Greek Food Brings Comfort to Post-Earthquake Christchurch

By Con Stamocostas

Two brothers whose much-loved Greek-food business was among the first to rebuild after a devastating earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand, are on the move.

Dimitri’s Greek Food Caravan — a long-standing fixture in Christchurch — will soon be leaving the city’s Re:Start container mall to be part of continuing regeneration work in a newly built farmers’ market.

Brothers Nick and Dimitri Merentitis have been serving their iconic souvlakia in the South Island city since the mid-80’s.

Colored in the distinctive blue and white of the Greek flag, Dimitri’s was one of the first businesses to reopen after 185 people died and 80 percent of the city’s business district was destroyed in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

After a specific request from the council, Dimitri’s became part of the Re:Start container mall which featured vibrantly decorated shipping containers that saw locals, as well as tourists from all over the world, visit the precinct.

The Riverside farmers’ market which opens later in the year is being built where Dimitri’s served their famous souvlakia; the Merentitis’ brothers have again been invited to be part of the city’s ongoing transformation.

“The police and the army blocked all the roads, so we couldn’t go back to our shop for months.”

Jenny Barnes, who works in Christchurch’s Quake City Museum says having Dimitri’s as part of the new farmers market was important in linking the city’s past and future.

“When you have lost so much it’s great to have the continuity,” Barnes says.

“Dimitri’s is well loved in Christchurch. It’s a comfort for people coming back into the city to be connected with old Christchurch that follows through to new Christchurch and you can get a sense of home.”