Go Greek on the highway; get Nourished on the Boardwalk

June 2, 2011

One of the (very few) things I miss about living in the Washington, D.C. area is the delicious supply of ethnic restaurants. If you’re willing to arm-wrestle your way around the Capital Beltway, there is very little in world cuisine that cannot be enjoyed.

Though I pine away for authentic Vietnamese, Middle Eastern and Indian fare here at the beach - are you getting this, wannabe restaurateurs? - one of my favorites is Greek food. Fortunately, when the need for a Greek fix does arise, we need go no farther than Zorba’s Restaurant. Pete and Noula Panagakos are never without lemony dolmades, fragrant moussaka and creamy tzatziki, just to name a few.

Pete came to the United States from Greece at the tender age of 24. He’s been a chef for most of his adult life, honing his skills at restaurants in Long Island and Baltimore. Noula was working in a midtown Manhattan office when they met.

About six summers ago, the opportunity arose for them to buy their own place here in Rehoboth Beach, so they packed up their son and daughter (now 16 and 22 years old) and journeyed southward to the Food Lion shopping center on Coastal Highway.

Now this is where I got my hand slapped a couple of weeks ago when I wrote in this column that they purchased Zorba’s from the previous owner. That was not entirely accurate, and I hang my head in ignominy. Yes, they did purchase an existing restaurant there, but they were the ones who changed the name to Zorba’s. So there, Noula. I have atoned for my sins.

The menu includes Italian and American fare, but at first it was an uphill battle to acclimate the Delaware shore palate to Greek cookery. Pete and Noula tell me that more and more diners come to Zorba’s for the ethnic dishes, expertly ordering such tongue-twisters as Melitzanosalata (a Greek take on the Middle Eastern eggplant dip baba ghanouj) and Spanakopitakia (chopped spinach and feta cheese melted in an envelope of golden brown filo).

One of the reasons I like writing this stuff is that I get to meet chefs and owners who are passionate about what they do. Pete Panagakos is certainly one of those people. Another Rehoboth chef and owner who takes what she does very seriously is Deberah Sutter, part owner of Nourish deli and catering company and the soon-to-open Nourish Express.

Sutter has seen her share of fame, feeding such luminaries as Martha Stewart, Glenn Close, Liza Minelli and even Bill and Hillary Clinton. In spite of this star-studded guest list, her primary objective is to educate people about nutrition. After all, you are what you eat, and she is well aware of the therapeutic benefits of healthy food.

Nourish Express is located at the Elite PT Physical Therapy center in the Stuart Kingston building on the Boardwalk. Everything will be geared toward healthy eating, not only for patients recovering from injuries, but also anyone who wants a light and healthy nosh in a friendly setting.

Elite PT is a story in itself. Exercise physiologist Amelia Knarr and her husband John, a physical therapist, started Elite PT in California, partnering with Los Angeles gyms to help physical therapy patients keep up their programs. John, a native Delawarean, started the PT clinic at the University of Delaware. He met Amelia at a conference in California, and the desire for a slower pace brought them to the Rehoboth Boardwalk.

Nourish Express is a lot more than granola and rice cakes. Portioned fruit dishes, yogurt parfaits, fresh coffees and mini baked goods will be available to therapy patients and Boardwalkers alike. Friday afternoon healthy hour (kind of like happy hour, but without the police tape) will feature mocktails, chips, salsa, hummus and lots of tasty nibbles.

Outdoor seating by the ocean promises to make Nourish Express the place to be seen and to be healthy, all at the same time.

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at

    Masthead photo by Grant Gursky. Used with permission from Coastal Style Magazine.