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Apallonia’s familiar menu

For 17 years, Aesop’s Tables was the destination of choice for La Jollans with an appetite for Greek delicacies. Even before that, the restaurant was serving up Mediterranean specialties in the San Diego State University area, and many of those loyal customers followed the restaurant to its attractive location in the Costa Verde Shopping Center.

If you visit the restaurant now, you’ll notice a new name on the awning, and new owners taking charge of the local landmark. Apollonia Greek Bistro has been under new management for a couple of months, and the renovations are still incomplete. At this point, Apollonia has a handsome outdoor patio where shaded alfresco dining is delightful. However, if you venture inside, you’ll still see a lot of construction, and that may continue for a couple of more months.

The end results should be stunning, but in the meantime, be prepared to make do without a charming ambiance. Apollonia is owned by Cafe Athena, a popular eatery on Garnet Avenue. The menu was taken from Cafe Athena as well, but fans of Aesop’s Tables will recognize their favorites among the many Greek culinary offerings.

You can still find a wonderful assortment of Middle Eastern dips and spreads, such as hummos, one of many heart-healthy items prevalent in Greek cuisine, tzatziki, a traditional Greek cucumber and yogurt dip, and our personal favorite, Baba Ghannouj, made from broiled eggplant and sesame sauce. The dips range in price from $4.99 to $6.79, and they make a wonderful start to any Greek lunch or dinner.

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Calamari is a popular appetizer at most restaurants, but it is actually a classic in the Greek Isles. At Apollonia, the calamari is made with baby squid, lightly breaded and fried crisp ($7.99). You can try several favorites from the appetizer section if you order the Mezedakia ($13.49). It comes with spanakopita - spinach and feta cheese in a filo dough - marinated artichokes, kalamata olives and other specialties.

Grape leaves are a staple of Greek cuisine, but you don’t often see three different styles of these delicate rolls. At Apollonia, you can opt for a vegetarian version ($5.49), the traditional ground beef, rice and herb-filled variety ($6.69), and a fresh salmon ($7.49).

There are three soups on the menu available daily for lunch and dinner. The traditional egg-lemon soup with rice and orzo is called Avgolemono, and it’s always a favorite. A hearty lentil soup with Swiss chard, and a tomato basil are also great choices, especially if you’re looking for heart-healthy soups. You can order each of them by the cup ($3.19) or by the bowl ($4.99).

Just about every mall has a gyro stand, and many serve falafels as well, but Apollonia has the real McCoy. You can get a gyro sandwich made with a seasoned blend of beef and lamb broiled on the rotisserie and wrapped in pita bread or a falafel sandwich made with garbanzo and fava bean patties among the many sandwich selections on the menu. They start at $5.99, and all the sandwiches can be served with your choice of a small Greek salad or soup for another $2.89.

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The entree menu abounds with exciting dishes such as swordfish kebabs ($15.49), moussaka, which is a casserole layered with eggplant, zucchini and seasoned ground leg of lamb topped with bechamel sauce and viahotyri cheese. Served with rice pilaf, this very special dish sells for $11.99.

Spinach pastitsio ($10.49) and shrimp scorpio ($13.99) are among the 15 different choices available. You can add a side of warm pita bread and soup or salad to any entree for another $3.19.

The menu lists six desserts plus a combination of the most popular, but most Greek diners prefer baklava, a blend of walnuts, cinnamon and rosewater in a filo pastry ($2.29). Rice pudding, known as rizzogalo, garnished with raisins and cinnamon ($3.49) is another Greek classic.

You may have to settle for a less-than-satisfying decor for a while, but when the renovation is complete, Apollonia’s ambiance should be as pleasant as the food. And the service is always friendly, no matter what’s going on in the background.

There’s a large catering menu if you’re looking for something a little different for your next party or meeting.

Apollonia Greek Bistro is at 8650 Genesee Avenue. Call (858) 455-1535.