The story of Diomedes from Agros, who left his mark in Makarios Avenue with his roast chicken!

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Born in 1922, Diomedes Mavroyiannis began his journey from Agros village in the Limassol mountains, seeking his fortune around the world: from Sweden to Libya. Of course, his travels eventually brought him back to his homeland, where he ended up doing not just something completely removed to anything he had ever learned, but also making a name for himself for doing just that; creating a brand, a flavor and an aroma that many generations of Limassol residents recognize to this day as a part of their daily experience.

He had mastered the art of carpentry from his father, and would have continued to practice this art today, had the industry not drastically changed the way in which people furnished their homes. When he could no longer support his family with his own two hands, emigration was the only option. After 1960, he went abroad as an industrial worker, in an effort to send money back to Cyprus in order to support his wife, Eugenia, and their children, but his aim was always to return home again.

Upon his return to Cyprus, his first solution was to move to Nicosia. There, with some money he had aside, he opened a small, traditional coffee shop in Agios Dometios in order to make a living. When a relative found an abandoned grill in a warehouse he had just bought, he came up with the idea to fix it and put it in the café, so that he could grill chicken and add food to his menu. The grilled chicken quickly gained an enthusiastic following, and 2-3 other dishes of cooked, homemade food were also added to the menu. The café remained as is until the war of 1974, when the family packed up their belongings once more and moved towards Limassol, away from the destruction. 

“When we came from Nicosia and our father opened the shop that was soon discovered by all of Limassol, my classmates at school were under the impression that we were rich. Of course, this was not the case. This is a shop that requires a lot of work, and the profit it makes is limited, because we sell simple, everyday food. If we did not own the building, this grill shop would not have survived a day,” explains Pavlos.

Diomedes had never trained to be an entrepreneur. However, juggling various professions in different countries in order to support his large family (7 children and 2 adults were many mouths to feed) led him to make a wise decision and open his shop on Makarios Avenue. At the time, it was not the busy road it is today, nor did any of the shops that make it Limassol’s most commercial street exist at the time. 

The shop in Agios Dometios in Nicosia was a passageway towards Kyrenia and Lapithos, and in the same way, the shop in Limassol became a passageway for those traveling to and from Pafos. As such, the location was an important parameter in the success of the business.

Diomedes rented a space approximately 200 meters from the Agios Nikolaos Roundabout. Most plots were empty at the time and so, 10 years later, Diomedes grabbed the opportunity to buy the plot in the opposite corner, which resulted in this family business being one of the few located in a privately owned space on this street. 

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In the past, the grill shop also operated as a small community tavern, as people tended to eat the same food at night as during the day. As things changed, however, opening hours were limited to late afternoon.

His delicious chicken, sprinkled with local herbs and methodically grilled, the ‘makaronia tou fournou,’ moussakas and traditional oven potatoes made from mom’s special recipe, all quickly became beloved dishes for local Limasollians. And so, Diomedes was able to send all of his children to university, wanting them to live a life that was much easier than his own. 

“Our father’s main concern was for us to be close as a family. The work was meant to keep us all happy amongst ourselves, and this is probably why we’ve carried it on to this day,” says Pavlos Mavroyiannis, who supports the third generation, along with his brother August, to take charge of the business.

What he could not have imagined (though perhaps secretly wished for) was that his children would eventually return from their studies and stand by him at his post at the grill house. Of the 7 children, the 4 boys (Charis, Augustos, Anthoulis and Pavlos) eventually found themselves working in the family business, despite the fact that they had all studied vastly different subjects, from veterinary studies to law to journalism (the one brother that followe a different career, Andreas Mavroyiannis, has been an diplomat and an officer of the Cyprus Republic fror years).

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All children worked at some point in the store. “Our father would tell us that from the age of 5 we were able to take over jobs in the shop. I remember at that age, before I even started school, I would stand on a chair and put chickens on the spit,” says Pavlos.

No one recalls Diomedes pressuring them in any way to work in the grill house. But working in the shop had become a part of their lives, ever since their childhood when they occasionally worked there to help the family. Their father did everything he could to allow his children to receive a degree and secure a better future for themselves. Upon returning from their studies, however, they realized that the family business needed support, and this was a job that they could start immediately.

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Augustus, the second son, continues to manage the grill house kitchen to this day. He has kept the tradition of the unwritten family recipes going, preparing 30 dishes daily, and passing down his empirical knowledge from one generation to the next. This knowledge is being transplanted to the children of Charis, the eldest son, who recently left his post at work as the strain on his feet would not allow him to continue working at the same pace as before. 

“The hardest part is not the long hours on our feet, or the exhaustion. We have come to terms with this. The hardest part is to be able to serve everyone and respond to peoples’ needs at any given moment, to ensure that they are happy.”

Ariadne, Diomedes and Pantelitsa decided to pick up the baton of the grill house that their grandfather had started, despite the fact that the 3 of them had just returned from the studies, none of which had anything to do with the subject at hand. What Grandfather Diomedes created with his own two hands and which had kept the family bound together over a common purpose appears to still hold power.

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Celebrating 50 years of tradition and the continuation of it, the rotisserie has radically renewed its image.

After years of working a difficult job, with many hours on his feet, Diomedes could finally take a step back, having seen his boys take the reins at the grill shop. Of course, no one remembers him simply sitting in a chair doing nothing. As soon as he had the chance, he returned to his village of Agros, where he repaired the old houses, furnished them with his own hands (proving that he had never forgotten the art of carpentry) and created his own retreat there. He could relax, after all, in the knowledge that his children all loved and supported each other, and worked together to carry on the business that had raised all of them.

The celebration for the 50th anniversary of the business, was an opportunity for the people to show their respect for all the work old Diomedes had put into serving them all these years. The third generation hold the baton already and the new blood, with all the knowledge provided by parents, uncles and grandparents, keeps on with the same values, but with brand new energy and ideas.

This ‘psistaria’ (rotisserie) remains a point of reference in the city of Limassol, in one of its most central spots. Thousands of families have frequented there, seeking good, affordable food that is no different to what emerges from the pots and pans of a good home cook. The emphasis on quality, care and taste (which all 3 generations consider to be the key aspects of the success of the business) are what make Limassolians recommend Diomedes’ Psistaria to foreigners and people new to the city.

Its recent renovation, after 35 years, is proof that the family aims to continue the tradition, while at the same time continuously upgrading it. This faith in tradition, the emotional bonding, and the love for good results are the essence that makes up those people who manage to create something that stands out in Limassol.

* NOTE: The tributes of the Project "History of Limassol" present information that has emerged from historical research thus far. Any new data is embedded into the tributes, once it has been confirmed.