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It's All Greek

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Business lunches of yore used to include three martinis and three-inch pork chops served in dark paneled clubrooms lined with portraits of dead guys. Then, white wine spritzers replaced martinis, the pork chop became a quiche and ferns brightened up the interiors.

Today's midday meal usually involves spring water and something pre-packaged or prepared in five minutes -- the devolution of the civilized lunch.

But there is a group of ladies on the North Side who have, unbeknownst to them, started a counter-revolution against the hurried meal.

Every Wednesday at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Kay Balouris, Martha Lambou, Angie Roman and Esther Ladakos volunteer to prepare lunch for the public. Meals are freshly made and served in the church's auditorium, which is tended by Joseph Burke who helps lunchers open the heavy glass doors.

The $6 lunch menu draws people from Downtown to McKees Rocks. The 100 or so businesspeople who attend these lunches don't panic because they're away from their offices for more than 20 minutes. Instead, they join teachers, neighbors, seniors, artists, even the Red Hat Society ladies to sit down for a home-cooked meal.

"They come here to get the gab," laughs Ladakos. "Some bigger groups come here once a month to get away and just take their time."

Meal choices include half of a baked chicken, codfish with plaki (vegetable) sauce, and lemon cod with butter and oregano. There are also specials, such as veal parm with spinach and rice. All dishes come with two sides, salad, and bread and butter.

When not cooking lunches on Wednesdays, these women and dozens of other church volunteers prepare year-round for the church's annual Greek food festival. The event is so popular that individual committees are in place for different foods -- there's even a meatball committee.

Besides meatballs, for the upcoming festival, the ladies will be making favorites such as spanakopita (spinach pie), tiropita (cheese pie) and pastitsio (a baked pasta dish with ground meat, cheese, eggs and spices).

Asked when they start cooking for the festival, Balouris laughs, "The day after the last one.

"We don't rush," she adds.

Lunch, 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Wednesdays. The 35th Annual Greek Food Festival begins Wed., Aug. 29, through Sept. 2. Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 302 W. North Ave. North Side. 412-321-9282

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