Gyro Worship

Appears in the July 2024 issue.

By Peter Gianopulos

Maria’s Gyros opens its doors in Naperville

A gyro from Maria's Gyro

It’s been close to 30 years since Mike and Maria Kyritsi waved goodbye to Athens, Greece, and immigrated to the United States. This country, they say, has been very good to them. They harbor very few complaints—except perhaps for one small annoyance that’s been chafing at them for close to three decades.

It involves America’s definition of the word “gyros.” You know those cone-shaped slabs of compressed meatloaf that every Pete, Nick, and Demetrious try to pawn off as gyros? That’s not, the Kyritsis insist, a real gyro.

One should not, Mike says, use the words “gyro meat” and “emulsified” in the same sentence. If you visit the Kyritsi family’s new spot in Naperville, aptly named Maria’s Gyros, they happily will introduce you to the authentic thing. “To make a real gyro, you need cuts of meat that have some fat on them,” Mike explains, “so that the meat stays moist and retains its flavor while it’s cooking.”

Their house gyro is made by marinating thinly pounded cuts of beef and lamb—mostly sliced from the shoulder and thigh—in a secret recipe that’s been passed down though Maria’s family for generations. The tenderized cutlets are then layered atop each other in a crisscross pattern, similar to the way your favorite taqueria might make its al pastor. The meat is slowly roasted in its own juices—poultry lovers can opt for a chicken gyro if they desire—before the meat is shaved and dressed with a homemade tzatziki made with Greek-style yogurt. From there, the gyro meat is piled onto a pita and topped with your choice of French fries, tomatoes, onions, or all of the above.

Of course, Mike, Maria, and son Costas come bearing plenty of other Greek gifts, too. Flaky spinach-stuffed spanakopita. Hummus. Falafel. And traditional souvlakia skewers. “I have to tell people,” Mike says, “that the chicken skewers take 15 minutes because we make them to order.” More proof that good things—and real gyros—come to those who wait.


Photo: Maria’s Gyros