Corfu’s villages, scattered about the island’s riotous green landscape of tall olive trees, cypress trees and vineyards, are well preserved with tile-roofed, pastel-coloured houses, and very few concrete monstrosities among them. This fairytale scenery had convinced me that I would find old cafes. Unfortunately, the results of my search were meager. Two or three noted cafes had recently closed, the main one being the amazing Olympia cafe-grocery in Lakones, whose proprietor Theodoros Mihalas had just died. The situation was salvaged by another cafe-grocery, in Avliotes this time.
A long and narrow tile-roofed building with ochre walls and green windows trimmed in white, right on the main street and across from a small square, has housed the Mouzakitis family cafe for nearly a century. I encountered the same play of colour inside, reinforced with a pink stripe along the lower walls. Small green metallic tables, wonderfully spare wooden benches, an old wood-burning stove, shelves filled with necessities and old photographs on the walls composed the indoor scene. Spyros, also known as “Fondas”, is the third generation of the Mouzakitis family to tend the store.
This young man introduced us to the cafe’s history:
“My grandfather Thodoros in 1928 began the business which was from the very beginning both a cafe and a grocery store. We have photos of all the elders sitting in a row outside on the narrow pavement along the cobblestone street, sunning themselves as they watch the foot traffic. Furthermore, the processions always stop for a little while here in Aforesmenos square for a short prayer. Young people nowadays might prefer more modern cafes but this place has known its share of glory with celebrations, singing accompanied by violins, accordions and guitars. In any case, though I work in tourism I do what I can to work here at the same time and to keep it alive with my mates.”