Six weeks had passed on the island of Santorini, and my plans for a short-stay had been swept into the Caldera as I spent my days lazily grazing along the island’s veritable gourmet trail with locals in the know. We gorged on mezedhes, drank Vinsanto at vineyards, sipped frappès in kafenions and in the late evening legendary feasts would ensue, and raki would flow well into the early hours of morning.
Cravings for home-style cuisine inspired my exploration of the South, an area almost forgotten, far removed from the usual tourist trail and where I discovered Captain Dimitris, a family-run taverna reserved for locals that hadn’t changed in decades. The close-knit family welcomed me into the kitchen where long days were spent learning traditional dishes like stuffed peppers: blistered, earthy and delightfully tender. The rustic provincial cooking gave the produce center stage and every morsel the purest of flavour.
The island’s sunburnt fields harvest the intensely flavoured tomatoes that are fried into irresistibly soft-centered tangy tomato fritters, or domatokeftedhes at restaurant To Psaraki. And the plump wild capers a top the tuna Carpaccio were so addictive I almost made my tongue numb, the baked white eggplant so juicy and sweet I sang praises to the Greek gods.
Over and over I would return to popular restaurant Metaxi Mas to bond with the Cretan owners over wistful nostalgia and culinary philosophy. They welcomed me into their lives, their home, and in turn into their family. It wasn’t always easy to communicate; so they taught me to be Greek and speak with my hands. We found understanding through an undeniable and undeterred passion for life, for good company and of course, for food. Canadian-born Joy shared stories of a life driven by love, the secrets to a happy marriage and the skills she had perfected after twenty years of running Ammoudi Bay’s first restaurant with her husband Dimitri.
Time spent in the company of Greeks is no bland encounter…. It’s a whole tasting experience like savouring a dish with its complex tastes and expressive character. The rowdy affair abandons any boundaries, any possibility of digressiveness, inevitably unleashing a veritable flood of emotions, witty observations, amusing stories and without any other meaning, passion, which, when in the hands of Greece will no doubt take hold of you; uplift you, soothe, emancipate and most definitely alter you.
Where the Locals Would Send You
METAXI MAS, Exo Gonia, Pyrgos, Ph: +30 22860 31323 - Ensure you make a reservation well ahead, and ask for a table outside with a view. Recommend using taxi or own transport.
TO PSARAKI, Vylchada, Ph: +30 22860 82783– Ensure you make a reservation. You can get there via bus, taxi or car.
CAPTAIN DIMITRI’S, Faros, Akrotiri, Ph: +30 22860 82210 – You will need your own transport to get down here, and it’s on a beautiful drive along the road to the lighthouse. Get the braised rabbit and fava dip!
DIMITRI’S AMMOUDI BAY TAVERNA, Ammoudi Bay, Oia, Ph: +30 22860 71606 – Good to make a reservation especially for sunset dining. Walk down the steps from Oia… don’t attempt walking back up after a meal! Taxi’s are available from the bottom of the hill.
HATZIDAKIS HARIDIMOS WINERY, Kallisti, Pyrgos, Ph: 30 22860 23552 – Call ahead for wine tasting and for the love of god, MAKE SURE YOU TRY THE VINSANTO!