Friday, for lunch. I was toting both kids and meeting two people. At Nabeel’s, of course – there’s a booth in the back that is basically my own personal conference room.
The restaurant was buzzing, people in every dining hall, salads stacked and ready to go out from the open kitchen.
But Lynne saw us, pointed back to my booth that I’m sure was still open because, well, it’s MINE, and told me she’d get Noah a high chair.
She came back with the chair and handed me something wrapped and taped into a piece of receipt paper with “Noah” written across it.
“He left this last time you were here.”
I opened the paper package – it contained one of his Hot Wheel cars.
Noah’s eyes lit up, and he immediately stood up in the booth (because I hadn’t chained him into the high chair yet) and began driving the car on the high-backed wall, perfect for automotive escapades.
Everyone needs a place like this. A place where you’re home. A place where you’re treated like family and royalty all at once.
As we were enjoying our lunch meeting (i.e. as I was wrangling my children in the attempts to eat and meet), the owner, John Krontiras, arrived for the day.
He walked back to our booth with a huge, excited smile on his face.
“Rachel! I’ve been waiting for you to come in! Did you know I wrote a cookbook?”
“Yes!! I got an email about it! I can’t believe I didn’t know sooner!”
John brought me back two copies of his cookbook, both signed. He proudly showed me the beautiful pages, included amazing photos taken by local photographer, Karim Shamsi-Basha.
I took my cookbook with excitement, and found time to look at every photo that afternoon. As I was doing so, I noticed that John had a small story with many of his recipes, and knowing him, I couldn’t wait to read them.
So Saturday night, while Chris was enraptured with the football game, I did something I’d never done before: I read a cookbook from cover to cover.
I marked the pages of the first things I wanted to make: Zucchini Patties, Meatballs Avgolemono, Chicken Wings with Potatoes, John’s Famous Steak, and most definitely Tabouleh, because Nabeel’s is the only place that does it right.
He even included the recipe for the best hamburger in Alabama, his trademarked Bifteki.
The bonus dialogue was fascinating, from stories of growing up in a small town in Greece, to traveling internationally while he was the head of the IT department for a large corporation, to his Mother-In-Law cooking Italian dishes in his kitchen in the early morning before he was awoke.
Because you see, John is Greek, and he married Ottavia, an Italian. So this cookbook is part John’s Greek recipes, part Ottavia’s Italian recipes, and part the mixture of the two together.
Before we left the restaurant that day, I questioned him.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were working on this? It’s amazing!”
“I didn’t even tell my family until the books shipped from the printer.”
“Because I wanted it to be exciting!”
Clearly, John likes the dramatic.
John’s new book, Beloved Family recipes, is available online, at Nabeel’s, Alabama Booksmith, The Fish Market Downtown, Sweet Tea Restaurant, and Little Professor Bookstore. And if you would like to meet this fabulous man (which you totally should), John will be signing his book at the Homewood Public Library on Sunday, 10/28 from 3-5 pm.
But if you’d like to win a signed copy, I have one to send to one of you!
If you would like to enter to win, leave a comment and tell me your favorite food ethnicity or favorite ethnic dish.
This giveaway will be open until Monday, November 5. I will announce the winner Tuesday, November 6 on my Giveaway Winners Page.
Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book. But that’s not why I write about it – I love Nabeel’s with all my heart, and you will find me in there at least once every other week. If you need more proof of my intense love of Nabeel’s, you can read my prior swoonings here, here, and here.