Thursday, September 6, 2012
We’ve been going to Greece every summer for the past six years. It was sort of a no-brainer vacation for us. We wanted beach (as opposed to our landlocked country house in Umbria) and we wanted it out of Italy (as opposed to our landlocked country house in Umbria).
Greece was the easy part. Choosing which island was another story. Buy a guide book, search the internet, ask your friends. And everyone will tell you that a different island is the place to go. I was finally swayed by my friend Claudia who described Paros, and particularly the town of Naoussa, where she had bought a small place.
Ex fishing village with just enough going on to keep two teen age girls entertained? Check. Pristine beaches within walking and driving distance? Check. Affordable, cute hotels? Double check.
So now we’re just back from our sixth trip there, tanned, relaxed, happy and just a wee bit fatter. Because - this being the Minchilli family - a big part of our trip was all about the food.
And me being me, the first question I get from all my friends when they hear I’m just back from Greece is about the food: “Eat a lot of fish?”
Fish, yes, of course. But not as much as you’d think. And in fact, as happens every trip our first meal once we hit the ground was at the most meat-centric restaurant in town: Romantica.
Naoussa is a small fishing village, and area around the port is filled with fish restaurants of course. Some good, some not so good. But all very much geared towards tourists.
Romantica is decidedly off the main tourist drag. And even though the name implies it, there is no ‘romantic’ view of boats bobbing in the water, or anything else for that matter. The taverna’s wobbly tables pour out onto a small square that is bordered on one side by an abandoned and crumbling building.
A chalk board pretty much sums up what’s on offer: meat, meat and other kinds of meat. Because - as we learned from our friend Claudia - the owner used to be a butcher. This means meat gets chopped, seasoned and grilled. And while there is beef and pork and even chicken, those in the know go straight for the lamb chops. Sold by weight (the owner was a butcher, remember?) we order a half kilo for the four of us.
While we wait for our main course we nibble on a small dish of taramosalata - fish roe salad that is I believe the only fishy thing on the menu - scooped up with grilled, olive-oil soaked bread that is delivered to every table.
Finally our platter of lamb arrives. Piled high, each chop is seasoned simply with salt and pepper and grilled over the fire inside till the the fat is crispy and the insides still moist and slightly pink. As a family of kittens roam around our ankles (added bonus of any Greek vacation), we dig in, using our hands to pick up the bones and make sure we get every last bit. A plate of cucumbers and horta (wild greens) the only accompaniment.
While we will go on to eat fish and many many vegetables over the next week, this meat fest has become our traditional first meal in Greece.
So, to answer your question, yes, we did eat a lot of fish. But we ate a lot of very good meat too.
No website. Not even an address, sorry. But it's pretty easy to find. Just head towards the main church in town, that is located at the top of a long flight of stairs. Romantica is just at the bottom of those steps.