Corfu`s cuisine is inextricably tied in with its history and this is what makes the food here so different from the rest of Greece. The Venetian domination influenced the way of life in the island. and the local cuisine was influenced to a great degree as well. Today, Corfu`s cuisine, maintains Venetian delicacies in combination with the Mediterranean diet. Corfu is famous for many, unique, delicious dishes, which are a great combination of Mediterranean cuisine (olive oil, pastas, vegetables, meat) and Venetian cuisine, cooked with local spicy recipes.

Another feature of dining on Corfu is its international nature. The vast numbers of tourists have created a range of restaurants to cater for them, including Italian, Chinese, British, French and Indian. Most of the chefs are Greek or British, and as adept at producing a chicken vindaloo as a plate of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

Eating out anywhere in Corfu is both pleasurable and relaxing. All over the island you will find tavernas, grills and smart restaurants offering a huge variety of wonderful dishes ranging from traditional, homemade Greek food to a la carte menus. In some resorts you will come across Italian Pizzerias, Chinese restaurants, even the occasional Mexican. During the hot summer months eating is enjoyed al fresco, in many places overlooking the sea or with superb mountain views.

If you hire a car it is well worth heading up into the hills as you will find so many little tavernas hidden away in mountain villages. These places have freshly cooked, homemade dishes which often change from day to day, depending what they decide to prepare. If you are looking for fresh fish, many restaurants will offer this but you may have to ask what`s available. Quite often, the restaurant owner himself will have been out fishing in the morning and he will be able to tell you what type of fish is on offer.

Traditional Dishes from Corfu

This is a famous Corfiot specialty and one of the favorites. Traditionally made with cockerel but often made with chicken or beef. Cooked casserole style, in a rich tomato sauce. Served with pasta. Well worth trying.
Stuffed tomatoes, peppers, aubergines or courgettes. Good for vegetarians but check before ordering because some restaurants stuff them with minced beef.
Delicious layers of mincemeat and pasta in a rich tomato sauce, topped with béchamel sauce and baked in the oven.
One of Corfu`s classic dishes. Thin slices of tender beef stewed with wine, vinegar, olive oil, garlic and a big bunch of parsley thrown in. Often served with rice. Delicious!
Traditionally made with rabbit but occasionally made with beef. A rich sauce made with shallots, tomatoes, red wine, olive oil, garlic, bay leaves and some nutmeg and cinnamon.
Fish Soup
A very tasty soup made with different types of fish. The vegetables, such as onions, carrots, leeks, courgettes and celery are cooked first and then the fish is added towards the end. Occasionally, the fish is taken out when ready and rice is boiled in the soup to make it lovely and thick.
If you love fish you must try Corfu`s famous fish stew. Usually, Scorpion Fish is used for this dish. Garlic, paprika and cayenne make for a fiery red sauce.
Made with tender chunks of beef and baked in the oven with tiny pieces of pasta, called kritharaki. Can be served up in an instant and is a big favorite with children.

Olives and Olive Oil

It is estimated that there are around 3.5 million olive trees over the island. The olive season lasts from the beginning of November, and carries on into spring. Fallen olives were once painstakingly collected by hand but nowadays nets are laid out beneath the trees and the fruit is left to fall onto them.

From around late September onwards, bushes and undergrowth around the trees is cut back and prepared for the nets to be laid. Travelling around Corfu you will probably see these nets, usually black ones, rolled up beneath the trees in readiness. These nets are laid out across the ground, however hilly or rocky, and cleverly knitted together using wooden skewers until the entire olive grove is covered.

The Corfiot olive is generally used to produce oil, rather than for eating the fruit whole, and it is an essential and delicious part of the Greek diet. Not only is it drizzled over salads and used to make other delicious dishes, many people simply pour some oil onto a plate, cut some fresh bread and maybe a chunk of feta cheese, and enjoy a simple, healthy snack this way. Once upon a time the locals had to rely on the olives as a means of making money, whereas now, with the majority of people working in the tourist industry, many families pick their own olives purely for their own use. Olive trees flower during May and anyone that suffers from hayfever should come prepared.

