There has been a lot of new activity recently along University Boulevard, with several new restaurants in the mix. There’s a new location for Jimmy Hula’s (which I’ll tell you about soon) and, nearby, the promise — or threat, depending on how you see it — of an Asian buffet restaurant to open soon called Ichiban (which may have something to do with the downtown Ichiban changing its name).
There’s also a new pizza place and a gyros restaurant, but those two have the distinction of being under the same roof.
Papa Gios Pizza & Gyros is neighbors with chain restaurants First Watch, Pei Wei, Jersey Mike’s and World of Beer. A sign on its door stated that it has the best pizza and gyros in town. Another sign proclaimed it to be independently owned and entreated passersby to come in and see the difference.
The difference I noticed right away is that chain restaurants often have the resources to train their staff to greet customers warmly and welcome them into their restaurants. My initial greeting gave me the impression that I was disturbing them by being there. And when the man behind the counter asked me what I wanted — after first waiting on the two people who came in after me — and I requested a gyro, he looked at me as though I were from Mars. Or maybe DeLand.
“A what?” he asked, cocking his head. “A gyro,” I said, wondering if I had misread the sign on the door that proclaimed the best one in town was inside.
“Oh,” he said, translating for those around him, “He wants a gyro.”
The reason for the exchange was in the pronunciation of the foodstuff. I had asked for a gyear-oh. He wanted to sell me a jie-roh.
The correct pronunciation has been open to debate for years. Most Greeks say gyear-oh, the g coming from the back of the throat. New Yorkers — and even some other Mediterraneans — say it as though it’s a spinning top.
However, if I had a restaurant that specialized in gyros, I think I would be aware of both pronunciations and just roll with the customer’s version. Now, if I had also ordered a slice of pizza — which I did — and asked for a piece of pie-sa — which I did not — I might expect a quizzical look.
Somehow we got through this. I paid for my order, took a seat and waited for the food to be brought over, anxious to see if indeed we had the best, um, lamb and beef meat served in a pita, and pizza in town.
The pizza arrived first. I had ordered the Papa Gio, which had pepperoni, sausage, peppers, onions and mushrooms, all in ample supply. The crust was nicely done. It was just the right thickness, or, more acurately, thinness, and had a crispness on the bottom. It folded easily into a wedge for eating. Best pizza in town? I’d have to put it on a short list as a contender. More analysis is in order.
The gyro wouldn’t qualify no matter how you say it. The thick pita and raw onions dominated the sandwich. I took multiple bites and got only those things to chew on. More meat and it might be better. It was served with a stack of coated fries that would have made the $6.95 sandwich a good buy. The title of best gyro in town stays with Mediterranean Grill for now.
Papa Gios has a bright and clean space for dining in. If you get your pizza to go, be aware that condensation might affect the crispness of the crust during transit. But I definitely recommend Papa Gios for the pizza. Just for kicks, ask for a slice of pie-sa and see what happens.
Papa Gios is at 3402 Technological Ave., Orlando, off of University Boulevard. It is open for lunch and dinner daily, including late nights (2 a.m. during the week and 4 a.m. on weekends — very close to UCF campus). Here’s a link to papagiospizzaandgyros.com. The phone number is 407-277-4774.