Nestled in the hills in the centre of Rhodes and at the foot of the island’s highest mountain Attavyros, lies the small village of Apollona. Here, amongst the olive groves and hillside stone cottages, is the most valuable culinary treasure in the whole of Rhodes: the modest, unassuming village restaurant called Paraga Παράγκα.
The Crown Jewel of Rhodian Cuisine
One of the side effects of low-class mass tourism is the erosion of local cultures, local economy and especially local food. This has unfortunately been the case for Rhodes, and in the other major tourist destinations in Greece. These tourists have a certain fixed stereotype of Greek food and are not willing to accept local cuisines, local tastes and local practices. As a result, we have been served nothing but souvlaki day in day out. An attempt to find Rhodian cuisine proved futile in the major cities, because the owners may not be Rhodian or are generally not inclined to serve classic Rhodian fare to tourists, deeming it too rural or too unusual for them.
Fortunately, Rhodian cuisine is still well and alive in the villages, such as Apollona. And even with tourists moving inland, local restaurants like Paraga Εστιατόριο Παράγκα refuse to compromise.
First of all, the name ‘Paragka’ Παράγκα refers to a traditional Greek cabin. And this was what it is. The restaurant grew out of a ‘Paraka’ where locals met to dine together. When we were there, there was a huge table of local villagers eating and drinking with their village priest.
Secondly, all food cooked at Paraga Εστιατόριο Παράγκα is cooked in the ‘Tsoukali‘, which are traditional Aegean clay cooking pots. Although the form of these pots date from the Classical period, the name ‘Tsouka’ entered the Greek vocabulary in the 12th century most likely from the Venetian word for pumpkin ‘zucca‘. This makes a huge difference in the taste of the food, because contemporary metal pots and pans also influence the form, the taste and the way the food is being cooked in another way.
What I liked at Paraga Εστιατόριο Παράγκα
Authentic Rhodian cuisine is so flavoursome, so hearty, so surprising. I threw away all my preconceptions about certain combinations of tastes, about the look and form of Greek food, and was staring at wonderfully beautiful creations based on the land, the climate and eco-system. All the dishes were incredibly delicious and tasted so natural.
Dolmadakia Γεμιστά με ντολμαδάκια
The dolmadakia (rice and herbs wrapped in vine leaves) were the best I have had. This is the one dish where you need to use locally produced products, such as the fresh vine leaves and herbs.
Chickpea fritters Κεφτέδες ρεβυθιού με κολοκάσι πουρέ & σάλτσα με μανιτάρια
Pitaroudia is the national dish of Rhodes. Compared to other forms of it in the rest of Greece, Rhodian pitaroudia are plump and mushy. At Paraga Εστιατόριο Παράγκα, you will finally get to taste this dish and understand why it is so famous. Apart from chickpeas, local taro root and mushrooms were added to the mix.
Anthotyros Pie Ανθότυρο σε φύλλο με γλυκό σταφύλι
Anthotyros is a traditional goat and sheep cheese, and it is also produced here in the villages of Rhodes. In this dish, the anthotyros cheese is wrapped in a layered pastry and baked in a wood oven until crispy, then served doused in a grape chutney following the chef’s Grandma’s recipe. Again, this is not a dish you see served in the tourist spots of Rhodes, and is very much part of the traditional Rhodian cuisine.
The baked savoury anthotyros cheese with local herbs, inside the crispy skin of the pastry covered in the sweet perfectly-made grape chutney – this was a winning combination.
Ofto Grilled Leg of Lamb Αρνί οφτό σιγοψημένο απέναντι από τα κάρβουνα
Grilled lamb is a signature Rhodian dish but compared to other places, the lamb is grilled facing, not on top of, the fire. In this way, the smoke does not get inside the meat, causing it to taste too smokey or too dry. The ofto lamb was so tender and so moist, all the taste was perfectly preserved in the meat. The outside was crispy as the fats on the exterior was transformed into a savoury crust by the fire. Another must-try at Paraga Εστιατόριο Παράγκα!
How to get to Paraga Εστιατόριο Παράγκα?
You can only get to Paraga Εστιατόριο Παράγκα by car. It is about one hour’s drive from the medieval city of Rhodes.
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Before you leave, check out my list of 12 tips on ravishing Rhodes for you, the Sophisticated Gentleman.