Rare Eats: Lampinou Restaurant
Sometimes when we want a little change from the solitude of the house in Greece, the rare times when we don't feel like cooking, we head on the ancient stone footpath from the sea up the mountain to Lampinou town. The restaurant in the main square (simply called Lampinou Restaurant, as it's the only one) serves some typically Greek specialties as well as traditional, old-fashioned local dishes you might have a hard time finding elsewhere. I've already written about their hand-picked kritama leaves that, according to my Greek cookbook, are almost never harvested anymore in Greece. What you see here is a local, Pelion version of ratatouille. Large chunks of eggplant, red bell peppers and onions slow cooked in olive oil.
Voula is the chef and her husband, Dimitri is the maitre d' while their daughter, Dimitria, helps out by serving. As you sit out at gas lamp-lit tables on the large patio under the giant Sycamore tree, amidst a few tourists but mostly locals, you can get a sense of a particularities of the area. Things here are simple and unpretentious. The wine is good and nameless and the excellent food is served unadorned. The straight-forwardness of everything really gives you the sense that nobody's pulling the wool over your eyes.
What you see here is a very particular version of melitsanosalata. In Dimitri's home town, the workers in the firlds in summer used to fortify themselves with this eggplant salad that, aside from onion and red and green peppers contains a tremendous amount of garlic. The belief was that the garlic would help the workers get through their grueling day of tending the fields. Today the dish is served with crunchy country bread as a reminder of those times.