Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Taverna Lefteris

It's been 3 years now since our wonderful Naxian adventure day which included visits to the small villages of Halki and Filoti, sightseeing at the Temple of Demeter, and a harrowing drive on a narrow cliffside road in the direction of Mount Zeus. So many of our memories from our Aegean honeymoon are fading, and we certainly don't remember our next stop - the tiny village of Apiranthos high up in the mountains - as well as we used to, which is a shame. Although we may have forgotten a lot of details, we do remember our dinner at Taverna Lefteris. Not every dish, but the atmosphere, the freshness of the food, and of course, the stuffed vegetables that made both of our top 10 lists back in 2011.

Apiranthos is a small town in Naxos that's about 40 minutes or so from the city center.  It took us much longer to get there since we had been sightseeing and making frequent stops throughout the day. Apiranthos was going to be our last stop before heading back and was as far as we would take our little red car on the winding mountain roads. We had heard a lot about Taverna Lefteris and couldn't wait for some delicious dishes.

When we got to Apiranthos, it was really quiet and empty. Sure, it was early for dinner on Greek time, but it was still much emptier than we expected it to be. We figured there'd be more townspeople about, but we only saw a few on our way to the restaurant. We were the only customers at all while we were there, which was in stark contrast to reports we had read (and still see) about people needing to make reservations for dinner. Maybe we went on an off day. We loved the relaxed atmosphere though, just resting at a table as they prepared our dishes, listening to kids play soccer in the walkway outside the restaurant, and feeling the breeze blow in from the terrace.

Our meal started out with these little bread puffs. We're not sure if we ordered these or if this was similar to what we encountered all over Greece where they would bring you bread without asking but it wasn't complimentary. This time, we really didn't care and had no intentions of sending them back even if we didn't order them. They were worth the €0.70 each.

Since they weren't just bread - they were stuffed with spinach! This was our first look at the food at Taverna Lefteris, and it was a good start. 

We ordered a few different dishes but are not sure if we even saw a menu or if we just discussed our order with the guy at the restaurant. In any event, the next to arrive was our Greek salad (€7.5) also known as horiatiki, which had cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, red onions, mint, and feta cheese.

One of the things we remember most about our Lefteris visit was the freshness of all of the food. The vegetables tasted like they were just picked ripe from a garden and chopped up for our salad. You rarely get that type of freshness for a reasonable price at restaurants here. All the vegetables were crisp, the perfect ripeness and sweetness. The feta was creamy and so delicious.

We also ordered cheese-stuffed aubergines (€9), which we don't remember that much about, except for the same freshness of the eggplant. We also just love Greek cheese, so this was tasty.

Now for the star dish of the night, the one which made our top 10 lists easily. The stuffed vegetables were the special of the day (€10) and consisted of one tomato, one green pepper, and one aubergine, all plumply stuffed with a mixture of rice, tomato sauce, vegetables and herbs.

The salad and the aubergine dish showcased the fresh produce that Taverna Lefteris was known for, but the freshness was more clear than ever with these stuffed vegetables. They were the best stuffed vegetables we've ever had, and we're not sure anything will ever compare. The roasted vegetables were so tender, the filling was so delicious, and we were so happy. After our meal we both went to the bathroom in preparation for our trip back to the hotel (because of our long drive, not any ill effects from the food), and we realized why everything tasted so fresh. In the back of their restaurant was a small garden where they picked some of their produce. We kept seeing the chef go down some stairs behind the counter, and that certainly explained why.

Our meal at Taverna Lefteris cost us €30, and it was well worth every euro. You could get cheaper dishes at other restaurants in Naxos and their reputation for great food probably led to higher prices, but everything was so well done and presented that it was completely worth it. We were glad we visited and made the drive, as it was the perfect way to end our adventure that day. With our bellies full of delicious vegetables, we made the drive back to central Naxos as the sun set over the mountains, and the entire way, all we did was rave about those fresh vegetables!

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