Adriatic mac and cheese sure to please at Troy.

Ethnic Treat: The Un-Moussaka


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Here’s a pop quiz.

First question: What’s a synonym for comfort food?

Correct answer: Macaroni and cheese.

Second question: How do you say that in Greek?

Correct answer: Pastitsio.

As if Greek food wasn’t already enticing enough with its bright flavors and earthy (baklava and Greek yogurt, we’re looking at you) overindulgence. But imagine the epiphany of someone who after countless high-school visits to the small-town gyro shop thought she knew everything about Greek cuisine, then found herself more or less marooned years later on a tiny Greek island whose only restaurant served only one entrée: pastitsio.

Which is boiled tubular pasta baked in a casserole with cheese. And tomato, nutmeg, cinnamon and egg. And—thank you, gods on Olympus—béchamel sauce. Why? Because while baked noodles and cheese are golden, leave it to this foundational civilization to improve upon it. Because Greece gave us democracy, so why shouldn’t it also give us hyper-ultra-mac-and-cheese? Because Greece, that ancient crossroads of the world, abounds not only in livestock and wheat fields, but also in tomatoes, spices, and dairy products. In other words: Because they can.

While sometimes made with veal, the pastitsio at all three Troy locations is made with beef. Served with a feta-lettuce-tomato horiatiki salad, it’s creamy-spicy inside and sunny-crusty up top. How to get this super-satisfying glory? Just order it. But too few do. Compared to souvlaki, gyros, and other Hellenic clichés, pastitsio is the dark horse at most Greek restaurants outside Greece. It’s the “un-moussaka,” the power-packed quadruple-protein carborific tough guy flying out of the oven with Mercury’s wings.

Troy: 2318 Central Ave., 510-522-2800, Alameda; 2985 College Ave.,510-666-8500, and 1843 Solano Ave., 510-559-8769, Berkeley, www.TroyGreek.com.

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