Aigio’s most famous souvlaki joint is situated on the square of Agias Lavras, 9 Zaimis Street. The reasons for its fame have to do with the history of the shop, which goes back half a century ago to when, under the management of the Rayios family, it operated as a local hangout, but mainly because of the scrumptious handmade kebabs that it has offered in the past 30 years. In 1988, Efstathios Zaros took over the shop and in a short time established it as an institution. We ate there and were touched by the simple tastiness and tenderness of the meat and by the beautifully fried ‘real’ potatoes (hand cut on the spot).
Souvlaki – meat on a stick – is a very Greek treat, beloved of locals as well as tourists. It has become known round the world and is usually sold at special establishments, known as ‘souvlatzidika’ or souvlaki joints. A kind of fast food, it is also served at stalls set up at open air festivals and church fairs. There cubes of meat – lamb, pork, even chicken – are grilled flat on a little skewer called a ‘kalamaki’ and served with slices of country bread. This distinguishes it from the gyro, which is sliced from meat piled onto an enormous skewer, grilled vertically, and served with round pita bread (like Arab bread) and garnished with onion, tomato and tzatziki. The recipe for the first is as old as antiquity and the kandauli were something analogous.
We spoke with Christiana Zaros, Efstathios’ daughter.
“This is a two-family operation. First there’s my father, Efstathios, my mother Velissaria, my brothers, Michalis and Vassos, and me. And we also have my mother’s brother, Tasos Yiannoulis, his wife, Demetra, and their son, Thomas. We work all day every day from 12 noon to midnight, and we close only at Christmas, Easter and four or five days in September. Aigio loves us because they know that our meat is impeccable. The pork comes from relatives in Preveza and all the preparations are done here on the premises”.
Christiana talks with pride about her family, and she also helps out when she can. In the morning she gives music lessions or takes part in rehearsals of the Patras Philharmonic rehearsals, where she is a member of the orchestra, and in the evenings she can be found serving souvlakia.
Zaros Souvlakia is a credit to Aigio.