Get Your Greek On! Telly's Taverna in Port Chester and Astoria
By Lilian Peña
A few years ago, Executive Chef-owner Dianna Loiselle decided to make the voyage from her highly acclaimed restaurant in Astoria, Queens to open her second restaurant in Port Chester. The restaurant, located at 108 Abendroth Avenue, is a wonderfully appointed space, with available seating for 200. It boasts a beautiful sidewalk café and a sparkling bar. There is also a private room to host a variety of gatherings and parties.
We were curious as to the origin of the name Telly’s Taverna. Dianna explained that her mother married her father who was stationed in Greece in the Air Force, and they came back to the United States. After a divorce, Dianna’s mother and she lived all over the country. Finally, she settled in New York first when Dianna was 13. She began working for a Greek restaurant that was housed in an actual taxi stand. Later, a friend of hers, Telly, started working there as well, and together they began cooking fish in the Greek style. The two eventually opened their own restaurant and named it Telly’s Taverna. Opened in 1990. Learned the Greek language through the music and all the people she worked with as a teenager. Dianna is an avid traveler and loves to explore.
Several years passed and Dianna bought Telly’s from her mother in 2010. It was an uphill battle. Astoria was changing and the economy was tough. After renovations and revamping the menu, everything fell into place. “It was so rewarding. If I went back and thought about Telly’s early years, we were a very small restaurant and people were waiting to get in. So, we expanded the seating without expanding the kitchen.” She explained.
Dianna watched her mother, alone, going to the market at 3:00 a.m. , with all men, and for the first six or seven years, Dianna did the same thing. The men would stand on the platforms and holler. It’s not like that anymore. There are more families in the fish market now. Dealing with everything in the ‘90s – it was much more of a man’s world back then. Even negotiating prices for things such as fish, produce and more was a huge challenge.
We are actually able to purchase fish from Greece today at a better price than restaurants in Greece. This is due to the fact that Greece exports more fish than they retain. And the price of olive oil is so high today, Dianna brings back olive oil from Greece when she travels there.
All of the current challenges at the Port Chester location, were COVID, construction, street closings, and more. It seems like there is always something going on around the restaurant.
Telly’s family recipes are made almost 100% of the time when the order is placed using the freshest fish, meats, and produce. Even though the economy has taken a bit of a fall, Dianna is proud to say that she hasn’t raised her prices or changed her menu. Traditional Greek cuisine should not be altered, and it certainly isn’t at Telly’s. The food, drinks, fantastic customer service, and overall atmosphere at both the Astoria location and Port Chester speak for themselves. . . perfection. As Dianna says, “Everything is aligned.”
While on my visit, I began with some toasted pita triangles and sampled a variety of traditional dips from the standard Tzatziki (cucumber and yogurt) to a spicier dip called Kafterie, all very tasty. Next, it was the pan-fried Kefalograviera cheese called Saganaki, that sprinkled with lemon and was hearty and satisfying.
The careful choice of fresh produce is clear when trying the Greek salad along with the option of Nana’s salad. Beautifully presented, these salads are carefully assembled and have a wonderful addition of black olives and Greek barrel feta.
On to the grill… I cannot say enough about the Charcoal-Grilled Octopus. They were grilled perfectly and still moist and delicious on the inside. The Mediterranean Sea Bass or Branzini was as fresh as it could be, served with lemon. The Colorado Corn-Fed Fresh Lamb Chops were both succulent and charred flawlessly.
Telly’s offers all the Greek specialties that one would hope for, including Moussaka, a variety of Kababs, Spanakopita, lemon potatoes and so much more.
Not to be outdone, the desserts were as expected . . . amazing. The Loukoumades (fried doughnuts drizzled with honey and cinnamon) were light, airy, and to die for. Even the imported Greek yogurt with honey transports you to a breezy Greek café with its freshness.
If drinks are your vibe, you must try their Frappe which was creamy and very satisfying. Telly’s offers a wide variety of cocktails that are both colorful and mouthwatering.
Telly’s Taverna in Port Chester and Astoria are both inviting, engaging, and a must to add to your list of go-to restaurants time and time again. We thank Dianna for her generous hospitality. It certainly shows in her food and wonderful staff. (https://www.tellystaverna.com/)