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14 historic confectioneries that are a reason to travel around Greece

By Nikoleta Makrionitou

For all of us Gastronomos travelers, no mission is complete without a stop for something sweet at a local confectionery. We stick our pins on the map because you never know where you might crave some sweets. In this list, we’ve rounded up some of the classic and most traditional confectioneries all over Greece that are good reasons to deviate from your route. Confectioneries that have stood the test of time, maintaining consistently high quality and, beyond their cult element and charming patina, are also contemporary, making desserts that suit modern palates.

Papagiorgis Patisserie in Corfu: Pasta frolla and mandolato

The Papagiorgis pastry shop, one of the best on the island, was founded in 1924. [Alexandros Avramidis]

On Nikiforou Theotoki street, in the old town of Corfu, you will find the finest pasta frolla (as the island’s Italian-influenced pasta flora is called) with quince jam and a variety of fruit conditas. The Papagiorgis pastry shop, one of the best on the island, was founded in 1924. They are famous for their kumquat sweets, handmade fig pies, mandola (almond sweets) and mandolata (soft nougat), but also for their robust fogatsa, which is Corfiot leavened tsoureki, full-bodied, with a spicy aroma of cognac, fine local butter and a fragrant bergamot peel. When the local wild strawberries, like small, expensive jewels, are in season, Papagiorgis Patisserie also offers mille-feuille with limited-edition strawberry jam. Of great interest is the mostarda dolce, the famous sweet fruit mustard of northern Italy, a fascinating, sweet and spicy mustard and a rare treat not to be missed – it’s great with grilled meats, on a charcuterie board or in a sandwich with cheese and cold cuts.

32 Nikiforou Theotoki, Corfu, tel

Moniodis Confectionery in Chios: For mastichakia and mandarinakia

The family’s sweets have traveled to the other side of the world. [Michalis Pappas]

The Moniodis family has a long history in confectionery, going back to a family of confectioners who have been creating sweets since the beginning of the last century. Their confectionery is famous on the island, not only for the crispy and fragrant Chian masouraki and the special local almond sweets that are still a hit today. The family’s sweets have traveled to the other side of the world, and the truth of this can be confirmed by anyone who boards a ship or plane from Chios and observes the passengers loaded with stacks of Moniodis boxes. Among their delicacies are mandarinakia, wonderful raw almond sweets made with fresh Chios mandarins, the scent of which tickles your nose. They also make roasted almond sweets like ergolavi, the Greek version of a macaroon, mastichakia, almond sweets made with the aroma of the local mastic, in the shape of small pears, marzipan rolls filled with butter cream, and two kinds of masourakia. The latter are a traditional sweet of Chios, like small baklava rolls without syrup, made with almonds and cinnamon, wrapped in a crust and sprinkled with icing sugar. Some people prefer the classic version, others the one with caramelized almonds and mastic. For me, since I don’t like dilemmas, I choose both. They also make good varkakia, as the locals call the Smyrnian rolls, revani, sweet walnut cake, pyramids, which are chocolate cakes with boiled cream, and excellent syrupy pastries with phyllo, such as baklava, galaktoboureko wrapped in amazing butter cream, hanumaki, which is like fluffy baklava, and a beautiful kantaifi. Exclusive to them are the kalamarakia, which are also individual syrupy sweets, with their own puff pastry and filling of coarsely ground almonds.

26 Voupalou, Chios, tel

Athymaritis in Syros: A sweet tradition handed down from generation to generation

The famous rodinia marzipan rolls of Syros. [Effie Paroutsa]

Syros has a cosmopolitan aura. This is due to the multiculturalism that characterizes it. This place was inhabited by people from Chios, Smyrna, Psara and Crete, and the influences of the Venetian, Turkish and Frankish conquerors are imprinted in the DNA of its cuisine. The tradition of loukoumi and halvadopita goes back a long way, since the first refugees from Chios arrived after the Chios massacre in 1824. Similarly, with the passage of time, local confectioners created sweets that are now considered traditional. These include the stuffed marzipan roll and the mastichaki, which was first introduced to the island by Markos Athymaritis. The confectionery of the same name was founded in 1924 by Haralambos Makropoulos, a caramel maker from Asia Minor, who crossed the Aegean Sea from Smyrna to Syros. Since then, the confectionery has been handed down from generation to generation and is a family business with the head confectioner Spyros Xagoraris, Athymaritis’ grandson, holding the reins since 1987. Their most famous dessert is the syrupy mastichaki, an almond sweet in a crust sprinkled with icing sugar, as well as the chocolate kouvanezes with chocolate cream and cherry filling, the almond sweets with orange, the skaltsounia with walnuts and thyme honey, the trigusto with almond paste, praline, cherry and milk chocolate. Their specialties are the marzipan rolls, a fluffy cold treat filled with thick buttercream, and the sfoliatsa, which is a kind of Copenhagen (a baklava-like dessert). Upon request, they will make the traditional sweet, versatile cheese pie with tsoureki dough, a classic dessert traditionally served on the island at Easter.

