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Cafeneo’s offerings: Greek pastries, coffee brewed in sand

Pam George Culture, Headlines

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Antonios Fessaras rests a hot pot of coffee in sand at his new shop, Cafeneo, which celebrates Greek coffee and pastries.

While contemplating career choices, Antonios Fessaras flipped through a family photo album and saw an image of his grandfather.

“He had a coffee shop back home in Greece, and that’s the business that my father grew up in before the family came to America,” said Fessaras, who studied business at Wilmington University.

In Greece, the “kafenio” shop is the hub for socialization and relaxation but also contemplation, if you’re sipping your coffee alone.

While Delaware has no shortage of coffee shops, Fessaras saw a niche.

In May, he opened CafeNeo at 139 S. Main St. in Newark. The restaurant features Greek pastries and novel Greek coffee.

Unlike many grab-and-go coffee shops in Delaware, CafeNeo invites guests to sit and sip for a spell.

“In Greece, you see groups of people by the droves just hanging out, having a coffee, exchanging stories, things like that,” he said.

The Appoquinimink High School graduate is bringing his family legacy full circle in more ways than one.

His father is the original owner of Daffy Deli, a much-loved sandwich shop for UD graduates in the 1970s and ’80s.

Cafeneo Antonios Fessaras

Antonios Fessaras got the idea for opening a coffee shop from his grandfather’s in Greece.


Coffee served with grounds

So, what is Greek coffee?  It’s more of a process than a type of bean.

Finely ground coffee — finer than espresso grounds — is placed with water in an ibrik, a copper pot with a long handle.

The pot is nestled in hot sand to brew, after which the contents are poured into a small cup — grounds and all.

“You wait for the grounds to settle and just drink it as is,” Fessaras explained. “It doesn’t require any dairy product — it’s extremely smooth. But the coffee grounds specifically stay in the drink for potency.”

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If Greek coffee seems similar to Turkish coffee, consider that the Ottoman Empire once covered most areas of Greece, which explains the similarities in food throughout the region.

CafeNeo also offers frappes, which are ubiquitous in Greece. Baristas can whip Nescafe instant coffee with water until there’s a smooth foam. They then add ice and the dairy product that the customer desires.

If you can’t stray from an espresso, you’ll also find the familiar fare at CafeNeo, including lattes and cold brew coffee.

Cafeneo’s family receipes

The Newark shop is also a bakery, and many delicacies are from Fessaras’ family recipes, which are kept under lock and key.

“Everything is made fresh in-house from scratch,” says Fessaras, whose parents were both born in Greece.

Fans of the Greek Festival no longer need to wait until June to get their fix. Selections include spanakopita (spinach pie), koulourakia (Greek cookies), tiropita (cheese pie), rice pudding, baklava and loukoumades (Greek donuts with syrup and cinnamon or Nutella and crushed almonds).

With 30 seats indoors and nine outside, you might think CafeNeo has plenty of room to expand its menu to include gyros and Greek salads.

However, Fessaras wants to brand the business as a café and bakery.

If anything, he will add sandwiches, mainly breakfast sandwiches, and each dish will have a Greek spin, such as the addition of feta or hummus.

Fessaras, who hasn’t returned to Greece in about 13 years, says Cafeneo is the next best thing.

“It’s kind of like bringing Greece to my doorstep, so to speak,” he said. “And the idea of following in my grandfather’s footsteps really stands out to me.”

Cafeneo’s hours are Mon.-Sat., 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sun., 9 a.m.-4 p.m.


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