What you get at “Melitini” is Greek products only! A former banker, Pantelis Hadjiconstantis, and his childhood friend Takis Drosos, left behind their lives in Athens and moved to Santorini to open the first traditional cafe that serves only Greek products at the picturesque village of Oia.
The economic crisis that has hit Greece in the past few years has brought out the best in some people. Takis and Pantelis are two of them. They met as university students and their favorite pastime was to sit at quiet, traditional cafes and taverns and enjoy good Greek food. Little did they know that a few years later they would make a living out of it and creating a model that can help the local Greek economy.
Pantelis was working at a bank but he didn’t see any future in that; no prospects for a real career, so he quit. Whereas most young Greeks prefer a steady job even with a meagre income, Takis and Pantelis took the risk to leave Athens and open a traditional, old-fashioned cafe in picturesque Santorini.
They named it Melitini, after their favorite traditional sweet from Santorini that is served at Easter, after the Resurrection of Christ. It is a pastry shell filled with a mixture of sugar, cheese, butter and mastic. And that’s how the two friends want to keep it: traditional, and Greek!
“We love Greece; we believe in the quality of Greek products. Meats, smoked hams, sausages, Greek products are the best,” says Takis. What you get at “Melitini” is Greek products only, most of them natural and organic. For example, they serve the famous salami from Leukada, renowned cheeses from Naxos, olives from Kalamata and so on.
Drinks are also Greek. “No foreign brands here, and we intend to keep it this way” they say filled with pride.
If they run out of something, they won’t serve anything similar they consider inferior in quality. The beverages are all Greek too! The guys don’t even serve Coca-Cola; that’s how purist their approach is.
Even though they operate in the most tourist island of Greece with hundreds of thousands foreign visitors each year, their plan was to target Greeks. The cafe is too casual for tourists who sometimes seek something more glamorous, but still, tourists are easily persuaded to come back once they taste the food at Melitini, the two friends say.
The choice of Santorini came in a flash for them. They say they could have opened Melitini anywhere. They picked Santorini because they felt they would have more chances to succeed there. Now they feel lucky that they chose the beautiful Cycladic island. “Santorini is a different Greece,” Pantelis says. “Life is easy here, so you can work more hours without feeling tired. You don’t have the grayness of Athens,” adds Takis.
As for the financial risk in the not so much business-friendly Greece, the two guys say that they love what they do so they took the chance. It’s not easy, they say: “You are on your own, no one will help you. The state won’t help, they won’t sponsor businesses like this. All you get from the state is hurdles.”
Still, a beautiful Santorini sunset and a glass of a nice Greek wine can make you forget all that!