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GOING GREEK

Family’s rich heritage on display at Tony & Mrs. K’s Bakery-Café

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GOING GREEK

Artemis Vourakis poses in front of Tony & Mrs. K’s Bakery-Café she co-owns with her brother, Hercules. anteca artist Antoinette Poulos.

ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The 209


POSTED July 12, 2013 9:14 p.m.

It prides itself as a Greek mom-and-pop’s store and dining destination. But there’s more to Tony & Mrs. K’s Bakery-Café on East Yosemite Avenue in Manteca just a stone’s throw from historic Spreckel’s shopping center.

One of the newest businesses in The Family City, the commercial establishment opened its doors barely a year ago on the corner of East Yosemite and Cottage avenues. The owners are Hercules Vourakis and his sister Artemis. After years of leasing the family property to other business people – the last one was a car wash – the siblings decided to dive into a joint commercial venture themselves while honoring their parents and their Greek heritage at the same time.

How proud they are of their family ancestry is readily visible to visitors, and even to passers-by right away. The faces of Tony and Mrs. K (Koustula) Vourakis, both immigrants from the island of Crete in Greece, are prominently displayed on the wide red trim that runs across the top portion of the outside walls of the building. The same picture is repeated in several places inside the building. It’s the first thing that greets visitors upon entering the side door, hanging on the wall in front of them surrounded by antique and vintage cooking utensils that belonged to the family. And it’s splashed on the wrappers of cookies and bottled water on the counter.

The Vourakis siblings are simply following in the footsteps of their parents who, for decades, were in agri-business. Tony Vourakis bought “the old farm place” in the late 1930s before he went back to Greece and married his wife in 1947. He was 60 years old; his bride, whose family he had known in the old country, was 28 years old. (He died 20 years ago at the ripe age of 106; she passed away two years ago at 94.) The old farm consisted of 30 acres – 20 acres of olives and 10 acres of grapes, almonds and walnuts. The Vourakis family later purchased the house at the farm on South Austin Road that is considered one of the oldest homes, if not the oldest house, in San Joaquin County. The property also was, at one time, the home of George Murphy and wife Pat whose family owned the Manteca Bulletin for decades before it was sold to Morris Corporation.

One of the most popular food items at Tony & Mrs. K’s Bakery-Café called the spanakopita (spinach pie) was an original family recipe that Mrs K. used to make and serve to guests. At the bakery, this meal is usually served with salad, green beans or mashed potatoes.

Baklava, Greek rice pudding, and Greek coffee are also available for purchase a la carte, or to enjoy inside the café while sitting comfortably in 1950s and 1960s reproduction dining sets and leather chairs as you peruse the news online or do whatever work you have to do on your computer.

Every day specials, besides the spanakopita, include gyros sandwiches, meat loaf, blueberry or morning glory waffles, and vegetable or meat scramble with hash browns and toast.

Among the bakery specials are cheese, apricot, strawberry and raspberry cream Danish as well as banana walnut, chocolate-chocolate and blueberry muffins.

“I have two good bakers and good cooks, and I got a good chef. I have good people working for me,” said Artemis who, prior to starting her own business, worked as secretary for Atherton Development in Manteca. Prior to that, she worked for law offices and various restaurants in Chicago and Las Vegas. Her brother, Hercules, continued their father’s farming business. Among other business ventures, the Vourakis siblings also own and manage an RV and boat storage at the old place on South Austin Road.

Tony & Mrs. K’s carry not just the Greek specials but American staples as well. These include bacon or sausage with eggs, hash browns and toast, and beverages that include regular coffee, cappuccino, latte, hot tea, root beer float, along with fresh-squeezed orange juice and lemonade. They also cater to those who are partial to smoothies.

The place is not just a bakery and café as well. A tall antique metal shelf flushed against one wall is brimming with various arts and crafts made by different local artists. All are utilitarian items and are sold at very reasonable prices. They include potholders with religious themes, throw pillows, aprons, baby’s bibs, and tole items. One of the artists, Donna of Art Beyond Crafting, was Artemis’ former classmate at Manteca High.

Gracing the walls on both sides of the arts and crafts stand are original paintings by Antoinette Poulos of Manteca. Other décor items inside the dining area include a framed original embroidery by Artemis herself, and vintage collectible items, some of which were from the estate of the late Sadie Cabral, the founder of Sadie’s Salon in Manteca.

Later this year, the Vourakis siblings expect to officially open another part of the business – a state-of-the-art car wash on the west side of the building.

Tony & Mrs. K’s is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. It is located at 1195 E. Yosemite Avenue (corner Cottage), and can be reached at (209) 239-1405.

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