A badass woman. She was a Greek actress known for her films and music. In the 1960s there was a coup d’état in Greece. They were jailing and exiling people who weren’t down with the new regime. She was very vocal about it and called the new president a fascist. She was exiled. During that time she became an activist for bringing democracy back to Greece. Eventually the regime fell and she returned and ran as the first woman in parliament. She has a big mouth and was loved and hated at the same time. I’m beside The Rialto, which was a Greek cinema back in the 60s, 70s, back in her heyday. So naming it Melina made so much sense. It tied in Greek history but also Montréal’s. The only photo of the Acropolis in this place is one with Melina. She’s my spirit animal. My muse. Strong, beautiful, sexy, feminine and feminist at the same time.
Obviously I don’t look Greek so the most popular statement is, “But you aren’t Greek/ How are you Greek?/ Why Greek?” People are mostly curious. I’m half Greek, half Haitian.
This phyllo bar is my baby and this is my story. The Greek side is the one I know well because it’s the one I lived most and the culture I was raised in day-to-day. My parents split when I was seven-years-old and I was raised by my mother. I wanted to open up a Haitian spot but Win Butler and superstar restaurateur Jen Agg beat me to it! Cause I think that’s a culture that needs some representation.
I think I was an underachiever for a long time. But maybe I saved my energy for this. I realized I can’t work for somebody. You gotta just do it. People’s opinions are their own fears, they put their fear into you and you can doubt yourself.
You have to be stubborn and dedicated to your vision. Steer your own direction. Be your own boss. It’s hard as f*ck but I will never regret it. My drive comes from inside because I have no choice. I have to make this work for myself. If my all ain’t good enough, that’s fine, but I’m not giving up until I’ve conquered it.
What’s happening, all these people coming in?! In Greek there’s an expression called “kalo pothi” or “good foot”. You’ve got it! When you walk in a place you bring the business. Certain people have it, certain people repel it. This is a symbol (points to bracelet) to protect you from the “mal occhio” or “evil eye”. Take that superstition and run with it. I call it Greek voodoo.
I learned how to cook from my mom and sister, but I’ve got a fantastic team that works with me. I’m the youngest of five and my sisters are all talented and brilliant but one of my sisters is the Martha Stewart. She taught me a lot. I learned by watching. I can make this stuff from scratch. I’m a cheese girl. I love the feta and ricotta phyllo. I eat it, no joke, at least three times a week minimum and sometimes it goes up to five.
Love it. It’s like this location was waiting for me. Can I tell you a story? When the idea happened to open a Greek pie shop I was so specific about the location, it had to be the Mile-End on du Parc on the sunny side of the street and near the corner. And then by pure chance I walked by one day and saw the owner putting up the “À louer” sign. The night before I walked by and was staring at this spot. I signed right then and there.
If I want to be seen I go down av. du Parc straight to St-Viateur, to Café Club Social. If I want to be incognito I take a little side street and look at the houses, especially in the Spring when the flowers are blooming. I sniff the lilacs. I also have fond memories of Fairmount. When I started exploring Mile-End on my own as a teenager I would take the bus out of my rough hood and go to the beautiful Japanese paper store. There was a restaurant that had a screen in the back where you could sit, eat and watch an old movie with headphones on. I liked hanging around here. It made me dream about cooler, more fun things. I used to go to Greek dances above the Mile-End Fruiterie. I had a really big crush on one of the boys so I went for years …