Wine, Retsina and Ouzo

People here are passionate about making their own wine and you will often hear them comparing tastes and colours. There are many types of grape grown here, Greece itself boasts around 250 different varieties. In many tavernas you will be able to try homemade wine as the owner will probably have his own supply, bottled and even labeled.
A type of wine made from pine resin. It is most commonly drunk on its own but often people will add lemonade (Sprite) to sweeten it a little. It is an acquired taste to most visitors to Greece but some say it acts as a splendid anti-agent to the comparative oiliness of some of the food and once you`ve got used to it, you will find it hard to resist another glass.
The drink most associated with Greece is Ouzo. It is a clear, aniseed-flavored spirit made from grapes and it turns a cloudy color when water is added. It is drunk in many ways and most Greeks will drink it on its own with a couple of cubes of ice or with a splash of water added. Many people new to this drink will drink it with lemonade added. In many cafes and traditional tavernas you may notice the Greeks will enjoy their Ouzo with a small `meze`. This is a small plate with a selection of `nibbles` that can range from olives with pieces of feta cheese, to slices of salami, sausage and even chips. In most establishments you can ask for a meze with any drink. An extremely enjoyable way to enjoy your lunchtime tipple

Greek Coffee and The Kafenion

Greek Coffee
Greek coffee is in fact a leftover from the centuries long Turkish influence. This thick liquid is served in very small cups and usually it will be accompanied by a glass of cold water. The three most common ways of serving Greek coffee are `sketo` (no sugar), `metrio` (medium) and `glyko` (sweet). The bitter sediment at the bottom is not to be drunk, a mistake made by many newcomers to the drink!

It is also worth trying iced Frappe coffee, served in a long glass, sweetened or unsweetened. Very refreshing during the summer months and very popular with locals and tourists alike.

The Kafenion
In most of the villages, around the town and along the winding mountain roads you will often come across little cafes, called Kafenion. This is where the locals meet, morning, noon and night to gossip about all the latest news of the day. Often, you will hear what appears to be heated arguments, usually about politics and sometimes about local village gossip but usually it is friendly, if not noisy banter. Traditionally, it was the men who frequented these places. The women were not banned from the kafenion but it was uncommon for them to be there, usually they were at home cooking the family meal and looking after the home.

Kafenions can be found all over the island and nowadays, during the summer, you will often find many tourists, men and women alike, enjoying beer, ouzo, retsina and Greek coffee at these establishments. Visitors are always made very welcome and the locals will often try to make conversation, despite the language barrier. Up in the mountain areas, where people are not so much in a rush you will often find someone ready to tell you all about the place and its past. Many of the stories are very interesting.

Greek Restaurants or Tavernas?

There are several types of Greek eating establishments. Best known is the taverna, a casual place where it is usual for the diner to wander into the kitchen to see what`s cooking, rather than to order from the menu: not all the menu`s dishes are necessarily available, while the kitchen might conceal some daily specials. Another feature is the paper or plastic tablecloths which are changed after each meal, and the little tumblers which serve as wine glasses. If all the tables are occupied when you arrive, simply wait: another table will probably be produced from somewhere and set out for you. Greek tavernas are surprisingly expandable.

A restaurant (estiatório) is more upmarket: you should find a proper wine glass on the table, a linen tablecloth and a surprised expression if you try wander into the kitchen. Restaurants are more likely to take reservations, whereas at a taverna you generally turn up and take pot luck. In addition to regular tavernas and restaurants, there are places serving only fish (psária), and grills (psistariés), where the menu is generally limited to freshly grilled meats, chops or kebabs, and sometimes fish.

The most accomplished of the waterside tavernas here, Fagopoteion has an enviable reputation for its traditional recipes, fresh wild fish caught around the Diapóndia islets and fair prices given a location in the heart of posh `Kensington-on-Sea`. Signature dishes include fluffy, non-greasy three-cheese saganáki, chunky tzatzíki, succulent, pork-based bekrí mezé, baby squid (gónos kalamaráki) or crispy atherína (sand smelt) in late spring, rabbit stew, chard-based tsigarélli (versus the usual wild greens) and melt-in-the-mouth octopus (proprietor Khristos` secret is blanching prior to grilling). Probably orange cake on the house for dessert.

Boukari Beach
Cult seafood taverna at this tiny hamlet on the south-east coast, with squirming fresh scaly fish, tender kalamári, octopus bourdéto and steamed mussels at very competitive prices. Rosé or white wine by the kilo is highly quaffable. The friendly managing family keeps accommodation nearby if you can`t tear yourself away.

