2012 AH Classic Wall CalendarShop the AH Store >>

Our 2015 calendars are now available!

Classic Wall Calendar

CL15 $10.99

Our classic 13-month spiral-bound calendar features 30 full-color photographs and a handy map of Arizona on the back.

Order Now >>
Purchase Camping GuideShop the AH Store >>

Featured Book

Arizona Highways
Camping Guide

AGCS3 $22.95

Our newest book, which includes Arizona Highways iconic photography and maps, is sorted by region and is written for car-campers and families. Detailed information about accessibilty, amenities and fees is included for each campground.

Order Now >>
2011 AH Wildlife CalendarSee Selection of Images >>

Featured Prints

Poster Prints
Special Edition Prints

Many of the extraordinary images found in our award-winning magazine, scenic coffee-table books and exquisite calendars can be purchased as fine posters and prints.

Order Now >>
Shop the AH Store >>

Featured Gift Item

Centennial Issue Reprint

SPCENN2 $4.99

If you missed our February 100-page Centennial Issue on newsstands earlier this year, here's your second chance to get a copy of this special collector's edition of Arizona Highways magazine..

Order Now >>

BULLETDining Archive
  • print page
  • Tell a Friend
  • Post to Facebook
  • YouTube
  • past to del.icio.us
Featured Dining LocationMount Athos Restaurant and Café is located at 444 N. Pinal Parkway in Florence. For more information, call 520-868-0735 or visit www.mountathoscafe.com.

© Mark Duran


Click image to view larger in separate window.
It's (Almost) All Greek ...
Dolmades and baklava are about the last thing you'd expect to find in a town known mostly for Mexican food and steakhouses. But one visit to Mount Athos Restaurant and Café will have you thinking twice about London broil and burritos.

By Nora Burba Trulsson

Florence Florence isn’t the first place that springs to mind for stuffed grape leaves, nap-inducing slabs of moussaka or galaktoboureko, the custard-like sweet dessert. The man serving it, Peter Koulouris, owner of Mount Athos Restaurant and Café, is just as surprised that a town known for folksy Mexican and steak restaurants has embraced his family’s Greek culinary heritage.

“When we moved here from New York, we had no intention of doing a Greek restaurant,” says Peter, who opened the restaurant with his mother, Joanna Koulouris, and his late father, George Koulouris, in 2005. “We were going to do a diner with American food, just like we had in Manhattan — burgers, BLTs — but our contractor got excited and put up a sign that read, ‘Greek restaurant coming soon,’ so that was that.”

How the Koulouris family wound up in Arizona is another story. For years, Greece-born George co-owned a diner in Manhattan, where a young Peter learned the business, too. Then came September 11, 2001. “We stood in the street and saw the smoke,” Peter recalls. “We could see the tower fall. It was horrifying. As people fled, our restaurant was one of the first places where they felt safe. They came in to eat and drink, and our freezers and refrigerators were emptied by people who just walked by.”

Joanna, also born in Greece, put her foot down. She wanted her family out of New York and into Arizona, where she and George had made several trips for spiritual retreats at St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery, a lush, peaceful enclave outside Florence. The monastery had sparked a burgeoning Greek community in the area, and Joanna felt the desert would be a safe place for the family to re-establish roots.

The family considered opening a restaurant as far afield as Tucson or Mesa, but they chose the Florence site on the main highway by doing what Peter calls a “Greek survey”: “We stood on the corner and counted cars.”

They built a 4,300-square-foot restaurant with a full bar, done in a woodsy, vintage style echoing the architecture of the town’s adjacent historic district.

Visit today, and you can start out with an order of saganaki, the flaming Opa! cheese (pictured) done tableside, and sip an ouzotini (vodka splashed with ouzo and garnished with a feta-stuffed olive), often served by Peter himself, an affable host. Besides the made-from-scratch potato-and-eggplant moussaka, Joanna’s Greek-style lamb shanks are popular, as are other classics, such as the pasta-layered pastitsio, Greek salads, gyros and souvlaki plates. Not in the mood for Greek cuisine? Burgers, grilled pork chops and chicken Parmesan also emerge from the Mount Athos kitchen.

Now firmly established as one of Florence’s go-to eateries, Mount Athos had a slow start the first few months, Peter admits. “We are in a small town,” he says, “but once everyone figured out we were not bad New Yorkers, everyone started to eat here. We get tourists, lawyers, judges, sheriffs ... even people who just got out of prison up the street. They all just want a good meal.”

>> Back to Dining Archive
>> Visit Dining Guide


Events CalendarEscape, experience and explore Arizona, one event at a time... [more]

External LinksFor more information about great places to visit in Arizona, view our list of links to external resources, from Native American arts to parks and national forests... [more]

 

LodgingNo matter where you travel in Arizona, you'll find lodging that ranges from rustic to ritzy, along with everything in between... [more]

Weekend GetawaysOur annual Weekend Getaways issue is on newsstands now... [more]


site map  |  terms of use  |  privacy policy  |  corporate sales  |  about us  |  contact us

Arizona Highways Television AZ Dept. of Transportation AZ Dept. of Public Safety Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

© Copyright 2014 Arizona Department of Transportation, State of Arizona. All rights reserved. Reproduction in part or whole without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. The images on this Web site are copyrighted, digitally watermarked and registered with the Digimarc tracking system. All rights reserved. Copying and downloading images from this site are strictly prohibited.