The gastronomic map of the urban region stretching from Agios Dionysios to Drapetsona and from Keratsini to Tabouria was created within the decade between 1920 and 1930, with the inflow and settlement of Greek refugees from Asia Minor. At the time, Drapetsona was an industrial area which mainly consisted of slaughterhouses, olive oil mills, gunpowder plants and soap factories. According to the Institute of Historical Research, a business census that was conducted in 1929 in this region listed 52 bakeries and 53 cafés.
Refugees from the east brought over with them a culture dating back centuries and carrying the sweetness of halva and loukoum (Turkish delight), a certain method of cooking minced meat and a mastery of seafood delicacies. Here you can also find some old kebab shops, excellent fish taverns, either by the sea or a little further inland, and a small company, famous all over Athens, if not Greece, that makes its own halva.
Drapetsona Halva by Kosmidis-Gavrilis
The whole city block has the aromas of caramel and tahini. Clients are lined up outside the shop, waiting patiently, while a few meters away, within the company facilities, the famed hand-made Drapetsona halva is being produced: chewy, crunchy, and yet so tender that it melts in the mouth. It was Kostas Bezardasoglou who started it all, back in 1924. “When refugees from Asia Minor first arrived at the port, they collected all the wood they could find and, as masters of the art, started making halva to sell it in order to buy some bread and oil to eat,” says Nikos Gavrilis, who is currently running the business and keeping this great tradition alive. What makes the halva produced here unique is that it is kneaded by hand. This way, the fibers do not break and the confection maintains its distinctive texture. Every now and then, the confectioners check the big copper pots and carefully stir the hot mixture of tahini and caramel that is bubbling along at 110◦ C – it’s a hard and sometimes painful process that demands both strength and technique.
1 Agiou Dimitriou
Τel. (+30) 210.461.6478
The “snack bar” at the Keratsini Fish Market
It started as a snack bar, but, as the years went by, it grew bigger. The menu of this fish taverna, located in the shadow of a flour mill plant overlooking the industrial landscape surrounding the Keratsini Fish Market is quite limited; its unique location and the excellent quality of the few dishes it offers, however, means that this place has a steady stream of clientele. When you get there, you’ll see an indication on the LED signboard for both “Kantina” and “Vasilis Oinomageireio”, but the names are, in fact, referring to the same place. Its tables, overlooking tugboats and trawlers, fill up quickly with clients who enjoy smaller fried fish – from crunchy and succulent red mullets to pickerels – small shrimp, squid and cod. They also serve wonderfully aromatic zucchini balls, homemade french fries and delicious fried cheese.
The Fish Market of Keratsini
Tel. (+30) 210.432.7213
The eatery Abraham, which dates back in 1938, belongs to the first generation of kebab shops that once were all over this neighborhood. This is now one of the few, if not the only one, that still follows the original recipes and grills its meat in the traditional manner, over charcoal. It’s been decades since the last renovation of the place – both the sign and the eatery’s decor are stuck somewhere in the ’80s. Charilaos Vassos, whose white uniform has the shop’s name embroidered on it, serves a dish they simply call “black,” made with spicy soutzouk sausage served in generous amounts along with fried pitas, french fries, finely chopped onions, Florina peppers and grilled tomatoes. The same sausage is also available wrapped in a pita, but our favorite is another wrap, which features juicy kebab meat.
Τel. (+30) 210.461.5841
Taxidevontas (“Traveling” in Greek)
It was originally known as the “secret place,” a fish taverna seeming in the middle of nowhere, away from the market center, only a few meters from the cemetery of Anastasis (“Resurrection” in Greek). It’s a small place, situated among blocks of flats and known mostly to locals by word of mouth. Or at least this was the case for its first few years. Today its clientele come from everywhere. The neighbors still honor it, but now there are also people coming from Piraeus, leaving behind the seafront taverns splendid sea views of their own neighborhood, all for the sake of this eatery’s properly cooked delicacies, including fresh shellfish and fish. The menu has been updated over time, and now, in addition to the classic dishes you’d find in a typical fish taverna, you can also get ceviche made from shrimp, red seabream, saddled seabream, or brown meagre (a fish called Pantelis on the island of Lesvos). There’s carpaccio, too, as well as fish roe mousse, cuttlefish with couscous and even pickerel fricassée. These new additions are the work of chef Iordanis Iliadis. There are over 70 labels of tsipouro and ouzo. A branch of this taverna opened in the northern suburbs of Athens in 2014.
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Τel. (+30) 210.432.4368
Peinirli Barba Stavros
Today, there’s a shop where you can find Stavros’ famous peinirli, but the business began long ago with a food cart from which Stavros Savvoulidis, originally from Trabizond, first sold homemade sourdough bread not long after he arrived in Piraeus in the 1950s. Today, his grandson and namesake prepares the same fluffy dough just like his father and grandfather before him. The dough is shaped into the outline of a boat and generous amounts of good-quality kasseri cheese from Trikala is added. After it’s baked and before it’s served, they add two or three large spoonfuls of butter that melts into and moisturizes the freshly baked dough. This is the standard version. Cold cuts, an egg, minced meat or combinations of those may also be added as desired. Pizzas, pastas and a few more dishes are also available from a menu that’s been attracting customers to this location since 1974.
72 El. Venizelou
Τel. (+30) 210.461.0962