Tasso Teftsis wants to keep the Greek in Greektown. He’s devoted to preserving the charm of the historical two-story buildings on Monroe Street, where his family’s Astoria Bakery has been a destination since 1971.
Teftsis admits to having a role in watering down the Greek emphasis on the street in 2010 when he opened Red Smoke Barbeque at 573 Monroe St., but he says at the time, there were seven Greek restaurants on the block, and his main purpose in the effort was to save the historical building.
Now he, his brother Michael, and his sister-in-law Rosalva are putting back some of that Greek flavor with Krema, scheduled to open in July. It is a storefront serving bougatsa. The cream-filled pastry is a delicacy so popular in his hometown, Thessaloniki in Greece, and throughout the country, “there’s one [bougatsa bakery] on every corner,” he says.
It’s essentially a breakfast pastry — phyllo dough wrapped around a semolina custard, sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar. At Krema (the Greek word for cream), the confection is cut into bite-sized pieces and served warm from the stainless steel table in the window of the tiny space, just 12 feet wide and 30 feet deep, with just 12 seats, some at a settee. While the exterior of the building has been kept historically correct, the interior is contemporary, with lots of lime green and cream glass. “I love that look,” he says of the combination of antique and modern, something he also achieved at Red Smoke.
In addition to the bougatsa, Krema will serve spinach pie and house-made gelato, displayed in a cabinet imported from Italy, as well as coffee and espresso made with beans roasted by Coffee Express in Plymouth. Krema’s coffee will be roasted just 10 pounds at a time, Teftsis says, to keep the brew as fresh as possible.
A friend, George Tisoutisoulias, who has three bougatsa spots in Toronto, is helping train the kitchen staff in the intricacies of the pastry.
Teftsis, who was recently elected president of the Greektown Preservation Society, is also excited about one more element of the new Greektown: strings of Edison bulbs will be strung over Monroe Street from St. Antoine to Randolph, giving the street a festival feeling every day.
531 Monroe St., Detroit, 313-963-9603. Hours: 7 a.m.-midnight daily.