De Ville in the details

Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society

Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society

Greek immigrants Alexandrine and Pantelis Cafouros probably intended to name their restaurant Café de Ville. Evidently, when Alexandrine — or Aline, as she was known — found out “Devil’s Café” didn’t mean what she thought it did, she was mortified.

The restaurant opened just after the turn of the twentieth century in downtown Indianapolis, where the service entrance to the Hyatt Regency is now. Pantelis was a waiter at the Claypool Hotel who decided to open his own restaurant. There weren’t many Greeks in Indy then, and I can imagine how eager they were to prove themselves and succeed. Good Greek girls just don’t go around naming their businesses after the big D himself, and Aline wasn’t going to let it stand.

So Pantelis named it the Paradise Café. But it looks like the other name had devilishly stuck, so the place would be known as The Paradise & Devil’s Café. It was basically two restaurants in one, but still a homelike place to eat for ladies or gentlemen, as the sign says.

Despite growing up in Indy, being of Greek descent, and being a total history nerd, I never heard this story until I stumbled upon it while looking for something else. It’s on the historicindianapolis.com website, which is loaded with great information and fun, engaging stuff. I looked at the About Us page, saw the young faces, and felt very proud of my hometown.

Below the article is a comment from Pantelis and Aline’s grandson, Greg Cafouros. He said his brother, Carl Cafouros, wrote a history of Indy’s Greek community. The images shared here come from Carl’s collection via the Indiana Historical Society. Another commenter said he grew up with Carl at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. (He also said he thought the Greek Festival was more fun at the church’s former home at 40th and Penn.)

My Papou and his family landed in Chicago’s Greek immigrant community around the same time Pantelis and Aline opened their restaurant. My family’s information is scant, but Greektown was just up Halsted Street from Jane Addams’ Hull-House. A champion of immigrants and other “outsiders,” Addams was a good friend to the Greek community. It’s entirely possible that Papou spent time at Hull-House, which changed the world for so many, as a young man.

History is always closer than we think.

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