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Living large; Huge portions, menu are big on taste at new restaurant

Come hungry and be prepared to lug food home anyway. I've never seen servings to rival the size of the ones at Zoe's, a new restaurant sited just north of Roll Road in East Amherst. One dish is enough to feed three people. The place has only been open a month or so but is brought to you by the people who have been in the business for a while. They ran Sala on Main Street in Clarence, and, like Sala, this place seems to be open all the time.

Seven days a week -- everything from breakfast to a late supper.

The menu offers just about everything. Basically, Zoe's is a Greek restaurant though the listings go through Mexican, Italian and American food, as well. Look at the a la carte "Sides" section of the menu to see what I mean.

The marvelous roasted Greek potatoes are available, as you might expect ($3.99), but should you be crazy enough to long for any other kind of spud, you can also order roasted garlic mashed potatoes. Or french fries. Or home fries. Or a baked potato.

In the "Homemade Soup" section, you have a choice of Avegolemono (with orzo, $2.99 a cup). Or lentil soup (which is excellent). Or chili. At breakfast, choose Eggs Benedict ($8.29), oatmeal (with raisins, walnuts and brown sugar, $3.59), kosher lox and cream cheese on a bagel ($6.99) or granola with Greek yogurt and fresh fruit ($6.59).

You get the idea. Culinarywise, America is a wonderful place.

Spoiled for choice at dinner, the two of us ordered Pikilia for mezethes, or appetizers ($15.99). This vast ceramic expanse offered a selection of the Middle Eastern spreads Hummus, Tzatziki and Tirokafteri; a couple of Dolmathes (grape leaves) were added in case we might get a little puckish on the way home, I guess.
All accompanied by warm pita bread and all delicious. Especially the Tirokafteri, a spicy little blend of red peppers and cherry peppers. (Each of these spreads or appetizers is available singly for $6 up.)

So now comes the entree portion of the meal, not that our appetites were at their highest, at this point. The Companion's Rosemary Lamb Chops ($21.99) could not be faulted. And that's a lukewarm description of a really fabulous plate. Eight -- count 'em eight -- little chops, a whole rack's worth, cooked perfectly (medium rare) to order, char-broiled with lemon and herbs, of which rosemary was the least noticeable.

And al dente string beans and a blend of zucchini and yellow squash and Greek potatoes. And more pita. Yipes.

I went a more traditional Greek restaurant route. The Greek Combo ($18.99) was another extensive sampling with moussaka, pastitiso, souvlaki meat (beef, gyro meat, spanokopita) and more Dolmathes. Everything was terrific except perhaps for the Spanokopita, which was layered with a softer pastry than I like. (I go for crisp phyllo.)

And maybe I'm quibbling here -- we ate the whole thing anyway.

We carefully heaped all the stuff we didn't eat into the provided Styrofoam container and started to reach for our coats.

But not before we tasted the rice pudding ($2.99), still warm when it came to us. It was good, of course -- is there such a thing as bad homemade rice pudding? It wasn't as sweet as some rice puddings I've tasted -- I am a rice pudding maven. And not as much vanilla and no raisins.

Still, I don't think you could list that under "needs work."

e-mail: janiceokun@yahoo.com

***

ZOE'S    

3 stars (out of 4)    

WHERE: 5711 Transit Road, East Amherst (639-4550). This restaurant has just moved from Main Street in Clarence (where it was known as Sala) and offers enormous helpings of both Greek and American food. No beer or wine yet. Credit Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.    

FAVORITE DISH: Rosemary Lamb Chops    

NEEDS WORK: Spanokopita    

PRICE RANGE: Greek specials with salad, potato and pita from $14.99; Chicken Souvlaki Dinner or Gyro Dinner with salad, potato and pita, $14.99.    

SERVICE: Very good.    

HOURS: 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.    

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes    

PARKING: In the lot    

RATINGS: Stars reflect the overall dining experience at the time of The News' visit -- including service, ambience, innovation and cost -- with greatest weight given to quality of the food.     * indicates that restaurant is so new that this is a provisional rating.

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