The Arizona Daily Star
Published: 09.25.2008

His specialties: good food and loads of hospitality

By Lourdes Medrano Featuring front-line workers as they go about their duties
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
About the business
Pappoule’s has three locations, including the one where Jose Suarez
works at the Foothills Mall, 7475 N. La Cholla Blvd. The phone number
there is 544-5551.
Meet the worker: Jose Suarez.
Age: 43.
Occupation: Chef/manager.
Experience: “I’ve spent 15 years in the kitchen.”

Jose Suarez may not be Greek, but he knows how to satisfy demanding palates with his gyros, shish ka-bobs and pita sandwiches. Suarez is the gregarious chef/manager of Pappoule’s, a Greek fast-casual restaurant facing North La Cholla Boulevard at the Foothills Mall. During the bustling lunch hour, Suarez ‚ also known as Fernando ‚ is often seen strolling from one table to another, checking on customers and making sure they are happy with his culinary creations. “How is your food?” he asks. “Thank you for coming. Please come back.”

Suarez, 43, said some people are surprised when they talk with him and learn his heritage is Mexican, not Greek. “If the food tastes like authentic Greek food, that means I’m doing my job,” Suarez said, and smiled. “I also know how to cook Italian, I know how to cook Mexican, American and Asian food.”

He has spent 15 years in restaurant kitchens, but Suarez said his love of cooking dates to his younger days in Navojoa, Sonora. There, he learned to cook by watching his mother do it. In learning to prepare Pappoule’s dishes while training under a Greek chef, “I watched and watched and put it all in here,” Suarez said, pointing to his forehead.

He has worked about 11 years at various locations for Michael Cotsones and his wire, Bea, owners of Pappoule’s. In addition to the Foothills Mall, the restaurant also is at the Tucson Mall and Park Place.

Suarez has the right personality to carry on a tradition patterned after restaurants in Chicago’s Greektown, Michael Cotsones said.

“Greektown is where the maitre d’, the owners, the chefs, always come out and hug people, greet them personally, ask how they’re doing,” he said. “That’s one of the things that Fernando has always done.”

Some of his customers said they appreciate the time Suarez takes to chat with them – as well as the dishes he prepares.

“We’re Greek, and we think this is wonderful food,” said George Chatalas, a retiree from the Northwest Side. Added his friend, John Pasalis, who lives in Oro Valley: “This is a very fine gyro sandwich.”

 


 

 

ARIZONA DAILY STAR
July 26, 2007

Section: CALIENTE
Page: F26

Greek eatery brings its tasty food to inviting Foothills Mall location

PHIL VILLARREAL

UNDER $30
You probably know it as that Greek place in the mall. But its official name is Pappoule’s, which is Greek for tangy sauces and meat on rich pita bread that can re-energize any famished shopper.

Now that Pappoule’s has opened up a location at Foothills Mall, it’s almost a mallopoly. The local chain, owned by Michael and Bea Cotsones, has been in town for 25 years.

Open since May, the newest Pappoule’s is the most modern and least food-courtlike of its brethren. It’s a robust, fast-casual restaurant with a bustling clientele and inviting patio.

The vibe

The customers are a Northwest Side mix of young parents unsuccessfully attempting to corral their rambunctious tykes, teens too cool to be seen with their families, and retirees working crossword puzzles.

In a design reminiscent of Pei Wei, you’re greeted by a giant menu, order and pay at the counter, then take a numbered card to your table and wait for the delivery of your grub.

The lighting is inviting, bolstered by wall-size windows that let the sun trickle into the airy dining room. The patio rests on a corner strategically shaded from the afternoon sun.

The food

The menu ranges from hummus and feta appetizers – both come with pita bread – to pita sandwiches and dinner plates and Greek pastries, including the spanakopita (spinach pie), which would obviously be Popeye’s choice.

We tried the gyros dinner platter, which included strips of a beef and lamb mixture with warm pita bread, a bed of rice and a Greek salad all on one plate, with a side cup of tzatziki sauce (a zesty cucumber and garlic combo) for dipping.

The rice was bland, but the meat, pita and tzatziki blended together for a knockout combination that would inspire Napoleon Dynamite to craft a “liger”-like drawing of a cow/lamb hybrid – a lambow?

The salad was basic and functional, with fresh greens, tomato, onion and feta, and, thankfully, no skimping on the black olives.

The kebab platter was nearly as strong, although the chef was a little stingy with the marinated chicken chunks that subbed for the beef and lamb of the gyros. We swapped the rice for French fries, which were a bit undercooked but still far more tasty than the rice.

