A slice of Greece, Asia, France…
Travel the world at Xtra-Chz
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum firstname.lastname@example.org
If your favorite pizza-topping combo is hard to find, chances are the new Xtra-Chz takeout restaurant in Concord will have it.
Besides the traditional pepperoni, sausage, and plain cheese varieties, owner Nick Makris and his nephew, manager Dan Merrill, have 28 specialty pizzas listed on the menu. Yes, Hawaiian and buffalo chicken pizzas are on the list, but so are chicken Marsala, eggplant parmigiana, chili-dog and cheese, and the breakfast club (scrambled eggs, bacon, and feta).
“We have the most specialty pizzas in the state,” Makris said.
Makris — no relation to the Makris Lobster and Steak House — started in the restaurant business when he was 16 years old at Theo’s on Elm Street in Manchester. At the time (1982) his Greek immigrant parents worked in the mills.
In 1986, Makris’s parent were laid off from their mill jobs. His mom wanted to open her own restaurant in Concord, and needed her son’s help to get started. Just before opening day at Zoey’s Family Restaurant on North Main Street (where the Siam Orchid is now located), Makris was in an automobile accident with a tractor-trailer. As the only one in the family who knew about restaurants, he spent those first few days in the kitchen bruised and bandaged while he helped his family get things organized.
The next family restaurant, Zoey’s Pizza in Manchester, opened in 1992, and Zoey’s Pizza, Too started in Deerfield a few years later. That is where Merrill got into the family business.
“I started working for my uncle in Deerfield when I was 15,” he said. “I used to ride my bike down there to work. Now I’m 22 and working for him again.”
Makris’s mother wanted to retire in 2005, so the restaurants were sold and he went back into construction. However, with the economy’s downturn, he decided to get back into the restaurant business, this time just with his wife involved.
On a trip to Concord’s Steeplegate Mall to buy his son a present to celebrate a straight-A report card, he noticed the new Gateway Plaza under construction on Route 106. After he considered a few other places in the months that followed, he finally decided on the new shopping plaza even though the city and owner would not allow sit-down. Xtra-Chz, which gets its name from Makris’ e-mail address, is strictly take-out.
Makris and Merrill designed the state-of-the-art stainless steel kitchen and Makris did most of the construction work, which includes a beautiful wood-paneled front counter, himself. The kitchen is much larger than is traditional for a place of this size.
“I can have 30 people working here without getting in each other’s way,” he explained.
The menu is also much larger and more creative than would be expected for a take-out place. Customers can travel the world with specialty pizzas such as the Greek (feta, mozzarella and provolone cheeses seasoned with garlic, oregano, and olive oil), American (barbecue back cheeseburger), French (chicken cordon blue — chicken, ham, provolone, and ranch dressing), Asian (grilled chicken, mushrooms, onions, peppers and teriyaki sauce), Italian (ham, mortadella, capicola, provolone, and Italian dressing), and Mexican (taco seasoned hamburger, tomatoes, olives, onions and banana pepper rings).
The restaurant is just as creative with the calzones, subs and salads. There are also a variety of burgers, chicken tenders, wings, and sandwiches, as well as yummy desserts from Hoff’s Bakery in Medford, Mass. All of the dinner plates are served with both onion rings and French fries, an idea Makris got while eating seafood in Gloucester, Mass. He said, “A lot of people like both. If you don’t, just ask us to leave one out and we will give you extra of the other.”
The appetizer menu features fried feta, a unique twist on the fried mozzarella stick. It’s an idea that Merrill said they came up with while just hanging out at his uncle’s house one evening. Feta is sliced into small squares, coated with flour, deep fried and served with marinara sauce.
The menu is a compilation of items Makris liked from his long restaurant career. “I took all the good recipes that I saw from all the places I’ve worked through the years. I left out what didn’t work,” he said.
The restaurant opened on Aug. 6. Makris said the Web site should be up soon. He noted he has a great group of “kids” who work for him (ages range from 16 to 26), many who come in even when they aren’t scheduled to work. He hopes customers will be patient with them in these early weeks. “This is still new for a lot of the kids working for us, so be easy on them.”