THE SUMMER OF MY GREEK TAVERNA
by Willard Manus
The island of Patmos
has always inspired writers, beginning in ancient times with St. John,
who wrote the Book of Revelations there, and continuing in the present
with such authors as Robert Lax and Tom Stone. Stone, who was a Broadway
stage manager and assistant director before moving to Greece in the 60s
to work on a novel, has now put down his island experiences in a memoir
(with recipes), THE SUMMER OF MY GREEK TAVERNA (Simon & Schuster,
An amateur cook, Stone was talked into the deal by his Greek partner Theologos, whose nickname O Lados--The Oily One--should have been warning enough. But Stone decided to risk his money and his time. "The potential profits could be enormous," he told his wife, who was an ikon painter. "If we could work hard for three months every summer, then we would be free to paint and write for the other nine."
As the title of the book indicates, Stone's tenure as a taverna-keeper lasted one summer. Cheated by his partner, exhausted by the 19-hour days and by his battles with the Greek mentality and bureaucracy, Stone quit The Beautiful Helen and went back to his typewriter. What the restaurant business lost is our gain, for THE SUMMER OF MY GREEK TAVERNA is a worthy book: beautifully written, vibrant with humor, humanity and truth, one of the finest documents of Greek island life on the market today.
Stone goes back and forth in time, contrasting the primitive but idyllic 60s with the affluent, tourist-oriented 90s. He tells wonderful stories throughout and brings to life some piquant characters, not only the rogue Theologos, but many of his Greek and foreign friends. The book is an entertaining read, but it cuts deep as well, if only because Stone is unsentimental about Greece and the expat life. He is also unafraid to deal with his own shortcomings, some of which contributed to his failure as an entrepeneur. At every step of the way, though, you can't help liking him and admiring him for the bold, gutsy way he fought to try and realize his dream.
Stone also gives us twenty of his favorite--and somewhat exotic-- Greek recipes, everything from Tom's Moussaka to Chicken Retsina.