NISYROS, GREECE – “The problem I had when staying in Nikia,” says Nick Andriotis, a Greek-American businessman about his native village on the Greek island of Nisyros, “is that when I’d get hungry I’d have to get in my car and drive somewhere to eat.” So, he decided to do something about it: in 2002, he set forth to establish a restaurant right in Nikia. Two years later, it was fully operational.
“When I set out to do this, people said to me: ‘why? How on earth can it survive?’” Andriotis told TNH. A reasonable question, considering Nikia has a population of about 45 people! Granted, the island’s annual visitors far exceeds its population, but still.
“But I wanted to do it,” Andriotis explained. Long known in the Greek-American community for his ability to get things done – for instance, he was instrumental in the establishment of St. Demetrios High School in Astoria, and was recently honored by this newspaper accordingly – he put talk into action yet again.
Andriotis found a “very professional” individual – Efthymis Kalomoiris, from Pyrgos, Ilias – to run the restaurant. Eleven years later, it is still going strong. “He married a local Nisyrian woman,” Andriotis says about Kalomoiris, “and so now he has made Nisyros his home.”
Singers, actors, and other celebrities who visit the island have eaten at Andriotis Restaurant, as have two Ambassadors, and former President of Greece Karolos Papoulias.
Visitors to Nisyros usually sail into the ports of Mandraki or Pali, and so the mountainous Nikia is not readily visible. “But they know about the restaurant and they come to eat here,” Andriotis says.
The restaurant features succulent dishes prepared with fresh, local ingredients – from the meat to the spices – Kalomoiris’ warm, welcoming personality, and a magnificent view of the sea. “Efthymis’ chocolate souffle recipe has the young Greek-Americans who visit every year raving about it,” Andriotis says. “They go back to the U.S. and talk about the great chocolate souffle they ate in Greece!”
Thanks to Andriotis, Nikiates – both yearround residents and visitors – who had to choose between home cooking and driving out to dinner, now have a third option: walk two or three minutes from their doorstep and enjoy a full array of food and drink.
AN OPEN PORTA AGAIN
In addition to providing Nisyros with a full-fledged restaurant, Andriotis has restored a landmark, the coffee/ouzeri “tou Nikola,” at Nikia’s plaza – the “porta.” Named after its late owner, Nicholas Hartofilis, better known to the locals as “O Nikolas tou Dimitrou – Dimitro’s (Dimitrios) [son] Nikola,” the heralded watering hole had been closed for a quarter century. Andriotis has reopened it now, and kept the name. “It is the original name, he says, and so I wanted to keep it. But, after all, I am a Nikola, too,” he says, pointing out the dual significance.
ADDICTED TO NISYROS
“I don’t know what it is about this island,” Andriotis says, sharing stories of how non-Greek tourists, after just a couple of days of experiencing the island, seek to find out if there are any properties for sale (in fact, numerous foreigners have bought houses there). “There is an addictive quality about it. People love it.”
Thanks to his commitment and perseverance, Andriotis has now made it possible for people to love it even more. To enjoy a multicourse dinner at Andriotis Restaurant, and nightcap up the street at Nikola’s. All without ever having to leave Nikia.