Saint Sophia’s Greek Festival this weekend in Albany

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Albany goes Greek this weekend for Saint Sophia’s Greek Festival!

Plenty of fun for the family with music, dancing, rides and of course food will be had at 440 Whitehall Road.

This event will take place, rain or shine, over the next three days: Friday, May 19th 6:00-10:00 p.m.; Saturday, May 20th 12:00-10:00 p.m.; Sunday, May 21st 12:00-7:00 p.m.

Lemon potatoes are just part of one dish that has to be prepared for this weekend.  Steven Zimandonnis of Saint Sophia’s Orthodox Church described some of the preparation that goes into making the large quantities of dishes for this festival.

“A leg of lamb, it is done Greek style. We roast it at 350 degrees for about an hour and a half and then we slice it up to get it ready for the dinners, in the restaurant and also under the tent for the lamb souvlaki, we make a lamb souvlaki as well,” Zimandonnis said.

Before slicing and eating the lamb it takes time to prepare according to Zimandonnis.

“We take the leg of lamb, it comes boned and tied already, and then what we do is w put garlic inside the lamb, and then we cover it in salt, pepper, oregano, and then we slow cook it in the oven, pull it out and the slice it,” he said.

There are additional recipes beyond lamb that are served at the

“Something new this year that we have not had before, although we’ve used fish before [“plaki”], this is our haddock and we’ve added a twist to it this year,” said Zimandonnis. “They made a spinach and feta cheese stuffing. We are actually rolling the fish and then stuffing it with the spinach and feta cheese and then we will finish it off with a lemon crème sauce, and that’s going to be one of our menu items too.”

There are so many great recipes to tickle your taste-buds.

NEWS10 was also granted exclusive access into the “cool vault” where several of the prepared foods are kept fresh for the weekend. Steven Zimandonnis described a few of the pre-prepared dishes made in advance.

“What we also have in here are our spinach pies and cheese pies, they call it ‘spanicopida,’ which is the spinach pies here, and on Monday and Tuesday all of the women in the community come in and make over 80 trays of these, as you can see there are a lot of trays,” Zimandonnis said. “We have our ‘tinopida’ which is our cheese pies. Then over here on Tuesday and Wednesday, we have our two traditional Greek dishes, and this one here is ‘moussaka.’”

Additionally an eggplant dish was also described by Zimandonnis.

“That is eggplant on the bottom layered with ground meat and it’s with nutmeg and a vegetable sauce over the top. Then over here we have ‘pistachio’ which is the bottom is layered with pasta, with ziti and then we add cinnamon with the vegetable sauce layer over the top. So these are some of our traditional dishes,” he said.

Zimandonnis is not the only person involved with making some great food for the upcoming weekend.

Rita Joni is another volunteer in baking some great Greek delicacies such as kourambierres, finikia and bahklava. These are all pastries featured this weekend at Greek Fest.

“We’ve been baking since the end of March, and most recently we made the spanicopidas which are the spinach pies; they are delicious, made with feta cheese. Under the tent we have Greek coffee and other Greek pastries,” Joni said.

One of the classic Greet desserts is a “must try” at the festival.

“We have bahklava, it’s a filo and we butter it. We spread it with walnuts and cinnamon, we roll it then bake it and then we pour syrup over it,” she said.

Rita Joni knows the importance of food in the Greek culture, but the church is also a cornerstone of this religious celebration.

“The food of course and our culture, we have tours of our church, we have a beautiful church. Under the tent we have different booths, we have the salad bar, we have the Greek coffee, the pastries, and spanicopida, and we also have the locumaderres which is the fried dough that’s dipped with the real honey on top and nuts. They are hot and delicious,” Joni said.

This weekend you can come to network with your community but Greek Fest is also about the religion of Greek Orthodox, and all over the walls there is art tell stories from the bible called “icons”, thankfully i have father pat here to break this all down for us.

Father Pat Lagato is the priest at Saint Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Church in Albany. He takes pride in this festival for many reasons.

“This is the icon of the holy resurrection of Jesus Christ breaking from the tombs. The cross that he is standing on is the cross that was his means of destruction. If you look below you see the chains all broken and the keys, it symbolizes Gehenna, or Hades where he descends into Hades and resurrects. Of course the first two people he brings with him, on the right side is Adam, and Eve on the left. He is restoring them to their heavenly place in paradise,” said Father Lagato.

Connection to culture and the Greek community is what Father Lagato cherishes the most.

“We want to share our culture, we’ve been doing this forty years and it’s an opportunity to share everything that we have including our religion, our social life and our culture, and of course the food; everyone comes for the food, I even come for the food. I’m half Italian, so it’s very rare that I eat Greek food, so I actually use Greek fest as a chance to enjoy the traditional Greek foods,” Lagato said.

For more information on Saint Sophia’s Greek Festival visit their website: http://stsophia.net/events/2017-greek-festival/

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