Church to celebrate Greece’s independence

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Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News Savvas Mourtzis and his father Tassos Mourtzis, along with Eleni Mourtzis, 5, and Theo Mourtzis, 2-and-half, gather around a table of Greek food. Tassos Mourtzis will be cooking up a feast at the Greek Night Dinner to be held at United Church of Beloit on March 25, Greek Independence Day.

BELOIT — When the people of Greece celebrate their March 25 Greek Independence Day with parades, those at United Church of Beloit will be serving up a Greek feast with accompanying music and dancing.

Greek Independence Day is a celebration commemorating Greece breaking free from the Ottoman Empire’s rule of almost 400 years. By offering a feast and fellowship at United Church of Beloit, Tassos Mourtzis is hoping to introduce Greek culture to the Beloit area through his culinary expertise.

“Mediterranean food is the best in the world,” Tassos Mourtzis said.

The Greek Night Dinner will be held from 5 - 7 p.m. on March 25 at United Church of Beloit, 657 Bluff St. All proceeds will benefit the church.

The dinner will cost $12 a person and will be $10 for those over age 65. The cost for kids 7-12-years-old is $5, and it's free for kids under 6-years-old. Dinner will be served around 5:30 p.m.

The menu will feature: authentic gyros and souvlaki, or seasoned meat sandwiches; Greek salad, a Tzatziki sauce of Greek yogurt and cucumber; spinach, cheese and meat pies; and a hearty dessert table featuring baklava, revani, or Greek cake with semolina, and kataifi.

In addition to made-from-scratch foods and pies with handmade Phyllo dough, the event will feature Greek music, a slide show about Greece and plenty of fun.

“It’s not uncommon for spontaneous parties to start in Greece. People will find any opportunity to have a party,” said Tassos’ son Savvas Mourtzis. “Greeks are easy to make friends with.”

Tassos Mourtzis is from the port city of Thessaloniki. He ran a retail store in Greece, but has always had a passion for cooking. His son Savvas Mourtzis came to the United States in 2000 and later became a citizen. Tassos Mourtzis obtained his green card about a year ago. He has moved in with his son Savvas Mourtzis, who works at Riverfront with people with disabilities; daughter-in-law Gwen Rusmisel, a special education teacher with the School District of Beloit; and his grandkids Eleni Mourtzis, 5, and Theo Mourtzis, 2-and-half, and 15-year-old Evan Rusmisel.

Since obtaining his green card and moving in with his family, Tassos Mourtzis and the family is planning to open a Greek food truck this summer.

Tassos Mourtzis explained how his late wife always wanted to move the family to the United States because of Greece's economic conditions, low wages and high taxes. In Greece, he said, people have to pay a 24 percent tax on food alone. The family is still awaiting Tassos’ other son Demetrius to be approved for a green card to come to the United States to help with the food truck.

Savvas Mourtzis said the food truck will be a good way to keep his father close to his Greek culture. In Greece, he said 90 percent of people work at small businesses and many are entrepreneurs.

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