The grilled octopus and the crispy taste of fresh mullet will always come to mind when I bring back unforgettable memories of summer nights in the little harbor at Naoussa. Those were the days when I had the opportunity to taste octopus, sun dried mackerel and kakavia fish soup like the fishermen make it, before the island adapted its gastronomy to the demands of its summer visitors. On the island of Paros beauty comes from simplicity. Houses untouched by time, a church waiting for you to light the oil lamp, the proud monastery of St John Detis, the fishing port at Naoussa which never loses its charm, the table set with the whatever the land and sea have to offer on the day.
The chef invasion
The gastronomic scene on Paros is where tradition meets contemporary cuisine, as several well-known chefs have established a foothold on the island. In the magical setting of Ambelas, Giannis Baxevanis and Nikos Fotiadis are in charge at Aspro (Tel. (+30) 22840.52151) on the beach, where the wood oven and the hearth have a starring role in the kitchen.
The fine dining restaurant Nefeli in the Yria Boutique Hotel (Tel. (+30) 22840.24154) is run by Michelin Star chef Lefteris Lazarou. Lefteris draws his inspiration from the wealth of Mediterranean cuisine, using all the fresh produce that the land and the sea has to offer. His dishes exude the fresh aromas of summer.
In the brand-new Cove Paros boutique hotel (Tel. (+30) 22840.28576) on the beach of Aghioi Anargyri, award winning chef Gikas Xenakis introduces us to the creative cuisine of his restaurant Raδa. “The treasures of the Cycladic earth are our inspiration,” he explains. “Cycladic produce, but also ingredients from all of Greece take center stage in our plates, which are full of Greek influences. The philosophy in our kitchen is food that is light, summery, and cooked expertly by our chef Daniel Papathriantafyllou.” Cool signature cocktails are overseen by Vassilis Kyritsis of The Clumsies.
Next, the gastronomic compass points to the five-star Summer Sense hotel (Tel. (+30) 22840.93000), built in harmony with traditional Cycladic architecture, and with a breath-taking view over the beach of Pounta. In its welcoming surroundings you will find Galazia Hytra, where the outstanding executive chef Tassos Mantis makes the best of the local produce with knowledge and imagination. “Our entire menu is built on local producers and fishermen,” says Mantis. “We use more cooking techniques that will be familiar from our Athens restaurant Hytra, while the customers’ favorites from Hytra also feature on the Paros menu. Chef Dimitris Vratzidis is in charge in the kitchen, and it is worth trying the cod with garlic puree and Paros caper sauce”.
The menu at the Mr. E restaurant in Paralio Hotel (Tel. (+30) 22840.51000) in Kolybithres bears the signature of Alexandros Tsiotinis, while in Naoussa the menu at new arrival Deck (deckparos.gr) with a view across the blue beyond bears the gastronomic imprint of chef Giannis Loukakos.
Where to eat in the villages
The neoclassical houses, Venetian crests and marble fountainheads compose the rich history and charm of Parikia. The promenade and steps of Aghios Konstantinos are the ideal destination when the sun sets behind Aghios Fokas. Restaurants and bars along the seafront offer themselves for food and drink. At the traditional kafeneion Pinoklis (Tel. (+30) 22840.27309) you will accompany your souma (a fig eau de vie), wine or beer with Greek mezedes, while in the tasteful surrounds of Ballo Sushi Bar (tel. Tel. (+30) 22840.28238) the sushi menu is prepared with fresh local fish and washed down with cocktails.
The little white houses of Naoussa with their whitewashed alleyways shine brilliantly. In the harbor with its Venetian castle a seagull stands proudly on the stern of a fishing boat. On the deck are spread out octopus and mackerel drying in the sun in the traditional style, one of the most familiar images of summer. In the Cycladic islands, the sun has his own special way of “cooking” the local produce. Gouna is sun dried fish, cooked by the rays of the Parian sun before going on the embers, a technique used for many years by fishermen.
