I gave you a tour of the Kapani Market of Thessaloniki (a few days ago) and I mentioned that the Modiano Agora (market) was also nearby. The two markets really operate in tandem, separated merely by concrete,Â Ermou Street.
The Modiano Market got it’s name from Ely Modiano, the architect who designed this arcade that contains butcher shops, spice vendors, fish mongers, purveyors of cheese and places to eat and drink. Ely Modiano (and family) were part of the significant and thrivingÂ Jewish population of Thessaloniki.
To this day, the Modiano family holds a reunion in Thessaloniki every two years and they set up table inside the arcade we all affectionately call, “Modiano”.
I’ve only dropped by here during the day to buy goods or pass through as I’m traipsing through the city. The Modiano is a place suspended in time. Rebetika music playing in the background, old men seated at their favourite taverna or ouzeri to have “just a nibble” and share a sip of Ouzo, Tsipouro or Retsina with old friends.
The problem with visiting a place like Modiano is that it’s never just a “nibble” or a “small drink”. The music, the smells, the discussion of politics, sports or recent economic hardships all give one reason to sit down, get comfortable and get lost in the day.
One small bottle of Tsipouro requires a few plates of mezedes. The discussion gets heated (but never without leaving as friends). Others might pass by Modiano to grab some lunch.
There are some “magheria” still inside the market. A Magherio serves up Greek classic dishes, much of what many Greeks would eat in their own homes. The menu varies daily, depending on what’s in season, what’s the most affordable and what’s the freshest.
Besides the older generation that patronizes the Modiano are nearby workers in the Kapani markets. The Kapani and Modiano markets do not close until late afternoon and many small businesses in Greece are still family-owned and operated. The tavernas, magheria and Ouzeris all offer a good, cheap place for the working-stiff in Greece to eat.
You will also see businessmen patronize the eateries inside of Modiano. These guys arrive in slacks and dress shirt, the satchel carrying all their important papers and cell phones, cigarettes and worry beds to occupy the gent until friends/co-workers arrive.
Markets like the Modiano have not been immune to the current “economic crisis”. City police have been cracking down on illegal parking on Ermou Street which dissuades shoppers from entering the downtown core to conduct their shopping.
One could be determined to shop in Kapani or Modiano and squeeze their car into the few remaining spots left in the congested city but when the shopper returns to their car and finds an 80 Euro parking ticket waiting for them…the evil supermarket in the suburbs lays waiting for it’s next victim.
Add expensive rents applied to tenants along with declining sales, one can only count the days until the Modiano Market closes its doors for good.
In the meantime, join me in a slide-showÂ of this charming arcade of butchers, fishmongers, spice vendors who co-exist with the tavernas and ouzeris. The Modiano is alive and well but for how long? Heaven forbid that another “Hondos Center” pops-up in its place.
I know many of you can’t easily visit the Modiano but you can re-create the kind food that would be served at one of the tavernas of Modiano. I have some offerings that you may in turn serve to your guests at home.
Put on a CD with some Greek music (with bouzouki) and serve-up some of these dishes:
Keftedes are ground meat seasoned with spices, marinated in grated onion and char-grilled.
A side of a mildly hot banana pepper is something I always order. Char the skins of your peppers, place in a bag or bowl covered with plastic wrap and allow them to sweat. When the pepper(s) have cooled, remove the skins and season with sea salt and drizzle extra-virgin oil on top.
If you have roasted peppers, a slab of Feta cheese is a must. As your purveyor of cheese for Greek Feta. If they don’t have it, ask them to stock it. You’ll immediately taste the difference!
What’s the Greek table without the presence of good crusty bread? I’m a convert to the book “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes. You too can make bread like this at home!
A sausage is always nice when it appears on the table. This “Karamanlitiko Loukaniko” comes from the near-east, where Greeks who lived in Asia Minor brought back to Greece many recipes and new spices to dance on our palate. This sausage tastes of garlic, allspice, fenugreek and you might find a similar sausage at a middle-eastern store. Ask for “soutzouk” sausages.
An order of fries (or two) is standard fair at the Greek taverna. The Greeks get those fries so crispy and delicious but “double-frying”.
We already have a Feta cheese on the table but we still need some vegetation. An “aggouro-tomato” or cucumber and tomato salad is fitting for the array of dishes.
Do we have enough meat? I don’t think so. Variety is the spice of life and what’s another plate of meat among friends? An order of souvlaki must be made. Cubes of pork are marinated over night and then grilled to perfection over medium heat. A squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of dried Greek oregano all that is needed.
OH! But when serving souvlaki, does Tzatziki not have to make an appearance?
To wash all this delicious food down, the meal calls for beer. Greeks enjoy their beer during the long & hot summer. Mythos is one of the many brands out there and it’s available in most North-American markets.
Eat well, drink responsibly and live life to the fullest!
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