In the main square in the main town on Kos you’ll find a café-sweetshop of a kind that is dying out in our day. Its founder, Michalis Tsivrinis, a refugee from Smyrna and well versed in the art of making Anatolian sweets, opened his shop, the Ariston, in 1952.
In 1977 his son Konstantinos inherited Ariston and since 2002 Nikos Kalimanaris, apprentice to them both, has been running it. Now Kyr Nikos, along with Anastasia, his assistant who arrived from Pelion 15 years ago and never left, and his own son keep the shop going. Nikos has known no other life for he started working alongside Michalis from the age of 12.
As he says, ‘The sweets I make here are the same as those that Kyrios Michalis used to make. Cheese pies with honey, individual bougatsas (custard pies) with sugar and cinnamon or with honey, galaktoboureko (custard pies with crispy fyllo), creamy cakes and local baklava with almonds. Our baklava is particularly popular abroad too. Just the other day I had orders for hundreds to be sent to the Patriarchate, and to the US and Australia’.
And in fact, from 8 in the morning, the café, which boasts just four-five tables and maybe 15 bent-wood, Viennese type chairs, is filled with passersby who sip their coffee and enjoy their sweets. By noon all the sweets will have vanished and so the shop shuts for the day.
As Nikos continues, ‘Whatever sweet you see here is created with our own hands. No trace of any factory-made or frozen ingredients enters our premises. All afternoon I’m kneading dough and preparing the custards for the next day, and at the crack of dawn I’m back to put them in the oven’.
Nikos has been on the job 40 years now and feels gratified that the quality of his pastries and his efforts have been recognized not only by his fellow islanders but also by many Greek and foreign visitors. His greatest joy, however, is that his son intends to carry on his work. The fame of Ariston café and the art of pastry making will not be lost.