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Pizza In Zaros

Posted by yannis_s, 19 March 2009 · 3,428 views

It was the evening of Clean (Ash) Monday; my friends and I left the hotel with growling tummies and with a huge urge to taste an omelet with fries and rustic eggs, the ones that have that orangey color, not the washy yellow of the ones sold in supermarkets.

We are at the mountain village of Zaros, at the south feet of Psiloreitis. This is a village that – gastronomically - inclines you towards lamb chops, sausages, Cretan snails, loosely cut potatoes fried in olive oil and tasty salads, made of all possible grasses and herbs from the mountain.

We knew in advance where we could enjoy the rustic omelet we have been dreaming of, but when we arrived at the Veggera tavern, we saw that, to our great disappointment, it was closed.

Earlier, at noonish, there was a small chaos here: all tables were filled with starving visitors from Heraklion, who, after the meal, started playing flour war, yoghurt war, poke racing and egg racing; these games were invented by Vivi, the returned – from Athens- expat, owner of the tavern. These games are very common these last few years during Clean Monday and they tend to become something like a carnival custom in Zaros.


Egg races, who will manage to traverse a small distance, without dropping the egg from the spoon in his mouth

Trapshooting with yoghurt

It was, thus, expected that the tavern would be closed after the games. Vivi and her mum, Mrs. Irene, would first clean themselves from all the flour in their hair, the grime on their faces and the yoghurt on their clothes, take some rest and then start cleaning up the chaos that prevailed, both in and out of their tavern.

Since the dream for this omelet faded ingloriously, we started walking around the village looking for an alternative. Opposite from Vivi’s tavern, we saw a pizza house, open. But who feels like having a pizza in Zaros? It sounded absurd, as if saying let’s have ‘Sushi at Anogeia’!

We passed by it without paying much attention and kept looking for something traditional and suitable to this lovely Cretan village. Our research was far from successful, so our choices were rather limited: we either had to take the car and seek for a tavern at the nearby villages, or settle with the idea of pizza and pasta. Anyway, the pizza house opened where Vivi’s tavern used to be once upon a time, so the positive energy of her kitchen could have still remained intact.

Just the thought of driving for several kilometers without any secure result and success made us reject the first choice and cross the door sill of the pizza house, in distress. We sat, read the menu and we decided to order a vegetarian pizza with fresh tomato, olives, feta cheese, oregano and something else. We added ham, of course, because eating food with no meat in Zaros would be something like a sacrilege. We also ordered a large green salad and red rural wine and we were waiting to see what would come out from the wood-oven.

Pizza finally arrived and it didn’t look bad at all. The first bite was tasteful, the second made our sorrow for the missed omelet dissolve, and the third convinced us that we were not unlucky after all. We just discovered a pizza house, whose catered flavors could easily compete with the most famous pizza houses in Heraklion.

The evening became even better when we had a few words with the owner, Manos Papadogiannakis, who is the publisher of the local journal of Zaros. and who gave us useful information on his village. He responded to all our questions on Zaros eagerly, he told us stories about his neighborhood next to the Agia Kyriaki church, the most beautiful neighborhood in Zaros with the lovely old houses and their effort to preserve the local, traditional architectural style, excluding the foreign elements.

Beautiful restored house in Zaros

He also informed us about the great job done by the Folkloric Museum, and the 3rd competition of Cretan Cuisine that will take place on the 26th-27th of April in Zaros – where many countries from the Mediterranean will participate as well. He gave us also information on the tribute to the traditional professions of Crete.

Little later we said goodbye to Manos, after subscribing to his journal, and we returned to our hotel, happy for our little discovery. It’s good to remember occasionally that the prejudices and stereotypes limit our choices and keep us trammeled, while there are so many nice surprises around us.

Are we going again for pizza in Zaros? You bet we will!

June 2020

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