Business news from the Fredericksburg region.
Zesty’s adds ‘oomph’ to old family recipes
Demosthenis ‘Danny’ Kartoudi has loved cooking ever since he was a little boy helping out at his mother’s Spotsylvania County restaurant.
Kartoudi, now 25, has turned that passion and experience into a business. He recently opened Zesty’s Family Restaurant at 6276 Courthouse Road near Lake Anna. It’s the same location where Chryse Kartoudi used to run Danny K’s Pizzeria & Family Restaurant.
“It took me forever to find the right name,” Danny Kartoudi said. “I really wanted to go back to Danny K’s, but I thought that would refer to my mom. I wanted something fresh and new.”
Zesty’s serves Mediterranean and American fare such as burgers, pizza and spaghetti. A chalkboard lists weekly specials like the Zesty burger, which is topped with onion rings, pickles and the aptly named Zesty sauce.
Some dishes are made with family recipes that Kartoudi has given a tweak or two to ramp up the flavor. His pizza sauce, for example, is based on his mother’s, but includes additional ingredients.
“I want to give my food oomph, but not go out of the range of what people can handle,” he said. “When people try my food, I want them to taste the herbs and spices.”
The recipes for some of the other fare, including the meatballs, came courtesy of his chef, Terry Snyder. She cooked at West Egg Café in Atlanta before moving to Spotsylvania to be near her brother. West Egg, she said, prides itself on having been voted Atlanta’s best breakfast spot numerous times.
For the hand-tossed pizzas, which include veggi and Greek, Kartoudi combined the recipe for the dough from King George House of Pizza with his mother’s recipe to come up with something uniquely his own.
He and Snyder are quick to point out that almost everything at Zesty’s is made from scratch. Onions for the Onion Z Strings appetizer, for example, are sliced into thin rings, dipped in batter and fried.
“They come out crispy, and we serve them with Zesty sauce. which we make fresh in-house,” Kartoudi said.
Burgers and subs are served on either ciabatta or pita bread instead of buns or sub rolls, and the gyro platter is served Greek style, with the pita bread cut into triangles and served alongside slices of gyro meat, cubes of feta cheese, olives, salad and fries. The accompanying tzatziki sauce owes its thickness to Greek yogurt.
Customers can wash down their orders with soda, lemonade, beer or a glass of wine from nearby Lake Anna Winery. Coffee and tea also are available.
Desserts currently are limited to baklava, carrot cake and cheesecake. But Kartoudi, who used to experiment with desserts for Danny K’s, eventually plans to create some for Zesty’s.
Danny K’s closed in 2000 after Kartoudi’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. She wanted to reopen as she got better, but didn’t have the energy, he said.
The Kartoudi family, which also owns the 208 Variety Store next door to Zesty’s, leased the space to RJ’s Café & Pizzeria and then Hubba’s Place Family Dining. When Hubba’s closed, the restaurant sat empty for several years.
Kartoudi, meanwhile, honed what he’d learned at Danny K’s by studying culinary arts under Johnson & Wales University graduate Chef Lee DeMatteo at the Spotsylvania Career and Technical Center. He wanted to go to Johnson & Wales after graduation, but said his parents convinced him to first study business at Germanna Community College.
Last September he was able to persuade them to let him open Zesty’s, and he began renovating the building. Hubba’s bar went out, and bench seating went in. He also added new lighting, hung art on the walls, repainted the tables and installed a tile floor.
Zesty’s is open for lunch and dinner daily. So far, it’s already attracted a number of locals who have become regulars, Kartoudi said. He expects that he’ll start getting people driving to Lake Anna during the summer.
“We’re kind of in a little oasis,” he said. “CJ’s Steak & Ale is five to six miles away and Ally’s [on the Lake] and Asian Café, they’re 10.”
Cathy Jett: 540/735-1975