Pita Wraps

With the eyes of the sporting world fixated on Athens for the next month, let's focus our guts toward the Olympian gyros at Pita Wraps, San Clemente's sole Greek establishment. These colossuses aren't so much edibles as they are a construction project on the level of washing out the Augean stables—herds of wonderfully spiced lamb and beef chunks; valleys of tomatoes, onions and lettuce; all placed on a pita the size of a hamster velodrome, then welded with a brazenly tart tzatziki cucumber sauce. Afterward arrives the true trial: a young cook vainly tries to roll up his creation like a burrito but realizes failure quickly. He instead folds the gyro halfway, wraps it in foil and hands it to you. From one twisted foil end to another, the gyro is about as long and muscular as a weightlifter's forearm.

When you tear off the foil, you'll experience the most joyous unwrapping since Christmas. The gyro is simultaneously light and bulky, cool with roughage but also steaming from the lightly toasted pita and grilled meat. Pita Wraps' gyro is the greatest Grecian contribution to the world since the Dorian column—okay, at least the Ionic.

With such a superb dish, it's no surprise or insult that the tiny Pita Wraps offers little else. What passes for ambiance are four tables, a couple of faux-marble busts, and a fluttering mural of the blue-and-white Greek flag. Cutlery is of the plastic variety, as are the plates, and the cups are Styrofoam. The menu is similarly spartan, consisting of gyros, meat dishes with rice or French fries, appetizers, and a wonderful baklava that's almost never available.

You can—and should—order sides of hummus and babaghanoush even if they're more watery and bitter than to what you're accustomed. And the various salads, assorted meat plates and not-wholly Hellenic fried-zucchini sticks also deserve a bite. Don't delude yourself, though: stick to those gyros, of which Pita Wraps sells six different kinds. The best seller is the aforementioned lamb-and-beef type, the livestock dancing simultaneously upon your taste buds like some delirious Zorba the Greek fantasy. Also popular is a chicken shawerma gyro stuffed with slices of marinated hen shaved off from an ever-rotating spit and drizzled with a garlic sauce whose wallop verges toward Mike Tyson territory. There's even one gyro that features bunches of fried zucchini sticks slathered with that snappy tzatziki sauce.

As fine as everything else is, the Acropolis of Pita Wraps is the souvlaki gyro: fat-free pork marinated in a zippy red-wine sauce, the best hog you'll chew on outside the South. Eat this gyro in one seating, though, and this baby will occupy your duodenum for a couple of weeks even if you participate in a triathlon immediately afterward. Happy swimming, biking and running!


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