Updated: Jul 23
While exploring the Ionian Islands either on a small yacht and by ferry, where can you get some amazing meals. I have to preface this post by saying I LOVE Greek food and I agree with Gordon Ramsey when he said that Greek food is better than Italian food. Greek food is definitely healthier Italian food with its focus on olive oil, fresh vegetables and seafood. That being said, Greek food is strongly influenced by Italy, specifically the Venetians who ruled this area for 411 years.
History of Food in the Ionian Region of Greece
The owner of Ambelonas Vineyard and Restaurant, Mrs. Vassiliki Karounou researched the roots of food enjoyed in the Ionian Region. She published a book about this area's cuisine.
Through her research, she describes the 3 biggest influences on this area over time, not as conquerers but as ages, each epitomized by an individual person. The most ancient age, Homer, who represents the traditions of wine, olive and olive oil, honey, bread, herbs, figs, pears and pomegranate.
Many are symbols of a specific Greek God or Goddess: Demeter for bread, Aristaeus for Olive Oil and Dionysus for wine. Then came the age of exploration and Marco Polo, who through his travels brought spices to the Ionians, such as black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, nutmeg and ginger. Lastly came the time of Columbus, who expanded the palettes of Ionians with tomatoes, potatoes, corn, zucchini and bell peppers.
What are Traditional Ionian Dishes?
Throughout the Ionian Islands, you can find all the traditional Greek dishes. Fresh Greek salads made without lettuce, Gyros both wrapped like a sandwich and served open face and souvlakis can be found on menus throughout Ionian.
Local specialities are also available. Pictured above is Porpetes, meatballs in a rich tomato sauce; Sofrito, meat sautéed in a garlic, vinegar, white wine sauce; Pastitsada, rooster, chili peppers, garlic, onion, wine, vinegar, cloves, cinnamon and tomatoes served over pasta. Two traditional fish dishes we did not try are Bourdeto, made with either fish or octopus in a tomato based sauce and Blianco, a white wine and lemon based soup with fillets of white fish in it. Both sound delicious and I will try them the next time we are in the Ionian.
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Restaurants on Paxos
Alexandros - Lakka, Paxos
One of the best meals we ate on the trip was at the family owned and operated Alexandro's just off the main square in Lakka, Paxos. We were invited into the kitchen to see what had been prepared for the evening menu. The family was warm, welcoming and so proud of their heritage. The meal was prepared from family recipes handed down from previous generations. The food was made with fresh ingredients and was a delicious representation of the food in the Ionian Region.
Erimitis - Western Paxos
This spectacular restaurant had its humble beginning in 2001, where it started as a taverna and bar in a vineyard. In 2004, they began an expansion that focused on giving diners a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy a high quality meal with a magical sea view, especially at sunset. We treated ourselves to Crab Ravioli, Veal Cheek and Lamb Fillet Cassarole, accompanied by a rich earthy bottle of Greek Red Wine. If you enjoy fine dining or are looking for a splurge dinner on Paxos, this is your place.
Restaurants on Mainland Greece
Treli Gaida (The Crazy Shrimp) - Preveza, Mainland Greece
Sunday lunch is a relaxing family meal in most parts of Greece. We were able to get a table at Treli Gaida, one block inland from the quay, and join other Greek families in enjoy the Sunday Lunch tradition. Treli Gaida is known for their Shrimp Saganaki, shrimp cooked in tomato sauce and feta cheese. It was outstanding as was the grilled shrimp. Both were nicely paired with the house white wine.
Taverna Pateras - Ammoudia, Mainland Greece
Ammoudia is a coastal village with a big, wide, sandy beach. It sits along the Acheron River at the place where the river meets the Ionian Sea. There are multiple tavernas along the river to the north and the remains of the ancient customs house on the south side of the river. We had a lunch of traditional Greek dishes at Taverna Pateras before embarking on the Acheron River Excursion.
Aegis Restaurant - Parga, Mainland Greece
Aegis is directly on the seaside, on the northwestern side of the quay. Their food is absolutely delicious. The menu is full of fresh, local ingredients prepared with a contemporary twist. Pictured above is Sea Bass on Shrimp Risotto with Mussels and Herb Crusted Lamb Chops.
As part of our time at Aegis, we did a wine and olive oil tasting. About halfway up the hill behind the quay is Paragaea Old Olive Oil Factory which focuses on education and preservation of turn of the century olive oil production. Cassie, from the museum, took us on an educational journey through Greek olive oils and wines. She expanded our knowledge of these integral parts of Greek life. The health benefits of a diet rich in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, especially first harvest, cold extraction Extra Virgin Olive Oil are widely documented and proven by the long life spans of the Greek people. This is particularly true of Greek people living on the islands. You can book wine and olive oil tastings directly on the on the Aegis website.