Mario (Tel. (+30) 22840.51047), the restaurant on the harbor owned by Marios Tsachpinis is renowned for its seafood cooked with a contemporary twist. Marios makes best use of local ingredients, and this is obvious if you try his tasty fish pasta. You can taste Parian gouna at Ouzeri ton Naftikon (Tel. (+30) 22840.51300), whose history goes back to 1950. This is where the fishermen gathered for their souma after brining in their nets.
After lighting a candle at the chapel of Aï-Nikolas at the harbor mouth, you will seek out refined tastes at Barbarossa (Tel. (+30) 22840.51391), a fine dining establishment run by chef Dimitris Nikolis who has many years’ experience in making the expert use of fresh ingredients from the sea. In one of the most prominent locations in Naoussa, two young chefs, Anna and Giannis cook fluent Greek dishes using produce from their garden – including crispy fried potatoes with egg and feta sauce, that is not easily forgotten.
A stroll down the alleyways will bring you to the marina, where a mixture of sailboats and other boats berth. Giorgos Parousis, the owner of Mediterraneo (Tel. (+30) 22840.53176), has octopus spread out in the sun. His craftsmanship in the kitchen brings out the tastiness in octopus with ditalini. At Aghios Dimitrios beach you can take a comfortable seat at Come Back (Tel. (+30) 6932.903.877) and enjoy your first coffee of the day with a rich breakfast. Here you will also find Kapari (Tel. (+30) 22840.52070) a restaurant focused on local tradition, as learned by Manolis Kaparis, and his son Andreas, from their family.
Leaving Naoussa and heading “to the villages” – as they say in Paros – you will find a small turnoff leading you to Abelas, with its picturesque harbor and a view towards the blue sea and Naxos. In a privileged position on the sandy beach, which ideal for a quiet swim, is the impeccably tasteful Blue Oyster restaurant (Tel. (+30) 22840.52707). In the kitchen, Rita Evaggelopoulou, born and bred on the island, cooks local ingredients with a deft touch and a lot of love.
While watching the fishing boats coming into the harbor you can try delicious tuna meatballs with handmade garlic aioli, grilled sardine fillets accompanied by bulgur wheat and vegetables. Following the coast road which takes you past a lacework of little bays, you can make a tasty stop at the Thalami fish taverna (Tel. (+30) 22840.53351), an ideal hangout which takes you back to the 1960s in the shade of the tamarisk trees. You will be served a cold souma with handmade salted fish, fried octopus – a traditional Parian recipe – little fennel frond pies with fennel from their garden, and fresh fish brought in by the family’s fishing boat.
At Lefkes and Prodromos
In the charming village of Lefkes you will stroll down the narrow streets and be enchanted by the distinctive style of the houses. You will stop for a rest at Ramnos Café (Tel. (+30) 22840.44019) with its cool terrace and unique view. You will taste mizithra cheese pie from Marouso Arkouli’s hands, with a discreet drizzle of Paros thyme honey. Next to the bakery on the village square, the marble steps will lead you to the terrace of Klarino (Tel. (+30) 22840.41608), bedecked with potted basil and gardenias. The specialty here is good local meat -grilled or stewed – as well as garlic snails known as karavoli.
Below Lefkes, at a distance of about 5 kilometers, is Prodromos, an authentic little jewel of a village which remains unspoilt by tourism, with its white houses and blooming gardens. On the old donkey trail lined with bright pink bougainvilleas you will find Kallitechniko Kafeneio (Tel. (+30) 22840.42033) and its welcoming cook, Maria, who serves an amazing chickpea soup. You can drink iced souma and try cuttlefish cooked with local fennel. That simple, that real.
