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NEW IN BUSINESS (Oct. 2017): A secret feast

November 2nd, 2017 · No Comments

Apollo 11 an Annex favourite

Served every other Wednesday, co-owner’s Roula Gitzias’ homemade moussaka is an absolute treat. Apollo 11 welcomes many Annex regulars, and serves a wide range of comfort food like grilled cheese, egg salad sandwiches, and hot chicken sandwiches. GEREMY BORDONARO/GLEANER NEWS

By Linda R. Goldman

It may be the best kept secret in the Annex. Every second Wednesday, Apollo 11 (1093 Bathurst St.) serves a house specialty: homemade moussaka, as good as Yaya (Greek for grandmother) might make. Moussaka is a traditional Greek baked dish that features minced beef or lamb cooked in a tomato sauce layered with eggplant and béchamel.

Roula Gitzias, who has co-owned the restaurant with her husband Paul since 1991, makes the moussaka biweekly. They took over the place from Andy and Helen Diolitsis, who opened it in 1969, naming it after that year’s moon landing. It’s a theme that Paul and Roula keep up — they added pictures of the Apollo 11 landing when they renovated in 2010.

The restaurant has been as much of an Annex staple as the dish — for those neighbours in the know.

Martin Waxman and his son Jacob live around the corner on Albany Avenue. When Jacob was seven his parents let him walk over to Apollo 11 and buy a Coke by himself. Twenty years later, Jacob and Martin have a weekly lunch at the restaurant, and the whole family still stops by regularly for breakfast.

“This is the best place for breakfast,” says Martin. “I love the old style diner and the warm welcome I receive.”

“I stumbled across Apollo 11 one day [in 1978 when I was an undergraduate living at Dupont Street and Brunswick Avenue],” says Gary Waters, who eats at the restaurant every day.

“I’ve always loved comfort food and a nice quiet table where I could read my paper at lunchtime.”

His favourite meals are the vegetarian omelette with cheese, a club sandwich or hot chicken. He also speaks highly of Paul and Roula.

Paul talks about how the area has changed over the years.

In the early days the restaurant was open 24 hours, and attracted taxi drivers, Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) employees, and police officers looking for a good meal. The taxi drivers mostly came from Royal Cab, which was located on Dupont Street, the TTC employees from a credit union at the corner of Bathurst Street. There were also newspaper delivery truck drivers from a city daily, and employees from the Weston Bakery, which is now Loblaws. Even actors like Jackie Burroughs, rehearsing around the corner at the Tarragon Theatre, were known to stop by for a quick meal.

But with so many chain restaurants opening up at gas stations, small owner-operated restaurants are feeling the pinch. And of course, Royal Cab, the credit union, and the bakery are all gone.

Many TTC employees still trek down from the main office at Davenport Road and Bathurst Street, but several trendy new cafés have opened and it is hard to compete. And food trends are changing — bacon, eggs, and fried foods aren’t as popular as they once were.

But regulars like David Douse of La Parete Gallery remain loyal.

“Every Saturday religiously seven art dealer friends of mine and I meet here for breakfast,” says Douse, who is a daily customer. “We love the bacon, [there’s] no bacon like it anywhere in the city.”

In addition to moussaka, breakfast and other diner staples, Apollo 11 also serves chicken and pork souvlaki on a bun or pita, Greek salad, and gyros. Apollo 11 is open Monday to Friday from 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and on Saturday from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Linda Goldman is an Annex resident and regular customer at Apollo 11. In addition to the moussaka, her favourite dishes are the grilled cheese, cheeseburger and fries, and egg salad sandwich, which she says is the best in Toronto. Goldman recommends Apollo 11 to anyone who asks her to suggest a good place to eat in the Annex.

Tags: Annex · Life