Staying in business for 33 years is no easy feat, but Denis and Eleni Sakkas’ passion to keep Queanbeyan’s Melita Coffee Lounge afloat is reason enough to commit their professional lives to it’s survivability.
The restaurant was previously managed by a Maltese family for 17 years before the Sakkas family took over. Speaking to the Riot Act, Denis said it’s probably the oldest cafe in Queanbeyan.
However, assuming that the business doesn’t hold the Queanbeyan record, the Melita Coffee Lounge is unique in the sense that Denis’ 95-year-old Greek mother, Eleni Sakkas, continues to work alongside her son in the kitchen.
“Her ticker and engine are pretty good,” says Denis, adding that Eleni’s doctor marvels at how fit and healthy she is despite being just a few years shy of receiving a letter from the Queen.
“And the reality is, if she goes home, she has to hang out with Dad, who can be a bit annoying.”
Born and bred in Queanbeyan, Denis credits the love of food he inherited from his Greek parents for his enduring career.
“I was in my early 20s and was working part-time in my uncle’s takeaway, then did a bit of real estate and worked as a bank teller, but I wanted to try my hand at running my own business,” he says.
“I’d never cooked or worked in hospitality before, but having a Greek mum really helped. Things evolved from there.”
Far from following expectations and delivering a Greek-inspired menu, however, Denis describes the flavour at Melita as ‘eclectic’.
“A lot of people asked me why I don’t just do Greek, but I like a bit of a mishmash,” he says.