January 22, 2022 6:30 pm

The corner of the olives: since 1958, Almagro’s iconic office famous for its huge Mammoths

In Larissa, an agricultural city located in Greece, Constantino Catsaunis, had a tradition of preparing a special aperitif with olives, different spices, a drizzle of olive oil and feta cheese. At an early age he emigrated to Argentina, but he could never forget the imposing sunsets and the unmistakable aroma of the olive tree of his land. In honor of his roots, in 1958 he opened a place dedicated to his first love: Las olives. Since then it has been located on the same corner: Guarda Vieja and Billinghurst, in the heart of the Almagro neighborhood. Green, black, of different sizes and even stuffed, their products recall the flavors of the Mediterranean.

Don Costa, as they called him, left his homeland at age 20 with his brother, Clemente. Buenos Aires awaited them with open arms. Upon arrival, the young man began to walk the streets in search of employment and one of his first opportunities was as a deliveryman. Early in the morning until late in the afternoon, I would go out with a small van to tour the neighborhoods to deliver orders with various warehouse supplies, oils, pickles and olives (in wide mouth glass demijohns). Being methodical and extremely neat, he gradually gained his clientele.

Stories. La Esquina de las Olitunas, a local classic since 1958 located on the corner of Guardia Vieja and Billinghurst. It is cared for by its owner Claudio and his son ThiagoGerardo Viercovich – LA NACION

Years later, during one of his long working hours, he was surprised by an interesting proposal from one of his suppliers. “Gabriel Mesquida, a producer of olives, summoned him to open a store together in Buenos Aires. My great-uncle could not believe the opportunity and did not hesitate ”, recalls Claudio Katsaounis behind the counter of the family business.

In a picturesque corner in the Almagro neighborhood, near the old Mercado de Abasto, they found a house from 1894 with exposed brick walls, huge windows and high ceilings, which was perfect for their proposal. On August 27, 1958 they opened the doors of “The corner of the olive”. To this day the neighbors remember the old wooden barrels full of merchandise on display in the middle of the room.

An old photo of the corner of olives
An old photo of the corner of olives

During its early years, the business focused on wholesaling and its main customers were delivery men. They say that at that time an average of 100 to 150 kilos of olives. There was also a condition: the minimum purchase of each variety was one kilo. “Throughout all these years, the business never changed the line of open barrels. It is sold to the public directly from there, fresh and without preservatives, ”says Katsaounis. Over the years, the local Don Costa has garnered fans in the neighborhood for the variety and quality of its products.

Harilaus, Claudio’s father, joined the business from the beginning. Another of the historical employees was José, better known as “Cholo”, who was in charge of advising, with great precision, each of the clients with their tastes. “My school was less than ten blocks from the premises and when I left I loved to stop by to say hello. At that time they had an old standing scale and every Friday Dad weighed me to see how much I had grown. We wrote it down in a little notebook. Also, there was an Olivetti machine and I loved pushing the buttons with the letters to type. The memories of my childhood here are beautiful. The olives they were always the family distinctive ”, recalls Claudio, who is a lawyer by profession.

Coast in Mendoza with the olive barrels
Coast in Mendoza with the olive barrels

In the 90s, the young man began to learn even more about the job. At that time they incorporated new products: preserves, pickles, legumes and spices. With this, he aimed to also conquer the retail public. “At that time, a lot of neighbors from the neighborhood came. One of the stars was the kilo of olives mixed (green and black). And since many restaurants and pizzerias asked us for spices, we also decided to add them ”, he says. The long queue of customers on the corner became a regular postcard at any time of the day (except from 12 a.m. to 2 p.m. when the premises were closed). Don Costa was a long-lived man: he lived to be 93 years old and was present at the premises until the last day. “His house was located a few meters from the business and he always went for a walk. With just one look he could tell if everything was in order. He and Dad taught me everything. They were my great teachers, “he says proudly.

In the center of the premises there are 16 drums of olives of different varieties, the stuffed ones deserve special mention.
In the center of the premises there are 16 drums of olives of different varieties, the stuffed ones deserve special mention. Gerardo Viercovich – LA NACION

In the center of the premises are sixteen electric blue plastic drums filled with olives of different varieties, sizes and fillings. There are green, black, pitted, oval, round and even gigantic, called precisely because of their size “Mammoth”. “We keep the same suppliers from Mendoza and La Rioja throughout our lives,” says Claudio. Orders are prepared at the moment and as requested by each client. The minimum purchase is from the fourth kilo. Many regulars take the brine with them (which comes as a gift), to keep them for more than a year at home.

“We work with sizes of olives which are usually larger than normal. The most requested are the black Mamut (immense) and the colossal green with stone. The Greek with olive oil also has many fans and in recent months the black without salt has been all the rage ”, he details and admits that his favorite is the black“ Mamut ”. In commemoration of Don Costa, some time ago it occurred to him to incorporate the olives called “From the founder”. “It is a tribute recipe to those who gave everything for this local neighborhood. They have the right combination of oregano and ground chili, which give it a very special flavor ”, he says and assures that every time he tastes them, he automatically remembers his great-uncle sitting at the table drinking vermouth.

Stories.  La Esquina de las Olitunas, a local classic since 1958 located on the corner of Guardia Vieja and Billinghurst.  It is cared for by its owner Claudio and his son Thiago
Stories. La Esquina de las Olitunas, a local classic since 1958 located on the corner of Guardia Vieja and Billinghurst. It is cared for by its owner Claudio and his son ThiagoGerardo Viercovich – LA NACION

The stuffed ones deserve a separate mention. They offer with almonds, walnuts, bacon, bell peppers, palm hearts, provolone, blue cheese, anchovies, among other specialties. In recent years, the “Mixed” version has become an icon. “When the customer wants to try a little of everything, they always take it with them. It brings eight different fillings and of the two colors (green and black) ”, he expresses. Bottles and drums of olive oil, another of the stars of the house, are neatly arranged on one of the high wooden shelves.

Thiago, 25, follows the family business: with great sympathy he advises each new client who approaches.
Thiago, 25, follows the family business: with great sympathy he advises each new client who approaches.Gerardo Viercovich – LA NACION

“You grew up on this. It is nice to be able to continue with the family tradition ”, confesses Claudio. His son, Tiago, 25, follows in his footsteps: with great sympathy he advises each new client who approaches. “It is such a noble and natural product,” he admits. Before saying goodbye, he remembers a poem by Miguel Hernández entitled “Aceituneros”, which begins by saying: “Andalusians from Jaén, haughty olive trees, tell me in my soul: who, who raised the olive trees? …”

Reference-www.lanacion.com.ar

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