couldn’t get a job. So, he did what he had to do to support his family. “I had two kids and a wife, and I had to do something,” said George. “So, I bought a deli.” 

The deli was rundown, so George renovated the space and turned it into a mini-supermarket and deli. He hired an English-speaking helper and bought a dog to stay with him in the deli. A Doberman so he would feel safe. But there were still other issues he had to overcome. “One day my helper didn’t come, so I was alone,” said George. “A woman came in and asked me to make a spiced ham on rye bread. I had the refrigerator in front of me but didn’t know which was spiced ham. I put my hand on the bologna and she said, ‘I asked for spiced ham.’ Finally, I find the spiced ham and make her sandwich. After that I said this isn’t going to work.”  

As luck would have it, George’s landlord said the dog would have to go. Instead of leaving, George bought the building, eventually transitioning the deli into a Spanish restaurant in 2001. Seven years later, George transitioned again and opened a Greek restaurant called Santorini.  

The lamb youvetsi, is a fall-off-the-bone lamb shank. Photo by Alain Begun

Fifteen years later and with a newly expanded back room that can accommodate up to 50 people for private parties, the restaurant continues to serve some of the best Greek food in Westchester. On this particular visit, we started with a colourful and crisp Greek salad followed by fresh, broiled bronzini (Mediterranean Sea Bass), lamb youvetsi, a fall-off-the-bone lamb shank with orzo and tomato sauce and the moussaka with chopped meat and a bechamel sauce. All were among the best we’ve had with the bronzini being a favorite of the table.  

“All our food is fresh and never frozen,” said Alexandra Samaras, George’s daughter and partner. “We don’t buy in abundance. We choose what fish to serve based on what looks best at the fish market. We want you to have a nice experience and you leave here full.” 

True to her word, we were so full we decided to take our dessert to go. We chose two different chocolate cakes which were both rich and delicious. Our only regret is we didn’t also bring home some of their honey-perfection baklava. 

If the food makes you pine for a trip to Greece, the décor almost makes you feel like you are already there. Colourful paintings of Greek villages and seascapes by George’s brother Andre line the walls of the bright room. With 14 tables in the front and room for another 50 in the back, it’s the perfect setting for a couple’s night out or a family dinner. Besides having a full selection of Greek and Mediterranean specialties, Santorini also has an extensive kid’s menu to satisfy even the pickiest eaters. And of course, a full bar featuring an excellent selection of wine, beer and cocktails.  

Painted by Andre Samaras, the ship off the Greek coast is reminiscent of Santorini’s logo. Photo by Alain Begun

George speaks five languages – English, French, Greek, Arabic and Spanish. If you see him at the restaurant, he’s likely to regal you about his life in Beirut, France, the Ivory Coast and the US in one of those languages. At age 79, he still makes the restaurant’s fresh humus and his special salad dressing. 

Santorini is open seven-days-a-week for lunch and dinner. Take out and delivery are also available. 

  • santorinigreekrestaurant.com 

Santorini Greek Restaurant
175 Valley Street
Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591
(914) 631-4300

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About the Author: Alain Begun