Resident Greek on the street Michael Hatzifotis is known for being the owner of fan favourite Cantinho, but remembered for his special Souvla Fridays. We sat down with Michael to find out his favourite things about being Greek. A menu filled with family recipes passed down through the generations is just one of the many ways he loves sharing his culture with us, through his café Cantinho. Michael’s favourite Greek sweet, his Granny’s Galaktoboureko, is one he holds close to his heart.
News flash: You’re Greek. Tell us your favourite thing about your culture?
Food and music – they bring people together. When I cook ‘the Greek way’ at functions or family gatherings it gives me a real sense of fulfilment and satisfaction to make people happy through generous food portions, great presentation and a good time.
Where did your love for food start?
My love for food started as a little kid. My parents would work 7 days a week, so my grandparents would look after my sister and I on weekends. We were very spoilt by our grandparents who would not only cook for us but allowed us to help prepare classically Greek sweet and savoury dishes – dishes chosen by us of course, to keep us happy. We were never allowed take away, nor were we that interested in fast food because the offering from my family and be a part of cooking process was always so enjoyable.
We hear some of your ingredients are as organic as it gets – HOME GROWN! Who does the growing and what ingredients that we taste are from your backyard?
My father has a fantastic vegetable garden at home. Anything from shallots, cherry tomatoes, fresh oregano, parsley to silver beet, whatever he has fresh and available we use. Not to mention his fragrant orange and lemons trees which I quite often harvest from.
Where do you get inspiration for the food on the Cantinho menu?
I get inspiration from many avenues. I have a very good friend – renowned chef, Javier Codina from Moda restaurant – who I cook with a couple of times a year. He inspires and encourages me to push the cooking boundaries and not be afraid to try and test new recipes. I also follow several Greece-based chefs, Monks and Preists in monasteries who are known for keeping Greek fare simple and tasty, just as it should be.
Souvla Fridays? Tell us more.
Where to start! Souvla Friday’s have been hosted on the last Friday of every month for almost 8 years. You can smell the coal-fired cooked lamb down the street which often entices a new following. There is a buzz among our community for its return each month – “when is it on again” is a frequently asked question.
The lamb it marinated in a secret family recipe (loads of herbs and spices) and slow cooked to tender perfection. It is served with fresh Greek salad, toasted pita bread and tzatziki – our much-loved lemon potatoes can be added too.
Ultimate tip for recreating your iconic Greek flavours at home?
Keep it simple. Greek food doesn’t need edible flowers or fancy decorations and most importantly old recipes shouldn’t been changed.
One ingredient you can’t live without?
I’m going to give you two:
- A top-notch Greek olive oil
Any new menu items coming soon we should be excited about?
Always! We are working on some tasty new Greek sweets and people will be pleased to know the pastitsio is becoming a staple menu item for lunch daily. We are going a little left field cooking a seafood paella on-site monthly too. New gourmet sandwich combinations will also be on offer such as: slow roasted lamb shoulder on a gourmet roll with tzatziki, tomato, haloumi and lettuce.
Cantinho does catering. What is your favourite dish to share with others?
Our signature slow roasted Greek lamb shoulder and lemon potatoes cooked sealed in baking paper for up to 5 hours. It is a joyfully delicious package of tender lamb and lemony potatoes – a crowd favourite that we are told is one of the best interpretations of the dish. We are proud of that compliment and must agree.
January 8, 2023