Imagine starting your day with a frappé in the sun, taking in the blue hues of the sky and sea before you set off to work. Unfortunately we can’t all make it to Greece as often as we’d like to enjoy this reality, but Mosman locals are one step closer since Kazzi Beach Greek opened its doors just over three months ago.
Formerly the premises of Italian institution Bertoni’s, when long-term customer Peter Papas found out the owners of his favourite cafe were thinking of selling up he says he jumped at the chance to fulfil a passion.
For the first seven months the business operated under the same name before closing for a three-month period of renovations, to be relaunched in time for summer as a contemporary Greek tavern, fitted out with alcoves and whitewashed walls reminiscent of the Greek islands and serving up what Peter and his team have dubbed “beach Greek” fare.
The cafe eatery, as the name suggests, pays homage to his Katellorizian roots; his maternal family emigrated from the island to Australia in 1920.
Drawing on the island theme, the menu has an emphasis on simplicity and authenticity with a simple selection of delicious choices.
“The flavour and the structure of the menu is island, simplistic and a clean way of cooking too – it’s exactly as you would have it in Greece,” Peter told Neos Kosmos.
“The way we do our souvlakia, the way we do our meat platters. We don’t do a yiros, it’s all kontosouvli, and it’s all proper souvlakia as well, custom-made machinery to cook it in that manner and following an authentic recipe.”
Popular choices include the souvlaki wraps with pork, lamb, chicken, locally sourced fish, or delicious meat-free options such as the halloumi or chickpea fritters. There’s also a selection of mezze options, such as their Kazzi-inspired taramasalata, meat platters and fresh seafood, including calamari and prawns, to enjoy by the water.
Meanwhile given the cafe’s coffee heritage, Peter says they wanted to stay loyal to their strong following, and have taken on the challenge of being a serious cafe by day with a classic breakfast menu, transitioning to lunch and dinner in the evening.
He says the response has been overwhelmingly supportive, with locals welcoming their own little piece of Greece to Balmoral Beach, either popping in for a bite or taking away to enjoy at the beach.
“People have said to us consistently that it’s something that the beach front and this area needed, and it’s been lacking for many, many years,” Peter says.
“I think people were starved for choice; it was either high end restaurants or yet another cafe, and nothing in between, and we really filled the gap with a product that suits this environment and we’ve also created a [sense of] community,” which he can’t help but attribute to its “Greekness”.
“People literally feel like they’ve had their little getaway and taste of Greece in all things, beyond the food, for the time that they’re here,” he says.
Born in Perth, at the age of seven Peter and his family returned to Greece, his father, like so many migrants before him, having flirted with the idea of moving back to the motherland. But after six months they returned to Australia.
It would seem Peter was destined to return to Europe however, the now former investment banker going on to live in London and New York, before returning Down Under and settling in Sydney to raise his young family.
“For me Sydney is a combination of all the elements that I love, which is water, weather, and people. It was a natural home after spending all those years abroad in some of the largest cities in the world. So it’s pretty hard to go back to Perth after that,” he laughs.
For the past few years, the 50-year-old has been focused on working less and pursuing projects that bring him joy, and like many Greeks says he’s always doing something.
“We don’t understand the word ‘retirement’. And I’m not old enough for that I’d like to think!”
Now his focus is on Kazzi Beach Greek. Not from the hospitality industry himself, he admits that “it was a bit of a white knuckle ride” getting it off the ground, but driven by his love of food, wine and Greek heritage, once he got the right team together, it once again proved the importance of people that he holds dear.
“The vision and the strategy, the design, all of that was coming from the heart and was pretty easy. But until I had the right team in place that is the time at which I started realising the dream and watching it. I think like all businesses, until you have the right people in the right positions, that’s when you can sit back and enjoy it. That’s exactly where we’re at now, we’ve got a wonderful team in place, a happy team, a driven team and that results in happy customers and a good product,” he says.
The team is led by Cypriot Australian Valentino Michailidis, who has quickly become part of the fabric. Meanwhile the eatery has become somewhat of a family affair, with Peter’s two children joining the team part-time as they pursue their studies, through which he hopes to impart some of life’s lesson to them.
“I’ve got a 19-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old son. Both of them work part-time in the business outside of their studies, so it’s good exposure for them too, learning how things work in the world and still being exposed to their Greek heritage,” he says.
“It’s really about learning the art of serving, and pleasing others, and that’s something really central and core to being Greek, our filotimo, and that’s very much what this place is.”
Kazzi Beach Greek is located at 11A The Esplanade, Mosman, NSW. For opening hours and to stay up-to-date, visit facebook.com/KazziBeachGreek/