Mihalis Hionas a colorful personality owner of “Santorini Mou”
Author: Bianca Ghikas 20015
Ever since I moved to Oia I have noticed the restaurant “Santorini Mou” is located right at the corner where I have to turn to enter the parking near my home, what caught my eye was their sign, it reads “Thank you for your smile”, I thought that was different! I noticed that they have live music as well…ummm I thought…I have to meet these people.
I waited patiently for spring to come and finally just before Easter I saw activities, thereby I decided to visit them.
I had been under the wrongful impression that Mihalis was American-Greek and that he arrived in the spring just to operate his restaurant, thereby I was curious to hear the views and opinions of a Greek emigrant. To my surprise this musical world road traveler was born and raised in Greece.
Mihalis Hionas was born on May 11, 1950 in Kokkinia, Piraeus. His father’s original ancestry was from Crete, however in the 1700s they emigrated to Alvalli, Asia Minor; due to the extreme troubles Greeks were facing in Turkey during those years Mihali’s father immigrated to Greece in 1922 and went straight to Crete. Mihali’s mother ancestry was totally from Adana, Asia Minor and under similar circumstances in 1924 she arrived at Kavala, northern Greece.
Mihalis is the youngest of 3 siblings, has an older brother and an older sister; he loved math and science in general, upon finishing high school he entered the commercial navy and became a Mechanical Engineer. He finally left the navy in 1989; during his naval years he gained a highly cosmopolitan view of the world, visited 53 countries and 170 ports; he learned English and some French and definitely understands Italian and Spanish.
Mihalis has a very outgoing nature which is a major asset in his business. His restaurant is visited from people around the world, many renowned personalities visit the island and of course they come and eat at “Santorini Mou” including Jennifer Aniston in 1996, and a photograph with Jennifer is Mihali’s business card. The members of the famous American punk group “Green Day” had dinner at “Santorini Mou” and since they have become close friends; He has made innumerable close friends from San Francisco and for the past 13 years they invite him to San Francisco every winter.
Well to my surprise Mihalis is a musician as well; he composes his own music and writes his own lyrics. I asked when and how his musical interests begun and developed and the answer was a really funny story; here it goes in Mihalis own words:
“It was Christmas of 1966, I wore my nicest suit, a very expensive one, my friend came to pick me up in his motorcycle and we headed to pick up his guitar before going to a party, during the ride my friend was doing crazy stunts and I told him to slow down , I was afraid that I was going to fall. My friend did not listen and yes I did fall and damaged my clothes! Thereby, I took his guitar for ransom!”
Having the guitar in his hands was an amazing feeling therefore he decided to take lessons, unfortunately barely 2 weeks later his teacher passed away; Mihalis decided from then on to learn and develop on his own, the rest is history. Today in his restaurant “Santorini mou” Mihalis is a Greek Troubadour and every one of his clients loves him for it!
Ever since childhood Mihalis used to love helping his mom in the kitchen and loved eating good food, yet it never occurred to him to enter the restaurant business. He moved to Santorini on December 12 1989, shortly after leaving the commercial navy, he did all types of odd jobs, plumbing, renovations and the works, he prides himself of being a “Jack of all Trades”; he made many friends in the island and used invite them for dinners he had cooked himself, his friend begun pressuring him to open a restaurant and he finally succumbed in 1993 and negotiated a lease and opened “Santorini Mou”. He has been on the same location since then, now 18 years have gone by. When I did the interview he was rather sad because his dear landlady had passed away just recently; he said “She was an incredibly wonderful woman, it will not be the same without her”.
For the first 10 years his brother was the chef and Mihalis just greeted the clients and sung to them; after his brother left he changed a few chefs but he was not satisfied with the food, thereby he decided to begin cooking himself with kitchen help of course. He still sings for his customers and does so in a family like atmosphere; sometimes other musician join and the jam together for everyone’s delight. Four years ago Melina joined Santorini Mou and has become Mihalis right hand.
When he first opened “Santorini Mou” the clientele was mostly Greek, even back then he had famous clients like Spyros Focas, one of Greece’s most respected and well known actors discovered by the Italian director Luchino Visconti; Nowadays most of the clientele are tourist many of them repeat customers.
The restaurant is like an old villa with a huge backyard, or front patio, inside there are thousands of photographs of customers hanging from the ceiling and the wall contain many paintings of Mihalis done by a few of his artistic customers. It is a very pleasant and familiar atmosphere. The food is typically Greek, he even has a wood oven for roasting the whole lamb “SOUBLA”, and this dish is only available by special order. He tries to use as many Santorinean products as possible when they become available. The wine list contains all Santorinean wines the only exception is a wine called “METHIMNEOS”; this particular wine is made in Mitilini by a personal friend of Mihalis and has received the first prize in a wine competition in France.
Regardless of his international and VIP clientele his prices have remained moderate throughout, a couple can have a feast of delicious food and wine, music and dance for about Euro 60.00. Worth every penny!
I personally tasted the appetizers and found them authentic and delicious; the broiled fish looked awesome as well.
I asked Mihalis if he had a Dream that has not been accomplished as of yet to which he replied “I would love to either win a big lottery or inherit lots of Euros so that I can help every single friend I have in the world”
Mihalis and Melina are authentically warm hearted individuals, when you arrive they make you feel at home; Mihalis loves smiles that is why the sign says:
“Thank you for your smile”.