Jim Kafkalas, owner/operator of the new Katina’s II Pizzeria in Somers Point, claims to be able to do it all.
It’s no surprise since he and his sister Maria have already been running the original Katina’s Greek-American restaurant at Ninth and Central Avenue in Ocean City for the past 33 years.
When his family moved to South Jersey from Pittsburgh, it was Kafkalas’ idea to open a gyro restaurant on the Ocean City boardwalk, where they pioneered things such as souvlaki.
It wasn’t an easy sell.
Located across from the Ocean City Music Pier in 1980, the shore community was a pizza, cheesesteak, and fried seafood town. The family had to educate their customers about the Greek specialties they were offering.
“Greek food is a whole different taste,” Kafkalas says.
The new restaurant has the same great food they offer at the Ocean City restaurant, with the addition of Chicago-style deep-dish pizza made with a special dough that is different from everyone else. They also make their own sauce.
Their specialty pizza ($14.99 small; $19.99 large) include a Greek pie, made with feta, mozzarella, fresh tomato, mushroom, green pepper, olives, and oregano; a Philly pie, made with steak, chicken steak, meatball, bacon, mozzarella, and cheddar; or a vegetarian, made with broccoli, sliced tomato, spinach, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella.
“The Mediterranean pizza is really hot to trot right now,” Kafkalas says.
His Mediterranean pizza is loaded with gyro meat, chicken-kabob, onions, feta cheese, mozzarella cheese and a special sour cream and garlic sauce served on the side.
“Our calzone and stromboli are over sized,” Kafkalas says. “We make them really big.”
You can get any ingredients inside a calzone or stromboli that you would get on a pizza. The only difference is the addition of ricotta cheese in the calzone.
The large appetizer section includes the always popular hummus ($6.50, the house-made blend of chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, and garlic served with pita bread. Falafel bites ($6.50), a deep-fried chick pea mixture, served with tzatziki sauce and the made from scratch baba ghanoush ($6.75), with roasted eggplant, olive oil, and tahini are also available.
Soup choices include avgolemono ($2.75/ cup) a lemony, egg and chicken rice soup, and the soup du jour might include a vegetarian split pea that customers love.
Kafkalas plans to expand the soup menu, hoping to do some of the Ocean City soups he did back in the day and will also offer his special chili when the weather gets colder.
Salad selections include a roasted pepper salad ($8.95) with a choice of feta or provolone cheese; a tossed salad ($6.25, $8.70); and a Greek salad ($7.15, $9.25) with feta cheese and kalamati olives. They can all be topped with a choice of gyro, chick kabob, shish kabob, grilled shrimp or tuna, for an additional charge.
“The No. 1 biggest seller is the chicken kabob sandwich,” says Kafkalas.
Shish kabob (souvlaki) ($7.10) is made from marinated pork tenderloin on pita with lettuce, tomato, onion and sauce.
Greek platters are $14.60 each, and include gyro, chicken kabob, shrimp kabob, falafel, and vegetarian sandwich.
“The gyro platter has a lot of food on it,” Kafkalas says. “We make sure that every platter goes out looking perfect.”
Platters are served with a side Greek salad, grape leaves and a spinach pie.
The most familiar Greek specialties are moussaka ($14.60), a combination of baked eggplant and ground beef finished with a special cream sauce and pastitsio ($14.60), composed of baked macaroni and beef.
“I make both of them — I learned it off my mom,” Kafkalas says.
The family recipes were passed down from his grandmother, to his mother, who was involved with the Ocean City restaurant until just a few years ago.
When her health began to fail, Kafkalas sat down with his mother and wrote out all of her recipes.
“Our pastitsio is like a Greek lasagna, but we use the cream sauce instead of the red sauce; our moussaka has both red sauce mixed with the ground beef and white sauce on top,” Kafkalas says.
A veteran of 33 South Jersey winters, Kafkalas knows the first winter for a new restaurant is the hardest. His plans to combat the winter doldrums include a recent grand opening celebration, printed menus distributed in a local magazine and a series of special coupons on their takeout menu.
“Also, a lot of praying,” Kafkalas says.
He now has customers coming in from Linwood and Egg Harbor Township who like being able to eat the same food they have in Ocean City along with their own bottle of wine.
Kafkalas is in the kitchen all of the time, making pizza and manning the grill.
“I even deliver, if I have to,” says Kafkalas. “We don’t ever let business go by.”
Kafkalas takes nothing lightly, ensuring that both businesses will continue successfully well into the future.
Katina’s mixes it up
Kafkalas has been making a homemade Mediterranean salad dressing for 33 years, bottling it for sale for the last five years. Available in smaller area supermarkets and at both restaurants, it can also be ordered online from the web site.
Katrinas also offers coupons on the takeout menu including $5 off any purchase of $25 or more; buy one dinner and get one dinner of equal or lesser value 50 percent off; buy one lunch and get one lunch of equal or lesser value free; two pizzas for $17.99 (toppings and tax additional); and two large pizzas and wings $19.95 (toppings and tax additional).
Katina’s II Pizzeria has a complete catering menu featuring Greek and American favorites. Spanakopita, stuffed grape leaves, taramosalata, and moussaka, share space with fried crab bites, clams casino, roast top round, and pulled pork in BBQ sauce.