From Prodromos, you will follow a route which showcases the contrasts in island’s landscape, with dry stone walls running like ribbons across the farmland, and the monastery of Aghios Antonios overlooking the Aegean from above. In the charming village of Marpissa, you will be enchanted by the snaking whitewashed alleyways and the Cycladic architecture. In a beautiful square with steps, oil tins used as plant pots for basil and mint, in the shade of two enormous Mulberry trees is where Haroula’s restaurant (Tel. (+30) 22840.41440), sets its tables, serving local dishes since 1977. The vegetables come from the family garden, and the kitchen gives a recital in tomato, courgette and eggplant fritters.
The Green Project (Tel. (+30) 22840.41388) in Dryos is a local gastronomic landmark, with the unstoppable Giannis Ragousis growing and serving vegetables, fruit and herbs from his lush garden. Flavors which are pure, and introduce you to the wealth of the Parian soil, served with a fresh outlook. Marmalades and jams made with fruit from the garden and creative chutneys accompany the local cheese plate. On the beach of Dryos, To Kyma restaurant (Tel. (+30) 22840.41180) prepares creative dishes made with local ingredients. Accompanied by the soundtrack of the waves, you can taste sea bream expertly cooked and served on a bed of chickpeas and samphire salad.
At Piso Livadi and Alyki
The fishing village of Piso Livadi on the north side of Paros maintains its allure. Its sheltered beach is crowned with tamarisk trees, while the sunset creates an idyllic landscape. The little tables by the waves at Vroha (Tel. (+30) 22840.41272) are ideal for coffee or drinks, while for seafood nibbles and fresh fish you should visit Markakis (Tel. (+30) 22840.42177) or Halaris (Tel. (+30) 22840.43257). To the northwest you will find the blue embrace of Alyki, Paros’s third natural harbor, ideal for a promenade and for tasting fresh fish and seafood at Mouragio (Tel. (+30) 22840.91165) and Balkoni tou Aki (Tel. (+30) 22840.91512).
Antiparos enters the gastronomic stage with a vengeance this year, with some strong names in charge of restaurant menus. At Iasonas Tsakonas’s Beach house (Tel. (+30) 22840.64000), a trio of excellent chefs has taken the reins: Georgianna Chiliadaki and Nikos Roussos (of Funky Gourmet fame) and Periklis Koskinas (from Cookoovaya). “We have united our strengths, we have good chemistry,” says Georgianna, who has already won two Michelin Stars. “Our philosophy in the kitchen at Beach House is “raw and fire,” meaning raw or cooked over fire. Greek food, healthy, super light, with a focus on sharing. Fresh fish from Paros, Antiparos and Aegina, vegetables, olives, olive oil and cheese from local producers. We have also created our own cocktails.”
Kalokeri (Tel. (+30) 22840.63037) is an ambassador of Cycladic gastronomy on the island, located on the main road in Antiparos. Vana Vrettou is inspired by Aegean cuisine and cooks fresh vegetables from the garden at Kampos on Antiparos. The beef comes from Naxos and the goat from Antiparos. Fishermen from Paros, Antiparos and the Koufonissia supply the kitchen with fresh products from the sea, while the superb cheese and charcuterie selection offers a taste voyage through the Cyclades. The dishes are redolent of the Aegean – such as the red mullet tartare marinated in lemon and lime juice flavored with basil, verbena and seaweed fleur de sel.
Finally, Samano restaurant (Tel. (+30) 22840.61497) at the Kouros Village hotel, with a view of Atniparos harbor, opened last year with Leonidas Koutsopoulos in the kitchen, and continues its gastronomic journey this summer.
What to Drink
Paros is famed for its wine making, which was known since antiquity, and has a long tradition in vine cultivation. The terraced vineyards and stone-built open-air grape presses are enchanting. Manolis Moraïtis’s winery (Tel. (+30) 22840.51706) in Naoussa is well worth a visit, both to travel through time in the museum of wine making and to taste the wines produced today. The best-known white grape variety is Monemvasia, which along with the red Mantilaria produce PDO wines.
