Maria Loi has been called the “Martha Stewart of Greece,” but she’s not just a pretty face flashing across the television screen. She recently opened Loi on the Upper West Side and is actually clocking in the hours behind the stove (and, OK, gallivanting around the dining room). During a recent visit, we fell for a couple dishes, including a tasty moussaka (perfect for blustery evenings), a crock of hot and gooey Greek cheese, and a seafood orzo dish called yiouvetsi thalassinon.
The dish combines orzo with a bunch of scallops, clams, and mussels, all in a tomato-scented lobster broth. Feta cheese adds a touch of (needed) saltiness, and the whole shebang is sort of like a Greek paella, minus the socarrat on the bottom of the cast-iron pan. The flavors are all light, but the dish ends up being stick-to-your-ribs hearty, which is exactly the kind of food one should eat as December approaches.
Note that not everything works here (our fish was overcooked, and both the stuffed eggplant and the rooster with hilopites were on the bland side), but it’s a good bet before or after a show at Lincoln Center. Unlike so many eateries these days, it’s quiet enough to carry on a conversation with your companions, and there are also three large private dining rooms, making it a good spot for corporate events or other functions.