You are French with Italian origins, why Greece, why Athens, what happened ?
Alain Parodi. When I was in the south of France, the Apostolos Trastelis group, which has several restaurants in Athens, including the Spondi, two Michelin stars, came for a little gastronomic journey on the Côte d’Azur. They visited eight restaurants including mine. At that time, I had the octopus, the squid, all those nice things that you also find in Greece. They started flirting with me, asking me to come to Greece blah blah blah and after a while I accepted. That’s how I landed here ! I started by consulting in all the restaurants of Mr. Trastelis and quickly we made the choice to settle permanently in Greece.
What were your first impressions when you arrived in Athens ? What emotions does the capital still evoke in you ?
For me, Athens and Greece arouse all the emotions of the south of France, forty years ago. It is a country that is still wild despite everything, full of discoveries, there are so many things to explore. I also think that they are just at the beginning of gastronomy here and that there are still plenty of possibilities, but here we are talking about business. Emotionally, it reminds me of the South because I continue to go fishing, to go to the sea, I also go to the mountains to look for mushrooms, all this reminds me of what I experienced in France so I am not very out of place. It reminds me of my grandmother when, as a child, I accompanied her to look for herbs in the forest. Today, when I see grannies on the side of the road picking up wild herbs, it reminds me of those times.
Your VERi TABLE restaurant, when, how, why did you create it ?
After several years of advice in various restaurants, we decided to set up a small bistro, my wife and I. It was six months before the Covid, in April 2019. We wanted something that suited us, on a human scale and keep this artisanal side that tends to disappear more and more. So we created this restaurant, very focused on cheeses, French charcuterie but also Spanish, Italian and a lot of wines as well. We have a great cellar. I didn’t want to do anything common. Here, you can come only to drink a glass of wine, eat some charcuterie or order gastro dishes, bistro dishes. I wanted to satisfy a large clientele because we still have a lot of Greeks, around 80%, a clientele that travels a lot abroad, a lot in Paris, and who wants to eat dishes that remind them of France. I am asked to make the pot au feu for example… We are far from Fine Dining, we are on very traditional dishes and I don’t want to lose that.
So 80% of your clientele is Greek ?
Yes, we have many notables, lawyers, surgeons, politicians, ministers too…
Why did you choose Neo Psychiko to open your first restaurant ?
It was an opportunity. We found a small restaurant that suited us.
“I play the French card thoroughly”
It is also a different clientele, less cosmopolitan less international than in Athens ? So you have a closer relationship, more intimate clientele ?
Exactly. We remain a little private, a little hidden. Many expats also come to us. We have all the companies, the directors, they all come here. We have a great clientele. We are spoiled.
What about the other 20% of your customer base ?
We have French people who find us thanks to media like yours, after four, five days of Greek food, some wants to find a little French cuisine ! We still eat a lot of souvlakis here, sometimes it’s nice to find a good French-style veal kidney ! My biggest sale here is the squab.
What other French dishes are particularly popular with your local customers ?
The pigeon therefore because nobody makes it in Athens but also a lot of pâtés, tripe too !
Do you shop at the great Athens market ?
Yes, for seasonal products, but above all we have our own suppliers. From France, I bring in all my cheeses, my pigeons, all the poultry from Brest, the capons, the foie gras. Foie gras is one of our first sales. We’re almost at 300 kilos a year ! We work on the season, the freshness, we try to have a few trendy dishes because we always have to follow the gastronomy a little bit despite everything, but the majority of our dishes are bistros with a lot of terroir. I play the French card thoroughly.
“There is something incredible in Plaka”
What are your best addresses in Athens ?
I go out very rarely because I work like a mad man but I love it, it’s my therapy. Otherwise, I go to Spondi, to Hervé Pronzato, then there are some very nice fish taverns whose names I don’t remember, to Krystallis in Pendeli.
And your favorite neighborhoods ?
Plaka, without a doubt. I like this atmosphere that you can’t find anywhere else. The Acropolis above you. All these little shopping streets. This serenity. You can walk there for hours, stop for a coffee anywhere. There is something incredible about Plaka. I am in love with Plaka.
VERi TABLE Bistro and Wine Bar Aggelou Sikelianou, Neo Psychiko