It’s 11am on a Thursday and Kalymnos Pastries is a hive of activity. Staff boom a cheery welcome in Greek and English from across the store, and whirring mixers compete with the noise while blending the day’s batches of custard and cream. Trills of bouzouki spill from the speakers as plates of cakes and diskos (traditional serving trays) of Greek coffee are whisked over to customers.

In the dining area, a group of elderly men catch up over meals that remind them of their mothers’ tables, while over at the counter a grandmother and her grandkids share in the traditions of koulouria (twisted vanilla biscuits popular at Easter). Others pop in for a cup of coffee and their first taste of traditional, Greek sweets.

It’s the domain of fourth generation pastry chef George Diakomichalis. He’s proud of both establishment dates on the front windows: 1918, when his great grandfather started the family businesses on Kalymnos (a Greek island in the Aegean sea), and 1995, when Kalymnos Pastries opened in Adelaide. Diakomichalis refers to his great grandfather as “a story book hero like Superman. I never met him,” he says, “but people come here [who] were in Kalymnos at a younger age… and tell me stories.” He would often hand out sweets to the local children – and the adults.

Born in Australia to migrant parents, Diakomichalis regularly travels back and forth to Kalymnos to soak up the family baking traditions. Each year he immerses others in this heritage through food and culture tours on the island. That influence still resonates today, with family recipes that have changed little over the years (apart from a slight cut to the sugar levels). Galaktoboureko (Greek custard pie), baklava (sweet filo pastry), and milfei (a continental vanilla slice similar to French mille-feuille) are time-honoured favourites. The latter has been prepared for Providore in the Adelaide Central Market for more than 30 years. “If they’re not here,” says Diakomichalis, “we’ve got issues.” The bougatsa (filo parcels of semolina custard) are best eaten warm for breakfast, says Diakomichalis, but we’re warned not to wear black.

Diakomichalis assures us we’ll “never find a cream kataifi like this [made] commercial.” The signature dessert is made in stages, by hand, starting with syrup-soaked shredded pastry and freshly made custard – one of six individual custard recipes used for different desserts. A thin layer of cream and toasted almonds seal the deal.

There are savoury options too. The menu features tiropita and spanakopita (filo triangles with ricotta or spinach and feta) and mezze platters of chorizo, keftedaki (meatballs) and kefalograviera cheese. But most regulars go straight for the special of the day. Today it could be pastitsio or moussaka. Tomorrow it might be stifado (beef stew), souvlaki, or on a sunny Saturday, a spit roast slow-cooked over charcoal.

Greek coffees are served metrio (medium sweet) with a balance of one part Loumidis coffee to one part sugar. Or you can ask for sketo (no sugar), glyko (two sugars) or diplo – a double shot served in a cappuccino mug. Drinking one without sugar will “put hair on your back,” says Diakomichalis, but “that’s how a lot of the older men drink it.”

Kalymnos Pastries
3/158 Henley Beach Road, Torrensville
08 8443 9333
Mon to Fri 8.00am–5.30pm
Sat to Sun 8.30am–4.30pm

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on July 12, 2017. Menu items may have changed since publication.