Pyrgos is one of the most well-preserved villages on Santorini, mainly because tourism has not affected it too much yet. Its population of 600, mostly vintners, remains year round, in contrast with other, more touristy, villages which become ghost towns in winter.
The Kantouni Café, otherwise known as “kafeneio tis kyra Voulas” (Mrs. Voula’s), particularly among the older set, is in the main square of the village and is open year round. It is perhaps the only authentic traditional café on the island, a place where a coffee does not cost more that E1.50 so that even retirees can bear the cost.
Mrs Voula opened the café about 20 years ago to provide an extra income with which she educated her children.
“Twenty years working at the café morning to night I’ve never once had the time to swim in the sea. Making coffees from the crack of dawn and then, in the summer, breakfast for the tourists – I have customers who come back every year to see me – at midday the salads and then at night, the frying pan. Fortunately, my children help me in the summers, my son picked up the tray when he was nine…”.
Mrs. Voulas’s sfougato (a kind of baked omelet) is famous. Depending on the size of the group she’ll bring a plate made with anywhere from four to sixteen eggs. Her sausages are delicious as she makes them herself, flavouring them with savoury, vinegar, anise, cinnamon, spices and wine. In the winter the locals cram themselves into the 25 square metres of the establishment while in the summer the tables and chairs spill out into the square, which is full of pine trees offering the best shade on the island. Every September Voula organizes a backgammon championship drawing the best players from across Santorini.
In 2015 her son took over the day to day management since Mrs. Voula is now a grandmother who takes her new duties very seriously. He’s enlarged and renovated the place nicely but we miss her sfougato and her constant presence. Maybe now she’ll find the time to go for a dip with her grandchild.