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Behind the glass at Greek restaurant’s dessert case
Alpha Gyro Grill offers baklava, cakes made from scratch
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A homemade chocolate mousse cake is available at Gainesville's Alpha Gyro Grill. The Greek restaurant's cakes and pastries are delivered from a shop in Dunwoody. - photo by Scott Rogers

Alpha Gyro Grill doesn’t just do gyros and Greek salads. While the Greek eatery at the corner of Jesse Jewell and E.E. Butler parkways has done well selling the typical Greek lunch and dinner fare since it opened in September, a big thing that draws people to the restaurant is what they see as they walk through the front doors — desserts.

A case with elaborate desserts like baklava, tiramisu and eclairs sits under the counter. There’s baklava cheesecake, chocolate mousse cake and napoleon cake, too.

“Desserts are important to Greeks,” said Sally Griffin, co-owner at Alpha.

That’s why it was important to offer them, Griffin said. But they didn’t want to offer just any dessert. They had to make sure it was fresh and authentic.

Baklava is a traditional Greek dessert that takes a little bit of know-how to make. It’s typically made by alternating layers of phyllo dough and crushed almonds, walnuts or pistachios, cinnamon and cloves. After baking, a sweet syrup is poured over the top to bring it all together, creating a warm and flaky dessert. 

But Griffin said she didn’t see anyone around Gainesville selling it. So she knew Alpha had to introduce it to the city since it is a staple in Greece.

George Giannoulos, also a co-owner at Alpha, immediately thought of his friend at Zukerino Pastry Shop in Dunwoody.

Theodore Kazadakis owns the family pastry shop and became friends with Giannoulos as they worked together at places around Atlanta. The quality and creativity of the desserts and pastries he makes left now doubt in Giannoulos’ mind that he had to be the one to make their desserts.

“It’s very good tasting and it’s traditional,” Giannoulos said. “People from Gainesville like these desserts, and they like Greek food and we’re happy about that.”

At least once a week, but usually two or three times a week , the pastry shop delivers the fresh desserts to Alpha. They’re the only restaurant in the city that carries them, and they’re proud of that.

“We always sell out of the desserts,” Griffin said. “We never have to discard anything because it got old.”

The chocolate mousse cake served at Alpha has chocolate mousse in between layers of moist, chocolate cake. More mousse is piped on top and shaved chocolate added to give the cake a sense of elegance.

Tiramisu is also on the menu. Even though it originated in Italy, it’s a popular choice in many restaurants, so Alpha wanted to offer it to customers. It’s a simple recipe, layering espresso-dipped lady fingers and custard made with mascarpone then topped it with cocoa powder.

Napoleon cake is another layered dessert, but it uses crispy puff pastry with a custard cream filling in between. The last puff pastry is crumbled on top over dollops of whipped cream.

Everything Kazadakis and his family make at Zukerino Pastry Shop is from scratch. They do everything in-house, which includes laying down each layer of phyllo dough for baklava, a process that takes three or four hours.

Griffin said they take no shortcuts when it comes to baking. It’s all done from scratch, no matter how much time it takes for them to do it.

“It’s time consuming,” said Alex Kazadakis, who owns the bakery with his father. “Baking is very time consuming, and it’s a science.”

Theodore Kazadakis is the one who came up with the baklava cheesecake idea. It’s made the same way traditional baklava is made but a layer of cheesecake filling is added, which gives it a creamy flavor.

“It’s very homemade tasting,” Griffin said. “I just think, the baker, he’s just good at what he does and uses all good ingredients.”