Volunteers converged on St. Haralambos Greek Orthodox Church Thursday, setting up tables, defrosting pork roasts and even setting up an assembly line to slice blocks of feta cheese.
They've been cooking and preparing for the Big Greek Food of Niles for six weeks, and the curtain is about to rise on the production: it opens today, Friday July 20, and continues through Sunday.
"They make countless numbers of shish kebabs--and the pastries--it's definitely a homemade thing," said Eleni Lanzourakis, a church member and public relations chairperson for the fest.
The fest has earned a reputation for the quality of its food. In fact, pastor Rev. Dean Botsis' son, a culinary school graduate, wlll appear on WGN-TV at 7 a.m. Friday to preview the foods that will be served.
The volunteers started cooking those foods in early June, browining beef and boiling macaroni to make 50 sheet pans of pastitsio (a lasagna-type dish), she said. They parbaked (partially baked) them and put them in a walk-in freezer. They did likewise with moussaka, an eggplant dish.
"The big thing if you're Greek is hospitality," Lanzourakis said. "You don't want to run out of anything, my mother would say."
Though the food is the main draw, the fest will also feature live Greek music from the Hellenic Five, a show with costumed Greek dancers at 8 pm each night, kids' activities, cooking demonstrations at 7 pm each day, and tours of the church.
IF YOU GO:
- Hours: Friday, July 20 from 5 p.m. to midnight; Saturday and Sunday, July 21 and 22, 3 p.m. to midnight.
- Location: 7373 N. Caldwell Avenue, Niles.
- Parking: Free; police will direct you to nearby lots.
- Admission: $2 adult, $1 ages 65 and over, kids 12 and under free. Free admission coupon on Facebook page.