• Τranslation from Greek article: Katerina Sotiriou

June 25th 2015

The corner of Kapodistriou, at the end of Koletti’s pedestrian area, in Exarcheia, was for many years in a very poor state. It was the spot where drug users used to shoot up, there was prostitution and drunk people used to piss everywhere. The presence of Krinos, an old bakery shop, wasn’t enough. Besides, the sense of decay was present inside the shop long before it was present at the corner as well.

Christos, the owner of ‘Atitamos ‘-a Cretan tavern he opened last year at the place where Krinos used to be- says about this situation, ‘’The corner was deserted and dirty’’.

The incident
‘’I am watering the park on my own expenses, the county doesn’t even care. I’ve even bought flowers. Once a kid stole a pot from me, but then he returned it and apologized. He confessed he just liked it and so he took it. I bought him a raki.’’

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The place has lightened up. The trees have come back to life and in a few months it stopped looking like the dark, decadent corner it used to be. Walking by, you can hear parties talking, and also beautiful tunes like Tsitsanis’ ‘’Magikes Nichtes’’, the second cover from Ioanna Georgakopoulou and Stellakis Perpiniadis. Elias Anastasopoulos, radio producer at Sto Kokkino FM , is in charge of the store’s music playlists.

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The smell of the foods is also a major attraction point. In Atitamos you’ll taste the most delicious fried meat and chopped pork, which will make you think like you’re in the best tavern on top of a mountain. The highlight of the tavern, as it should be for every Cretan tavern, is of course the raki, which is brought by Christos directly from Rethymno. He quotes, ‘’Everything my clients taste, I have tasted first. I will drink half a liter of wine and check myself the next day to see if I have a hangover.’’ There is however another reason why the store is increasingly becoming more popular. ‘’ We have regular customers, because we communicate. If they give me bad criticism about a dish, I am not bothered. I simply take the plate away, don’t charge them and bring them something else. It costs less than having a client that won’t say anything, eat and then walk away.’’

Atitamos page on Facebook

The name
Atitamos is named after the Cretan herb, dittany, (or ‘’diktamos’’ in Greek), which is also referred to as atitamos. ‘’It amazes me how many Cretans that come to the tavern aren’t aware of that.’’ Christos, from the north side of Epirus, lived for 12 years in Crete, both in Rethymno and in Heraklion. You can see his influence from other cultures’ traditions inside his tavern.

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The first time he heard about ‘’atitamos’’ was from an old man in Embaros, a small village in Crete. He remembered the name and a few years later he named his tavern after it. He has built the whole place with stone and marble, using his bare hands, as this is his profession. Those who are very observant will notice the little lanterns by the doors. “In the past, people used to light them in order to recognize their visitors’ faces”.
The little park that’s nearby the tavern, was probably the main reason for choosing that specific location. ‘’Wherever a platanus exists, blessing also exists. You won’t find a village without a platanus in the middle of the square’’, he says. After all, the square of Exarcheia, which is only a breath away, ‘’is the best square in Athens.’’

When it comes to the prices, you can have more food and drink than enough for less than ten euros per person. The dishes are quite big, so if you are not particularly hungry be sure that you’ll be going home with a bunch of tupperware!

*You should try:
– Sausage (from Karpenisi)
– Feta Cheese (from shepherds in Galata, Korinthos)
– Pitta with honey (from Sfakia, Crete)

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