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Quality products and the simple way of cooking are the secret of good cooking

16 August 2011 / 20:08:27  GRReporter
4483 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

An old stove warming the front of the restaurant in winter, windows painted in different colours, signs of customers on the walls, posters, placards, and strands of dried spices, pots and pans hanging in the kitchen. This is how the restaurant with the strange name "The waitress disappears behind the curtain" looks like.

Actually, there is no waitress. The entire staff is composed of men who are friends. Situated on the promenade in Piraeus, in eastern Thessaloniki Bay, overlooking the sea and the Mount Olympus in the clearest days, it distinguishes from the other restaurants by name, decoration, and especially by the entirely different and very tasty cuisine.

Probably you all like traditional Greek cuisine or at least what is served at most taverns. But have you tried shrimp with okra, octopus with chick peas, sirloin steak of tuna, squid cooked in its ink, sea jerky, salad, sprinkled with poppy seeds and sour apple, cock meat with red sauce and homemade noodles or the most delicious spaghetti with lobster meat?
 
This is a small part of the specialties you can try at the restaurant of Dimitris Gatsos - chef not by vocation, but by recognition. "I'm from the Evia Peninsula and came to Thessalonica to study at the Academy of captains and marine engineers in Nea Mihaniona. I graduated and started working on ships, but I did not like it. You feel very lonely there and I'm too social for that." Having descended from the deck, Dimitris worked in theaters, where he made decors for 10 years. "We were on tour in Egypt once and I went to Hal al Khalili market in Cairo, not where the tourists go but sideways. I found myself on a little square, where there was a cafe with white walls. There were five worn out couches inside and about 10 old men were sitting on them, smoking hookahs and playing backgammon. The weather was very hot, and the café was rather grim inside. Suddenly a ney sounded just in the silence that was reigning. Then I decided that I want to do exactly that. "

Since then, Dimitris has had four restaurants. And all have developed well.

What was the guiding philosophy when you decided to open this restaurant?

My idea of the restaurant I would like to visit is guiding me in my choice. I would not like one good and five mediocre meals. Nor do I like master or gourmet kitchen. I seek the pure, simple and quality products. I am interested the customer to ask what olive oil or cheese we use or why we serve the shrimp in one way or another. The atmosphere in the restaurant is very important to me too. I do not want the customers to feel tight and somewhat formal. I want them to feel comfortable, to talk and become friends.

Tell us about the name of the restaurant, which is not a name in fact. How did you come to it?

This is one of the most common questions all customers ask. There are two stories about the name. One of the waiters tells a fictional story that I was a magician in Manhattan and I was in love with a waitress. However, she worked in a restaurant of the mafia and I was not able to get close to her. So, according to the story, I went there and made a trick and the waitress disappeared and never appeared again. I also disappeared, then we found each other and we got married. It is funny that many customers believe this story.

The truth is that it was difficult to find a name because we did not want to think of something trivial. Someone told me to close my eyes, go to the library, open a book, put my finger on the text, and choose it as a name. It was a Hemingway’s book and the text was "the waitress behind the curtain." So, the restaurant got its name.

You serve dishes here that we find in other restaurants. However, there are some different dishes. How does your spirit help you in choosing what to prepare differently?
 
Yes, of course, it helps me. In fact, this is what I do. For example, in winter I will cook tripe soup the same way my grandmother in the village cooked it. Or soup with goat meat like the one I tried on Crete. When the weather is nice and I get good shrimps from the market, why not cook spaghetti with shrimp to enjoy them?

The restaurant’s decoration is interesting too. How did you make it? Have you decided to decorate in this way or it happened bit by bit?

I do not plan anything in terms of layout and decoration as in the two previous restaurants I had. I leave it to chance. The only thing I am keen on is the kitchen to be open so that customers can see what we are doing in it. I hang some kitchen utensils here and there and that's all.

At first, this restaurant has neither front nor rear part. We differentiated them with what we found in antique shops. When we had to paint the chairs, we looked at what paints we had and painted them. A little green paint, a little red, we hung things and the restaurant gradually formed. Then, the customers began bringing different things too. They participate in the decoration and become part of it in this way.

How would you define your customers?

Most of our customers are regular and some of them follow us from the previous restaurants. We have customers not just from Thessaloniki and the surrounding villages but from other cities too - from Kastoria, Xanthi, and Athens. They call and say they are on their way and will be here for lunch and give their orders for lunch.

Tags: SocietyRestaurantThessalonikiCookingIngredientsRecipesTraditional cuisineDishes
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