Café-Ouzeri in Kalamata
Thiasos is located in the historic centre of Kalamata in a building that was new more than a hundred years ago. In recent years the café had gone downhill – in fact, it had earlier been transformed into a Berlin-type bar – but that was before two young men, Kostas and Vasilis, restored it to a proper café in September 2015. And by the looks of things, it has come back to stay.
The district has revived and the fans of the café enjoy their coffees and ouzos in the coolness of the square, shaded by two enormous, venerable planet trees (which are surely much older than the café itself).
The building’s interior, a square high-ceilinged space, receives light from a large plate-glass window and warmth (in winter) from a wood-burning stove.
As Kostas Pierros, the cooking half of the duo, told me, ‘We gave our café the name Thiasos because we were inspired by your book, The Cafés of Greece, whose cover has a photo of the café in Amphissa [near Delphi] where Theodoros Angelopoulos filmed “O Thiasos” (The Travelling Players). The spaces are similar, we installed the wood-burning stove in the middle of the room, and we wanted our delicious mezedes and our friendly welcome to create a troupe of our own with our happy customers.
‘We put a lot of emphasis on the seasonality of our dishes, in other words we cook them at the time when nature offers them, but also to their provenance. Our products come straight from the earth of Messinia. I personally have a farm, I come from an agricultural family and I grow the vegetables we use in our kitchen’.
The music played here is mostly rebetika/Greek folk music, but the café – thanks to its spaciousness and casual atmosphere – often hosts groups of amateur musicians who, helped along by the nibbles and drinks, entertain their friends and other customers. The menu is long, with stand-out dishes that include Messinian scrambled eggs with cured meat, greens pie, chickpea patties, pork in a pouch (en papilotte) and naturally roast piglet.
Thiasos is one of the liveliest and most amusing places to eat in Kalamata.