For dessert, the crisp, cinnamon-stacked baklava and moist, spongy honey custard were as drool-inducing as the gyros and kebabs. It’s good to know that Tucson Mall, Park Place and now Foothills Mall all have that Greek place, er, Pappoule’s.

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Pappoule’s
Three locations. The one reviewed is the newest, in Foothills Mall, 7475 N. La Cholla Blvd, 544-5551.
* Parking: Ample.
* Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sundays.

THE BILL
* Gyros dinner platter: $8.99.
* Chicken kabob dinner platter: $8.99.
* Baklava: $1.99.
* Honey custard: $2.49.
* Fountain drink: $1.59.
* Total, before tax: $24.05.

 


 

EXPLORER
June 20, 2007

Greek Revival?

A spate of recently opened Hellenic eateries fuels Northwest appetites

by Craig Grau

 

Judging from the number of Hellenic-themed eateries popping up, Greek food is a rising star of the northwest’s ethnic palate.
But the local wave of healthy Mediterranean dishes isn’t fueled by an influx of Greek immigration. Rather, this appetite is all about the grub. And local restaurateur Michael Cotsones works seven days a week to feed it.

“I think that’s always been the moniker with Greek food – quality and good portions at a good price,” said Cotsones, who owns three locations of Greek-fast-food outlet Pappoule’s. “That’s one reason you’re seeing the onslaught of it”

Cotsones – a native of Chicago’s South Side – brought a hometown love for Greek eateries to the Tucson Mall 25 years ago, launching his first mom-and-pop-style outlet there when the shopping complex opened. “It was something different, but not quite exotic,” Cotsones said, explaining his mild secret to success.

Pappoule’s menu includes several authentic Greek fast foods, including souvlaki, falafel, and salads, while weekend specials on more intricate fare like mousakka and wine-marinated lamb chops lie ahead. Such traditional dishes made longtime Greek favorites like Olive Tree and Athens on Fourth Avenue favorites with locals. And while Cotsones believes those places have kept Tucsonans intimate with Mediterranean cuisine, he said the area has “lagged behind” on quick-fix eateries for a while – but its starting to catch up.

“It’s the difference between ‘Do you want a $15- to -$18, or do you want to have lunch for six bucks,” Cotsones said. Either way, Cotsones knows it’s the iconic gyros sandwich that lures his customers. He said his three locations together sell more of the sliced beef-and-lamb pitas, garnished with onion, tomato, and traditional tzatziki sauce,
than all other Tucson Greek eateries combined.

As he explains it, there is a bit of “gyros mafia” ambience to the sandwiches’ history – a friendly rivalry on Chicago’s South Side, where just a few manufacturers have stitched up the $250-million-a-year market for gyros meat. Early gyros’ flavor varied from plate to plate, as individual chefs ground end cuts of beef and lamb and spiced with the mixture themselves, resulting in individual blends from every kitchen. “Each restaurant did it in their own way and with their own different recipe,” Cotsones explained.

Finicky entrepreneurs – a cousin of Cotsones among them – swapped choice meat cuts into the recipe and moved their ideas into Windy City factories, where the familiar mean spindles were frozen and shipped to eateries nation wide. “So, the different gyro guys, they were all friends and knew each other,” Cotsones said. “They just like to compete” with each other, too.

Whether such competition has cultivated a culinary following, or vice-versa, it appears that midwestern love for Aegean flavors is garnering more fans in the Old Pueblo.

As a larger chain-style Greek restaurant from Phoenix prepares to offer full-service dining near Pappoule’s original Tucson Mall nest, other entrepreneurs are seeding their ethnic flavors farther north. Six months ago, Honor Maramood and his brother Shamel began showcasing Greek cuisine alongside other Middle Eastern and American fare at the aptly named Gyros Cafe in Oro Valley. The brothers, whose offerings reflect their mixture of Greek and Kurdish heritage, emigrated from the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah – where they were both chefs for a decade – to the United States in 1999. After settling in Tucson, they searched out several locations on the eastside, but high rents guided their search northward to their current locale on La Canada Drive.

Now, a relaxed European vibe floats through their spotless cafe, where the Mamoods bring Greek flavors to their patrons every day. While it’s a long way from Sulaymaniyah, Honor said feeding Americans is much the same, albeit with more regulations – and diners who prefer beef over lamb. “I like our business very much. Oro Valley’s a nice area, nice people here,” Honor Mamood hasn’t noticed many ethnic Greeks strolling in to order from his menu, he said many of his customers are native Chicagoans who are quite familiar with Greek restaurants.

“People know Greek food in Oro Valley,” said Honor Mamood, who plans on expanding his grill space to accommodate customers’ broad tastes. “They know what they’re asking for.”