Many Greek-Americans dream of one day returning to live in the Old Country. Joanne Cosona, whose parents are from Greece, had a more original idea. She and her husband Tony Medina decided to bring Hellenic style to the North Fork. To Mattituck, to be precise, where their small food and craft shop, Agora, meaning marketplace, is a preserve of Greek culture.
On the shelves you’ll find such items as wild oregano, soaps milled with olive oil, and bright-colored handmade pottery imported from Lesbos, an island to which Cosonas’s family has strong ties. And then there are the foodstuffs: five different kinds of feta cheese including the barrel-aged arahova, the hard to find–on the North Fork, at least– tart, dry, and grassy epirus–and dodoni, with its barnyard flavors that Cosonas considers ‘the mother of all fetas.’ If you thought all feta was the same, stop by the cheese counter and Cosonas will enlighten you. Along with excellent olives, she also dispenses recipe advice. (Stuffed tomatoes with veal; chicken avoglomeno; and whole grilled fish are among her specialties.) For those who can’t be bothered to cook, there’s spanakopita, spinach pie; another savory pie made with cream cheese and feta; baklava; and the marvelous butter cookies called kourabiedes, all brought in from the Greek food mecca of Astoria. On the crafts side, if you’re down on your luck, or you just want to hedge your bets, you can pick up a piece of jewelry to ward off the evil eye.
Cosonas and her husband live in Wading River. They got the idea for the shop two years ago when it dawned on them that there weren’t any places that stocked high-quality Greek foods on Long Island. Once a month, they slogged out to Astoria to buy the pantry staples that are the mainstays of the Greek kitchen: great fruity olive oil, thick yogurt, barley rusks, wild herbs, and other things. One day, while visiting Mattituck, they noticed an empty storefront, just around the corner from the shops and restaurants of Love Lane. The couple had recently retired but they’d discovered they weren’t very good at doing nothing. They liked working and they liked being around people. And so when they stumbled across the storefront, they agreed it was the perfect spot for an old-fashioned food shop–the one which at that moment they realized they were destined to open.
Agora is open year-round–a bold decision in a town in which many small businesses are seasonal and dependent on the resort economy. “We decided from the very beginning that we wanted to serve the community. That’s why our prices are so fair. We didn’t want to be a tourist thing. Our older Greek customers tell us that the shop reminds them of their homeland,” says Cosonas.
Both she and Medina are now officially out of retirement. “We’re late bloomers,” she says by way of explanation. “I was so tired of saying if only I had tried this or that. The minute we saw this shop, Tony and I looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s do it’”
Agora The Little Greek Market
610 Pike Street, Mattituck
631.315.5070 | littlegreekmarket.com