The Da Capo republic

When Da Capo opened its doors in September 1990, few could have foreseen its present status: an Italian-style cafe where the frappe (cold, frothy instant coffee) has been banished for the sake of more refined (and healthier) choices, and where the creme de la creme of Athenian society are wont to gather. The emergence of Da Capo and the simultaneous withering away of traditional cafes – spearheaded by the transformation of Ellenikon from a patisserie/institution to just part of the Goody’s food chain – was symbolic of the social transformation taking place in Kolonaki: from conservative bastion to the stronghold of the new order of things after two recent four-year periods of rule by PASOK. The owner of Da Capo is himself the «Greek dream» made flesh: a humble background, hard work, entrepreneurial flair and social ascent. Naturally enough, such a man is not a fan of the pre-PASOK order of things. But Da Capo is not a Socialist stronghold – though it quickly became the favored haunt of distinguished members of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement. It embraces new money without distinction, regardless of political beliefs. And the new money is not necessarily political in nature: It can come from the world of football, of journalism, or of domestic show business. Above all other public places, the sidewalk of Da Capo is where lifestyle trends are most in evidence, as was the stock market delirium, the consumer banquet that followed it, the relentless political and entrepreneurial background of a whole epoch on which the sun has still not set. But Da Capo is not what it seems: a parade of the stars of television, the courtroom and the modeling world. On its few seats, university professors, eminent members of the press, artists and intellectuals also find refuge. Backstage politics, business deals and juicy gossip is the menu that is offered on a daily basis. From this point of view, it constitutes an idiosyncratic development of the traditional Athenian cafe, the haunt of many different people, a steady point of reference for a city that suffers from a poor relationship with continuity. In the mere 14 years it has been open, Da Capo is already indisputably a Kolonaki institution, a living mirror of Athenian life that some like and others don’t. That’s often the problem with mirrors: When we pass in front of them, what we see is not what we would like to see.