In Santorini, on the south side of Akrotiri, next to the sea there is a small cave, where for many years Captain Nikolas used to store his nets, fishing equipment and little boat. This storage space was often converted into a small dining room where he’d gather with his friends to eat, drink and make merry.
When the late Professor Spyros Marinatos started excavating the archaeological site of Akrotiri in 1967, he proposed to Captain Nikolas to turn this refuge into a small taverna to feed the hungry workers and naturally himself. At the helm was Nikolas’s wife Mrs. Efstathia who served all the traditional delicacies of the island such as ntomatokeftedes, fava, fresh cheese, spaghetti with garlic and lots of fresh fish.
Over the years, Nikolas Cave (“I Spilia tou Nikola” in Greek) became better and better known to visitors on the island, who after their visit to the site would escape to the beach to taste Mrs. Efstathia’s famous mezedes. In 1981 their daughter Margarita took over. That was the beginning of the tourist boom and since then the number of tavernas there has multiplied to seven.
Around the mid 2000s Mrs. Margarita’s son Minas took over the running of the taverna, bringing new ideas to the kitchen. His efforts were rewarded with a Gourmet prize in 2007-2008 for the best traditional taverna in Santorini.
In addition to looking after the taverna, Minas, a proud, hard-working man, looks after the gardens where he grows the vegetables served – the small tomatoes, white aubergines, fava – and raises animals. Although he studied archaeological restoration, he gave it up when he fell in love with gastronomy and cheese making. Having so many of their own raw materials guarantees the quality of food at Nikolas Cave.
Mrs. Margarita still carries on, after half a century at her pots and pans, and makes the best ntomatokeftedes on the island. She’s also famous for her meatless moussaka, made with the local white aubergines, and for her seafood ntomatokeftedes to which she adds salt cod. Fish and seafood finish off the menu and family members play starring roles in the service too.
“I inherited my love and dedication for work from my mother,” Minas tells us, “whereas my love of animals and nature came from my father”.