The place for fish near Corfu town, with an outside terrace looking towards Gouviá marina and its giant boat-slip. Reasonable portions for starters like rocket-parmesan or rocket-black caviar salad, with fish like the bass-like mylokópi (ombrine) skillfully butterflied (petáli in Greek) on request. Only letdown: bulk wine is so-so, so get beer, oúzo, tsípouro or bottled wine instead.

Klimataria tou Bellou
Inconspicuously signposted seafood taverna known for its wild, fresh (not farmed or frozen) fare, and attentive service from father-and-son team Nikos and Kostas Bellos. Some unusual dishes include sardine bourdéto; starters like leek salad and super-fresh steamed mussels are recommendable too, as is the bulk white wine from Neméa. Leave room for Lilly`s homemade puds like cheesecake with bramble or apricot jam topping. Blink and you`ll miss the handful of tables outside this tottering four-storey townhouse (there`s a bit more seating inside)

This beachfront taverna, going for 36 years now, prides itself on sourcing local, fresh seafood like baby kalamári, large prawns, perfectly fried koutsomoúra and naturally coloured (not pink) taramosaláta; farmed mussels from northern Greece are a departure from the pattern. Fresh springtime artichokes are fricaseed in a white sauce with parsley and celery. During winter they set up shop in Pátra on the mainland, presumably with similar proper table nappery.

Bakalogatos (`the grocery cat` in Greek) relies on local products - including only Greek wine and microbrewery beer like Pils Hellas or Santorini - plus keen prices to draw crowds to its indoor/outdoor tables. The menu is mostly vegetarian/cheese starters like keratás (cheese-stuffed pointy green peppers) and pork-based recipes such as tiganiá; seafood has a mere token presence on the menu.

Aigokeros (Capricorn)
This is Paleá Períthia`s second oldest surviving kafenío-taverna, dating from about 1960. Today they`re ace for onion pie, hummus, tsigaréli (the classic Corfiot dish of sauteed, chilli-laced greens) and mounds of succulent lamb chops.

Another of the earliest tavernas established in formerly desolate Paleá Períthia, and still one of the best ( Rick Stein gave it his imprimatur in his `Mediterranean Escapes` TV series), but luckily that hasn`t gone to the proprietors` heads. The menu emphasizes grills, but you can have a very enjoyable mezédes-only meal, sausages, kremydópita (onion turnover), stuffed peppers, while downing tsípouro (clear grape-mash spirit) or bulk wine. Save room for karydópita (walnut cake) with ice cream.

Palia Perithia
Working (they claim) in some form since 1863, Alkinoos and Alexia`s (as it`s also known) proves a dab hand at dishes like non-oily briám (ratatouille), garlic-y eggplant salad, sautéed wild snails without the usual red sauce, and pansétta (spare ribs). Half-portions available; the bulk white wine is fine. The interior serves as a de facto museum of former village days.

Elizabeth`s has been going as a restaurant since the late 1940s, now in the hands of grand-daughter Elizabeth (though founder Granny Elizabeth still makes an occasional appearance). The fare is resolutely home-style: cockerel pastitsáda with big round noodles, wholesome peas with potatoes. Purplish bulk wine is rough and ready, as is the decor (primarily ancient bottles, some still full of who knows what, and a 1960s jukebox which sadly is beyond repair). Unusually on Corfu, a place that`s definitely more fun to eat at inside than at the limited outdoor tables.

Khrysomalis (aka Babis)
Classic casserole cookshop just in from the Listón arcades, where a local clientele descends for such home-style specialties as tzatzíki; angináres ala políta with fresh artichokes, not frozen hearts; stuffed cabbage leaves; hearty stews and lentil soup, washed down by a heavy but palatable local red wine. The Durrells ate here regularly during their sojourn, but it has existed longer than that.

Always packed with a young university crowd and their elders, who scoff little platters like mushroom croquettes, marinated Florina peppers and octopus vinaigrette accompanied by vials of tsípouro, the mainland-Greek clear spirit. Summer courtyard seating

The Old School
The former village primary school is now the go-to taverna on Kassiópi`s picturesque main port for seafood, especially octopus, gávros marinátos (marinated anchovies) and garlic-sauce mussels, preceded by superior renditions of taramosaláta and melitsanosaláta. Get a table right under the giant plane tree if possible. Local microbrewery products featured.