Debut book by Andrew Pippos shines new light on Greek Australian cafés

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By Peter Oglos.

The thriving café industry from the early 1900’s to 1990’s remains one of the most iconic pieces of early Greek Australian history. Each small café across regional or suburban Australia carries its own unique piece of history, who’s stories have been told through numerous media outlets.

Andrew Pippos spent part of his childhood getting underfoot in his uncle and grandmother’s café, ‘Cafe De Luxe’ in Brewarrina, NSW. Taking all he learnt from watching his family manage a successful café, Andrew decided he wanted his debut book to feature an element of what made up much of his childhood.

Pippos’ book ‘Lucky’s’ boasts a number of storylines yet centralises on the main character Lucky and the main achievement of his life; The creation of his restaurant franchise in Australia. The book contains many stories about Lucky’s friends and family, illustrating the rise and fall of his restaurant.

“I wanted to write about a familiar setting that had an importance to me personally,” Andrew Pippos says to The Greek Herald.

Andrew Pippos. Photo: Supplied

“It’s very common for a writer to write about the places that were important to them in their childhood. So the cafés were the first community that I knew.”

Cafe De Luxe is one of the earliest, still-existing soda parlours that has been Greek-run since the 1920s when it was established, as revealed in the successful book, ‘Greek Cafés and Milk Bars of Australia’. Serving the Brewarrina community for over 90 years, it’s admired deeply by Greeks across Australia, and more personally Andrew.

Pippos gained his love for writing under the massive olive tree beside the café in Brewarrina, where he would peel potatoes and carry out other chores. During this time, his family would tell him stories of Greek myths and legend, sparking his creative journey.

“These childhood conversations are where my love of literature begins,” Pippos says.

Angelo and Margaret Pippos serving the Brewarrina community. Photo: EDWINA PICKLES/SMH

“When I was at a very impressionable age, I was in my grandmother’s café and that was exercising a lot of influence on my imagination. And that’s where this book comes from.”

“We all have places like this. The place where our imagination was formed and mine was in my grandmother’s café. And I think a lot of novelists write about that ‘place’ in their first books.”

The Greek café industry in Australia blossomed during the mid 1900’s, yet the book manages to portray many of the ups and downs experienced by migrants during this time. Even the societal influence to steer away from traditional home Greek meals for their customers.

“This was an assimilation era of Sydney, where people who came from Greece and started these cafés couldn’t cook Greek food because customers wouldn’t eat it,” Pippos explains.

“It was interesting to me that dynamic of not being able to show the world what you’re best at and keep it between your family.”

“I’m not sure if you want to call that racism but it’s a kind of intolerance, and that permeates the book. But on the same side the cafés were a complex place. You can’t just think of them as agents of assimilation, they were a mix of influences.”

Pippos says he doesn’t want people reading the book to feel sadness or any other particular emotion. Instead, he wishes for people to simply enjoy the journey.

“I mean there’s a lot of ups and downs in the narrative in terms of the characters fortunes but, it’s not meant to be a depressing read,” Pippos adds.  

“You don’t try and provoke a certain emotion too much. Rather just try to name the characters and see what resonates with the reader.

“Whatever resonates for them emotionally is fine by me.”

Being his debut book, Pippos hopes to continue on his writing journey, always taking influence from his roots and Greek culture.

The book is available for pre-order and will be available in stores from October 27th

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