Georgeos Family Restaurant - Mainland Greece
Sivota is a modern resort town on mainland Greece. The waterfront is lined with open air restaurants. The back streets have nice gift shops and beach town amusements like arcades and small a putt putt golf. While the boat was refueling, we had a delicious lunch at Georgeos Family Restaurant. Their menu is filled with traditional Greek Cuisine that is authentically prepared.
Restaurants on Meganisi
Porto Spiglia is primarily a fish taverna, with local fisherman bringing in their catch daily. After the owner showed us what the fresh options were that evening, we feasted on grilled Sea Bream and Scorpion Fish. The fish was cooked on an open flame grill and stuffed herbs picked that morning and lemon. What a way to end a beautiful day on the water, fresh fish eaten under the stars!
Restaurants on Ithaca
Avra Taverna - Kioni, Ithaca
When we are in Greece, CaptK and I generally eat both lunch and dinner out. That is not the case when we are cruising in the BVI or the Bahamas. The food in Greece is just so darn good. Every restaurant has a family garden where the herbs and vegetables they serve grow. There is no word for farm to table in Greek, because everything is farm to table. If it is not grown locally, it's not eaten. Avra Taverna is a perfect example of delicious, fresh, locally grown options prepared impeccably. Tucked away in the far corner of the harbor, it is just the place to experience traditional Greek food.
Restaurants on Kefalonia
Panormos - Fiskardo, Kefalonia
Panormos is a Mother/Daughter run restaurant in the cove just south of the main harbor. It has stunning views and non-traditional options on their menu, like the contemporary version of Shrimp Saganaki in the first picture above. The food is refreshingly different, but definitely Greek.
On the road back to town, you will find an ancient Roman cemetery that is an active archaeological site. The coffins in the first picture are part of that site. In town, we stopped at Melina Patisserie. Her offerings definitely live up to their reputation as the best bakery in the Ionians. It is a tasty place to refuel after a hike.
Restaurants on Lefkada
Penguin Taverna - Vasiliki, Lefkada
One of the things I love about Greek food is the heavy Italian influence. I have eaten some of the best pizza in Greece! The Penguin Taverna, on the waterfront in Vasiliki, has authentic wood fired pizza. CaptK and I shared a delicious pie, made with local sausage, peppers and onions. They also serve traditional Greek dishes and fresh fish. Gary, the owner and his son are at the restaurant everyday, serving up deliciousness to travelers and locals.
12 Gods Restaurant - Sivota, Lefkada
On the recommendation of Yiannis, we stayed on the 12 Gods Restaurant floating dock and ate at the 12 Gods Restaurant. This was one of the best meals we had in Greece. CaptK picked out a huge lobster for dinner served grilled, which he shared with my sister. You can see the wide assortment of seafood available that night, in the first photograph. They also serve traditional Greek dishes like the stuffed tomatoes I enjoyed.
Restaurants on Corfu
Ambelonas Winery, Corfu
Ambelonas is built on the idea "an authentic traditional wine needs to be combined with authentic foods." The owner and chef Mrs.Vasiliki Karounou "undertook a search of forgotten flavors, explored historical sources and by experimenting with local ingredients has resulted and published a cookbook with traditional local recipes that brings back the cooking secrets and flavors of previous generations on the island and served at Ambelonas’ restaurant. Ambelonas." It is these ideals are what drove me to booking a reservation before we left the United States.
Our meal was outstanding. Keep in mind that their menu is very seasonal. The evening we were there, we feasted on spring green salad with radishes, prosciutto and shaved cheese to start. Followed by Veal Sofrito, slices of lean meat slowly cooked with garlic, parsley and white wine served with roasted potatoes and Goat Kavraman, boneless meat cooked with wine, herbs and spices, served with risotto. This was one of the best meals we ate in our three weeks in Greece.
Stay tuned for additional Corfu Restaurants in the coming weeks. For notifications on updates sign up for my resource page with the link below.
Recommended Tours for Athens:
Here are my best recommendations for Hotels in Athens:
For a luxury experience: Grande Bretagne Hotel
For a more budget friendly experience: NEW Hotel
Or Hotel Fresh
Here are my best recommendations for Accommodations throughout Greece:
Eretria, Evia - Elia Luxury Apartments
Elounda, Crete - Elounda Heights Hotel
Agios Nikolaos, Crete - Ikaros Art Hotel
Nea Chora, Crete - Sea & Town Getaway
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