Ithacan cuisine makes the best use of local wine, oil from unripe olives, meat and fish reared and caught locally. The use of the diverse range of local vegetables and wild greens easily available in allotments, gardens and the surrounding hillsides, makes the local food its unique taste.
The cooking habits of the ‘seven Ionian islands’ have also been influenced by the Venetians who left behind them a cosmopolitan and gourmet heritage and, indeed, many local dishes retain, to this days, their original Italian names, e.g. bourghetto, savoro, poulenta, sofigado, polpette, toumatsi, castagnole. The British also left their mark with ginger beer which, sadly, is no longer produced on the island. Today, perhaps the most characteristic Ithacan dish is chicken ‘tserepa’ cooked in a sealed earthenware dish.
The local produce of artichokes, wild greens, both sweet and bitter, sorrel, chicory plant and Swiss chard is so testily evident in all local vegetable pies. Ithacans love to add to their food herbs found on the island such as sapsychos of the marjoram family and which can only be found in Ithaca and is used in a variety of dishes. Many other herbs of Ithaca nature are used in local kouzine such as sage, oregano, wild thyme and, especially, barbaroza, found in every garden and which flavours so many of the domestic ‘spoon sweets’.
One of Ithaca’s most important products is its excellent virgin olive oil which is used liberally in cooking hot dishes and in presenting salads. This oil enhances the gastronomic experience, especially of soups and vegetable dishes where consumption is accompanied by the sipping of fine local wine. We must also acknowledge the fine quality of honey which is now produced in many parts of the island as part of the domestic industry.
The local sweets has a special place in Ithaca's traditional cooking. A visitor should taste the famous ‘rovani’ which is created from honey, rice and oil, as well as the chocolate sweet "Troufa". Homemade marmelades and spoon sweets are offered for sale and can be found in most cafes and shops with traditional, local products.
This local dish has taken its name from the way local people used to cook it, and more specificaly the utensil used. Actually, it is chichen with potatoes which was cooked in this specific kind of baking pan which was tightly closed and put in the stone oven most traditional houses had.
This delicious local dish is local fish, usually "barbouni", with cooked with fresh tomato and local spices & herbs.The history of this recipe is very old and did not apply it so much to enjoy it as a delicacy but because in the old days there was no luxury refrigerator! So they cooked the fish, "pickled" them in essence with vinegar, olive oil, they added their nice herbs, the ingredients are extremely conservative and kept the fish as we say today in a can and kept them in a special clay vessel.
The taste of fish is indescribable!
Hand made pies have always their place in Ithaca lunch or dinnner table! There two kinds of traditional pies mainly served in Ithaca. The meat pie is made of local mixed meat, rise and handmade yeast and extra virgin olive oil. The green pie is made with various local greens collected by the surrounding fields and local local herbs for extra taste. maybe also contain local cheese. Cannot leave Ithaca without having tasted them!!!
In Ithaca there are many breeders that supply local restaurants with meat products. Most of their animals are fed naturally since they graze at the mountains and fields of Ithaca. After previous contact, you can buy meat or cheese products directly from the breeders.
FRESH FISH & SEA FOOD
In Ithaca you can enjoy fresh fish & seafood in various restaurants all around seaside villages, cooked with special recipies. Some fishermen sell their fish directly from their boats early morning, if you want to buy them as they come out of the sea!
LEGUMES & GREENS
In Ithaca you can enjoy the local greens cooked with special local recipies!
In Ithaca there is the traditional cheese factory of Ch. Karavia that produces special cheeses such as gruyeres with milk from the local sheep, the katseno. The milk it gives, although limited, is of exceptional quality due to the special flora and fauna of the island. Now, it produces gruyere with herbs from the Ithaca's nature called Lazaretto, Tsemberi that matures in a cave and the white cheese in a basket called Katseno. There are also several breeders who make their own feta cheese and sell their products after contact.
LOCAL OLIVE OIL
It is worth trying the pure virgin olive oil of Ithaca that comes from the local variety of olive tree "Thiako", a variety of olive tree that dominates the land of Ithaca and gives plety and very tasty olive oil.
More than 16 varieties are cultivated on the island, which, as a rule, are combined, but the most famous are two varieties of wine, the "mavrodafni" and the "white". Ithaca is distinguished by a very large and very interesting biodiversity in the issue of vineyards and grapes. In Ithaca viticulture & wine production, have a long history & tradition, but still remain at the level of amateur occupation.
You will find many informally bottled small-scale wines available locally. You can also try a lot of wine at the Wine Festival in Perachori on the last Saturday of July.
LOCAL , HANMADE SWEETS ,HONEY & MARMELADES
In Ithaca you will taste a wide variety of handmade "spoon sweets". Sweet quince, sweet coumaro, sweet pear, jams, ravani, aliphaskia honey and much more. The Agrotourism Cooperative of Perachori deals with the standardization-production of special local products, such as honey and sapphire, culminating in their art, the traditional Epanestian spoon sweet! The local honey is also unique !The great peculiarity of Ithaca honey is its aroma. This is due to the abundance of pollen sources that are available to the worker bees of the island, but predominantly to the queen of herbs, aliphasia. You can find ir in the local groceries and the summer bazaars of the Square in Vathi as "Meli Alifaskias",
Ithaca has the absolutely suitable subsoil to grow herbs, mountainous and stony, while its microclimate favors their quality and variety. Many of them are abundant in Ithaca and their rational collection has kept their biodiversity almost intact for a century. Do not hesitate to try the local drinks, chamomile, tea, mint and especially Aesop which is beneficial for the blood due to its rich content of iron. Among the herbs of Ithaca that stand out for their quality and fragrance are aliphatic, thyme, rosemary, chamomile, honeysuckle, mint and sage.