On the entrance to Naoussa you will come across the Moraitico winery (Tel. (+30) 22840.51920) run by Giorgos Moraitis, which produces award-winning organic wines. In Marpissa you can visit Konstantinos Roussos’s Asteras winery (Tel. (+30) 22840.51798) as well as the Nikos Louridis winery (Tel. (+30) 6974.947.740), while in Kamares, Adam Kostikas runs the Alissafi winery (Tel. (+30) 22840.28854) and organic vineyards.
The art of dough
The windmills scattered across Paros attest to the wisdom of Cycladic culture, and recall the local tradition of breadmaking. There is a rich variety of local breads, including paximadia (rusks), koulouria (ring-shaped breads) and xerotigana (frying-pan bread). You can rate a cook’s skill by her pies, which include rafalia filled with mild myzithra cheese, fennel frond pies, zucchini pies and kalopia (miniature pies filled with various wild greens).
In the village square of Lefka the smell of freshly baked bread will draw you to the bakery run by Stratis Kritkos (Tel. (+30) 22840.44090). Here a tradition of family craftsmanship goes back to 1904 and has been passed down from generation to generation. On the way out of Alyki in the direction of Parikia, a stop at the Ageria bakery (Tel. (+30) 22840.91378) is a must – the bakery is famed for its paximadokouloures (rusk rings) and kritharokouloures (barley rings) made to an authentic recipe belonging to baker Giorgos Chaniotis’s grandmother. Chaniotis has his own flour mill which supplies the bakery.
On the other side of the island, at Ysterni, Nikos Zoumis’s Xylofournos bakery (Tel. (+30) 22840.52750) has its own family history, starting with his grandfather who was a miller in Lefkes. In the marketplace in Parikia you will meet Nikos Ragoussis, a third-generation baker working in his bakery (Tel. (+30) 22840.21573) from dawn to turn out ring breads, barley rusks and kaltsounia (little pies filled with sweet mizithra and cinnamon). The grandfathers of pastry shop owner Panagiotis Chamilothoris (Tel. (+30) 22840.52717) first started baking cinnamon-wine cookies with olive oil at their bakery in Naoussa in the 1940s.
You will find the award-winning honey Ek Paktias made by Aggelos Pitsikalis and Elisavet Bogiatzi, was well as the superb skin creams with bee products, grape and rose at Me Ti Sesoula delicatessen (Tel. (+30) 22840.260089) in Parikia. Arsenis groceries (Tel. (+30) 22840.26477) in Naoussa and Parikia await you with products from all over Greece, as well as local produce from Paros. Arsenis stocks fresh fruit and vegetables from their own gardens, cheeses from the Farmers’ Cooperative Association (Tel. (+30) 22840.22179) including Paros graviera, krasotyri and more, as well as cheeses produced by the Parion creamery (Tel. (+30) 6973.525.591) started in 2017 by Katernia Moschou as the first private cheesemaking operation on the island. To Melissi delicatessen (Tel. (+30) 22840.55377) in Naoussa stocks a variety of Cycladic gastronomic treasures, from local thyme honey, to dried Paros chickpeas and fava (vetchling) and local dessert wines.
Good to know
You can reach Paros by sea from Piraeus (2 hours 45 minutes – 5 hours depending on route, from 36 euros one way) with Blue Star Ferries, Aegean Speed Lines, Minoan Lines and others. From Rafina (4-7 hours depending on route, from 30 euros one way) with Golden Star Ferries and Fast Ferries. By air from Athens (from 60 euros one way) with Olympic Air or Sky Express.
For a beach bar experience head to Punta Beach on the eastern side of the island or to the first section of Santa Maria beach near Naoussa. For a calmer organised setup go to Kolybithres or Aï-Giannis in Monastiri, but also Molos. To swim with nothing between your skin and the water and sun, go to Laggeri. Chrysi Akti, the longest and most spacious beach on the island at 1.5 kilometers long, satisfies all tastes.