In 1932, Nikos Kravvaritis left his hometown of Neochori Fthiotidas in Central Greece to seek better fortunes, wearing rustic shoes made of pigskin, and carrying his meager possessions in a small saddle bag. He was just 12 years old. He made the long journey on foot to Thessaloniki, where he had heard that his father’s brother, uncle Yiannis Melachrinos, had a tavern. He stayed there, at Athanassios Diakos, uncle Yiannis’ tavern, as an apprentice, and under his tutelage, he learned the secrets of the craft for 8 years until 1940, when he was drafted to the Army.
Nikos Kravvaritis fought at the Albanian Front, and after World War II ended he remained enlisted because the Greek Civil War broke out. Meanwhile, Athanassios Diakos had been destroyed during the aerial bombings of the war. When Nikos returned in 1948 after his Army service, Athanassios Diakos had been rebuilt, but his uncle had died, and so he took over the management of the tavern until 1953. In that year, he created his own tavern, which he named The Prodigal Son, and there he continued the tradition of his uncle Yzannis Melachrinos.
By 1970, the original Athanassios Diakos had closed down, and he renamed The Prodigal Son to Athanassios Diakos in honor of his uncle. It was now the tum of Nikos’ sons, Kostas and Andreas, to become his apprentices and learn the secrets of the craft.
When they finally assumed the establishment’s management, they renamed it to Kravvaritis’ Tavern in honor of their father, and continued the tradition that was passed down generation after generation. Parts of this tradition were the homemade wine that they fermented in their cellar downstairs, in the very same barrels used by their father and great-uncle, and the delicious appetizers, known as “mezedes”, accompanying it, made in the same way that their ancestors taught them.
Through the years, they catered to a group of regulars, known as Lechrites, who enjoyed their wine, especially the Retsina, and the accompanying mezedes. The Lechrites group followed the tavern through the decades at its various locations, names and generations of owners.
In 1997, Kostas Kravvaritis, came to Philadelphia, where he opened Zorbas Tavern, while his brother Andreas remained in Thessaloniki to manage the original establishment. Today, Zorbas Tavern is run by Nikos, Maria, Stavros, and Yiannis Kravvaritis, the children of Kostas and Andreas, who continue their fathers: grandfather’s, and great-great-uncle’s tradition on this side of the Atlantic.