NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – For nearly 30 years, Elpida Vasiliadis — a.k.a. “The Souvlaki Lady” — has been serving the traditional food of her native Greece on the same Queens street corner.
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Raised in Thessaloniki, Vasiliadis moved to Astoria with her husband and daughter in January 1983. Soon after, she bought a pushcart.
“[Souvlaki] is one of the most popular things you can find in Greece,” she said.
“My mother in Greece, she had a small taverna,” she said. “I got the recipe from her.”
Vasiliadis relies on a time-tested method for grilling up her classic menu.
“The right way to cook [souvlaki] is on all four sides,” she said. “If you press them, the juice comes out, and it’s not the same.”
Her menu includes pork and chicken souvlaki ($3.00 each), an assortment platter ($6.00), and a range of specialty sauces.
A creation called the “Thessaloniki” ($5.00) — pork souvlaki, tomato, onions, ketchup, mustard, and a pile of French fries wrapped in a pita — combines all the flavors of Vasiliadis’s hometown.
“When you ever visit my place in Thessaloniki, and you ask for a pita with everything on, [this] is what you get. You don’t have to [say] what you want inside. Pita with everything.”
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“When it’s hot outside in the summertime, it’s really hot [in the cart]. And when it’s cold in the wintertime, it’s really cold inside. Other than that, I love being here. I love to serve food. I love talking with people.”
Vasiliadis tends to take her work home with her.
“I have two granddaughters, and when I go home, they’re telling me, ‘Yiayia, you smell like a giant souvlaki!'”
She says her secret to enduring for nearly three decades in this Astoria neighborhood simply comes down to cooking good food.
“If you work in a small neighborhood, everybody knows if your food is good or not because you work with the same people. So you cannot fool them. They trust me. And I think that’s one of the most important things, that people trust me. My whole family lives here, my kids and my grandkids. So if they see the whole family eating here, they know that the food is good here.”
The Souvlaki Lady
22-04 33rd Street
Astoria, NY 11105
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