Belle-Vue Café, Roma
A former native of Tsesme in Asia Minor (Turkey), Adoni Karistinos (Tony Caris) was the café owner of the Belle-Vue Café in McDowall Street, Roma. Tony’s partners included his brother Mick (Margariti) Caris, and Anthony Cocolas.
Born in the same region in Asia Minor as Tony, Anthony’s sister Penelope Cocolas agreed to accept a proposal of marriage to Tony Caris (Karistinos) and moved to Australia. She joined him in 1930, expecting they might return to Greece and the family in a few short years. Instead, she was to become a permanent resident in Australia.
On her arrival in Roma, the Belle-Vue Café was struggling. It was the time of the Depression and Penelope remembers “we couldn’t make enough for ourselves, let alone partners.”
Penelope also recounts an occasion when David Frangeskakis of the Queens Arms Hotel in Roma took them for a drive on a Sunday afternoon to collect tsohi (weed) as a substitute for horta or radikia, Greek terms used for wild greens eaten in salads or boiled. Armed with a sugar bag full he would give it to me and say “Missus…keftiedes.” What is that you ask…traditional Greek meatballs made with herbs and onions.
Owing to the small number of Greek families living in outback regional Queensland, Tony and Penelope socialised with their Greek counterparts, inviting Charlie and Anna Tambaki to their home on Sunday evenings to play cards, the women joining in for a game of egiftiko or gin rummy.
Unlike many Greek wives at the time, Penelope lived in a house separate to the Belle-vue Café. In her interview with Denis Conomos in The Greeks in Queensland: A History from 1859-1945, Penelope stated “Tony didn’t want us to live above the shop, but I would have liked it as I would have had company.”
The Belle-Vue Café, like many cafes of its type hosted wedding breakfasts and local community events, the venue being referred to in the local newspaper as central to many local celebrations and events. On this occasion though we feature an advertisement highlighting the Bellevue Café and the availability of fresh fish for Easter in the Roma community.
The Greeks in Queensland: a history from 1859-1945 by Denis Conomos, 2002. Pg. 471; 506; 507
Exhibition – Meet me at the Paragon
State Library’s latest exhibition, Meet me at the Paragon explores how the creation of American-style cafes enabled Greek migrants of the early to mid-1900s to carve out a new life in a foreign land. The exhibition runs from 27 September 2019 until 15 March 2020.
Anne Scheu – Engagement Officer, State Library of Queensland