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All the comforts of home cooking

Lamb Shank

What does one do when one discovers water damage from someone else’s broken pipe? When ones ceiling and walls are marked by water-filled blisters? When the upstairs neighbor, the one responsible for repairing the leak and damage is stationed in Japan? Why, find solace in comfort food, of course. Or at least that’s what I did.

Olympic Café and Donna’s Desserts, an award-winning restaurant, is one of my favorite local eateries. Nothing fancy, just good home-cooked meals. Step into the cozy café and you’ll be greeted by Rosa’s warm smile. Chances are the owner, John Kotselas, will be sitting at one of the small side tables philosophizing and discussing current events.

The daily specials included oven baked Greek style lemon chicken and fall-off-the-bone tender lamb shanks, but I ordered my usual selection – Pastitsio and a glass of lemonade.

The generous portion of baked pasta and hearty tomato-based meat sauce is topped by a delicate béchamel sauce with a hint of nutmeg. The béchamel, a white sauce of flour, butter and milk really makes the dish.

The entrée is served with a fresh salad and roasted potatoes. The salad, a blend of lettuce, tomatoes, Bermuda onions, carrots, red cabbage, cucumber slices, ripe olives and feta cheese, is tossed in a zesty Italian dressing. Tender quartered roasted potatoes are served with a lemon chicken broth gravy and are little bites of heaven. Warm pita bread completes the presentation.

Donna Kotselas does all the baking and the desserts are fresh and delicious. She sat down with me and she laughed when I asked how much heroin do they put in the béchamel sauce. Seriously, it’s addicting. She told me Herman, the head chef, is known as “the master” and has been with them almost since the beginning. She says he is the reason every dish has been consistently prepared and presented for the past 30 years.

I remembered when Donna would bring their new born sons into the restaurant. They’re grown now. The oldest just graduated from UC Davis with a bachelor’s degree in Home Economics, and the middle son, Nick, a tall strapping young man, frequently works serving tables. I asked Donna what she thought the secret was to the success of the family-owned business. She said the secret was using the highest quality ingredients in everything they make and their friendly employees. Then she told their success was because of “people like you – our long-time customers.”

I thanked Donna for her time and said I didn’t want to keep her from baking. She told me not to worry, and sent me home with a red velvet cupcake. The sweet fluffy cream cheese frosting perfectly complimented the moist chocolate cake.

Some things in life are uncertain – my waterlogged ceiling could come crashing down at any moment. But it’s reassuring to know some things never change, such as the lovingly prepared comfort food from Olympic Café.

Olympic Café

2340 University Ave. in San Diego

Open daily from 7 a.m.-9 p.m.

Dine in or carry out



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Posted by on May 14, 2015. Filed under Eat This!. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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