When the Chatzis family opened their first shop, the street that it’s still on today was called Sabri Pasha. Fotis Chatzis, the patriarch of this remarkable family, is a guardian of memory – this is where you come to find out what the city used to taste like. “This was the center of everything. Everyone wanted to be here – Greeks, Slavs, Jews, all the Balkan people. It was a nice mix. My great-grandfather, Suleiman Suleimanovits, came here in 1888. He sold boza, (a drink of fermented millet) out of a stamna (a clay vessel) strapped to his back.” It was the next generation that opened the store, in 1908, selling mainly creamery products and a few syrup pastries. Today, the street is called Eleftheriou Venizelou, but the recipes are the same.
Their cream is made from buffalo milk – the family has their own herd on the shores of Lake Kerkini, just so they can make things they way they used to. When asked about this, Fotis shrugs. “You’ve got to have ekmek (cream so thick you can slice it with a knife), because kazan dibi (a sweet similar to crème brulee) is just not the same without it. So what are you going to do?” They make all the politika desserts, the heavier Constantinople-style siropiasta (syrup pastries), that are hard to find anywhere else. Hanoum bourek, for instance, is custard in a golden, tender filo rich with egg yolks. Another favorite is taouk yiouksou, a sweet cream simmered with ground chicken breast – you can actually taste the chicken in it, and it’s delicious.
Fotis Chatzis passed away a few weeks after sharing these memories. The store is still run by the family.
• 50 Eleftheriou Venizelou. • Tel. (+30) 2310.279.058
• 73 Themistokli Sofouli & Argonafton, Kalamaria, Tel. (+30) 2310.417.808
• Open daily: 7:00-24:00