Far and away from the cosmopolitan side of Naxos, but not too far from the beautiful Kastraki beach, among olive trees and vineyards and close to fields where sheep graze peacefully, you’ll find Axiotissa, a tavern of the highest taste standards, incredibly popular among locals and foreigners alike. It’s difficult to believe how busy it gets, although it’s literally hidden away, surrounded by Naxian plots. It is precisely in this beautiful setting, laid out on two levels and open to its surroundings, that lovers of Greek specialties pour in everyday, eagering for the genuine, homemade, yet refined flavours.
The couple that owns the restaurant and runs the menu and kitchen, Yannis and Sophia, pay homage to the authentic taste of Cyclades and Naxos in particular, by carefully choosing local ingredients and cooperating with selective producers. Their recipes are an ode to local cuisine with a cosmopolitan touch, not in the glamorous sense, but reflecting a knowledge and understanding of the cuisines of the world. Personally, I’m always positively surprised by their never-ending enthusiasm in experimenting and adding unusual touches to classic dishes and the result somehow always proves them right. So be assured that the kitchen will exceed all your expectations and the extensive menu will give you a culinary experience really worth trying.
Choosing the appetizers can be as difficult as choosing the mains, but allowing yourself to be inspired comes naturally here, or you can also just trust the friendly staff with the daily recommendations. Open the dance with the emblematic Naxian salad, where juicy tomatoes, onions, green peppers and fresh cucumbers are accompanied by lettuce, “kritamo”, a rather rare herb found next to the sea, capers and a good dose of local “xinomizithra” cheese. Accompanied by a basket of various types of fresh bread and a selection of local cheeses, this could be an excellent summer meal on its own. Feeling more daring? Then why not try the Organic black lentils’ salad with grated carrot, smoked mackerel and a pomegranate dressing giving it a sweet, fresh touch.
If you dine with the company of many others, then you’re lucky as you can order and taste many of the delicious appetizers. Make sure you do try the Mytzithra cheese wrapped in crispy filo pastry and sprinkled with black sesame seeds and Greek honey, one of the best choices among first dishes. Cheese lovers should definitely try the two different cheese pies on the menu: one with fresh figs, the other with cherries, they are both such inspired flavour combinations and so tasteful! If you’re into pies – and who isn’t really! – keep an eye for the Tomato pie that regularly appears on the menu. Green tomatoes or Okra, both fried in extra virgin olive oil, are excellent choices too, with the yogurt sauce that accompanies the okra giving them a refreshing taste.
I could really recommend the whole list of appetizers that on a shared dinner table could cover all tastes, but you do have to try the mains and here you’re spoiled with choice too. And while meat is the protagonist, vegetable dishes are just as tempting and tasty. Stuffed courgettes with minced meat, Stuffed tomatoes – one of the classic Greek summer dishes-, Spicy okra with garlic and tomato and Falafel from organic chick peas with aubergine and two sauces aside, are only a few of them. And as Naxos is famous for its meat, you can expect nothing less than excellent quality and cooking with respect to tradition and a wink to creativity.
Thus, stuffed with local graviera cheese burger can be found in two versions, either with or without Syrian spices, Tash kebab comes in a tomato sauce rich in aromatic spices and basmati rice and Beef tongue is a perfectly cooked delicacy. The stars of the menu are the local Goat kid wrapped and roasted in baking paper with Greek herbs and cheese and the Naxian Rosto, a traditional pork dish served with golden, fried local potatoes. Sausages, chicken and rabbit too are there to make your choice even more difficult. And to give tradition an unexpected twist, the make the all-time favourite Moussaka with lamp mince meat and grated Naxian “arseniko” cheese. If you feel that being on an island you’d rather feast on fish, then rest assured that fish is always fresh here and comes from local fishermen. If fish is not available, seafood is a choice just as tasty, I strongly recommend a personal favourite, the Shrimps saganaki, oven baked in a heavenly rich but light tomato sauce with olives and Greek feta cheese. Pure delight.
At this point I would normally recommend leaving some space for one of the tasty, homemade desserts, like the Chocolate tart or the unusual Rose ice cream – or even better the two of them together! But, my tip is not to order a dessert before you ask if there’s a sweet treat on the house, instead of watermelon that usually comes at the end of your meal. If you’re lucky, you will be treated to a piece of homemade “ekmek” that Yannis’ mother, the 93-year-old lady to whom the restaurant owes its name, often prepares for the clients.
You see, Sophia and Yannis, who is head chef and his beautiful gastronomic adventure started in Canada, follow their cooking passion but aren’t the only ones who love to cook. Yannis’ mother still enjoys getting in the kitchen and us lucky funs and friends of Axiotissa, get to enjoy a whole family’s talent and passion for taste.