Keas 2, Ermoupoli, Syros, tel 22810.82.261

At Vieneza in Lesvos for Baklavou

Baklavou is the traditional wedding dessert in Lesvos. According to custom, the bride sends it to the groom’s family in order to “sweeten up” her mother-in-law to get her blessing. But baklavou is also a good gift when you owe someone a favor: In such cases you offer someone either a big, good fish or a big box with 2-3 kilos of baklavou. It’s one of many variations of baklava, but this sublime version has a special kick, as it’s tall and stout, consisting of at least 10 layers of phyllo and a lavish filling of ground almonds. I haven’t tried all the island’s variations of baklavou, but I can say with confidence that the Vieneza pastry shop uses an amazing recipe to make some of the best baklava in the country. Since 1981, when Vassilis and Maritsa Charalampi opened the confectionery, their recipe has remained the same: small “fyrania” almonds from Limnos or Kavala, peeled by hand, local bitter almonds, pure sheep’s butter from the town of Mantamados, and handmade phyllo from Crete, in 10 layers, with the bottom layer containing the most almonds, so that the baklava has a solid foundation. “And even if it is left out for two months, it tastes even better, the ingredients blend together,” say the owners, although I can’t confirm this, because in our house the baklavou never lasts for more than two hours. They also make delicious Copenhagen (a baklava-like dessert), gemata (the traditional almond sweet served at weddings in Mytilene), mille-feuille, almond paste and vanilla ice cream made with local eggs and sheep’s milk from Mantamados.

Akrotiri, Varia, Mytilene, tel 22510.29.308

Kypseli in Volos: Rice pudding and warm cream

At Kypseli in Volos, milk has been going in and dairy products have been coming out for 60 years. [Nikos Kokkas]

This is where we came to experience the fond memory of dairy sweets from our childhood and the retro flavors we always long for. At Kypseli in Volos, milk has been going in and dairy products have been coming out for 60 years. Traditional yogurts, rice pudding, galaktoboureka and cream custards are displayed prominently in their old-fashioned windows, in front of which the people of Volos stand in line. The sheep’s milk used to make the handmade yogurt is supplied by local farmers with free-range animals. The cow’s milk is sourced from the town of Kilkis. They have kept the recipes for the delicate rice pudding and the tasty cream custard – even better when served warm – unchanged from the original recipes. The new owners have added to the menu baklava, a classic galaktoboureko, galaktoboureko rolls, and mastic-scented samali, all finger-licking good. Their sheep’s milk ice cream is a hit in the summer, and some of their bestsellers are their revani, Farsala halva, and kourabiedes with plenty of fresh sheep’s milk butter.

96 2as Noemvriou, Volos, tel 24210.24.677 

Chochliourou’s revani in Veria

With its unique style and oriental baroque elements, the Chochliourou confectionery makes only one sweet. [Perikles Merakos]

This long-standing sweet shop is located in central Agios Antonios Square in Veria. With its unique style and oriental baroque elements, the Chochliourou confectionery makes only one sweet, but it has been doing it well and with experience for many, many years, since 1886, when it was originally founded as a dairy shop by the Verian Giorgos Chochliourou, who fought during the Macedonian Struggle. We are talking about the “national” dessert of Veria and about the age-old shop where endless queues form during peak hours and days. The urban legend even says that the first place where revani was made was at Chochliourou, and from there it established itself as the traditional sweet of the city, while the reputation of the shop spread, especially in the 1960s. The syrupy revani has a slight acidity from the local strained yogurt in the recipe, which balances the sweetness. Baked thin and dry in aluminum pans, with a rosy crust and a deep yellow, spongy interior, dripping with syrup, not flavored with anything at all, it’s a Doric dessert with an unforgettable taste. It is sold by the kilo, cut into individual pieces and wrapped in the paper with the retro green printed logo. Whether you like it or not, this is the authentic Verian revani, a good dessert without frills.

Agios Antonios Square, Veria, tel 23310.22.737

Elenidis x2 in Thessaloniki

The best and verified Greek Panorama trigona, triangular phyllo pastries with custard, have one name but two different addresses. [Evelyn Foskolou]

After blind tastings conducted by our team, sampling over 15 different trigona (triangles) in Thessaloniki, we can honestly say that the best and verified Greek Panorama trigona, triangular phyllo pastries with custard, have one name but two different addresses. The name is Elenidis, and it is virtually synonymous with the famous triangular and syrupy sweets of Thessaloniki, which have been making a name for themselves since 1960. The Elenidis pastry shops are two different branches of the same family that started out in the Thessaloniki area of Panorama and made the triangle sweet synonymous with the area. At Trigona Elenidis with the red box with white lettering and at C. Elenidis with the white box with red lettering, they know the winning recipe inside out and the triangles consist of perfectly syrupy, crispy, buttered handmade crust and buttery, soft and delicious custard cream. Of course, the fine Macedonian milk, fresh local eggs and handmade crust from a traditional workshop made exclusively for the confectionery also play their part. Before you leave the shop with the sweet triangles, ask for a second small box of baklava – each shop makes it differently, but both are delicious.

Trigona Elenidis (central store), 12 Venizelou, Dimarchiou Square, Panorama, Thessaloniki, tel 2310.344.948
C. Elenidis (central store), 69 Komninon, Panorama, Thessaloniki, tel 2310.341.531

Τheodorou on Sifnos: The most delicate almond sweets

In a small street of Artemonas on Sifnos we find the old confectionery, which reminds us of a traditional island house. [Effie Paroutsa]

How many times have these azure windows been opened, how many times has this telephone rung, how many boxes of almond sweets have been filled, how many people have entered, left and re-entered, dreamed and longed for the most delicious almond sweets of the Aegean? Synonymous with the almond sweets of Theodorou, after so many decades, Sifnos has a century-old confectionery in Artemonas. The Theodorou family, which has managed to keep it going for years, makes the almond paste in a clean, traditional Cycladic salon. Completely “Instagrammable,” the beautiful space, which retains its patina, has been photographed almost as many times as the delicate almond sweets that the same family has been making since the 1930s. The recommendation is to order one of everything, as they make almond sweets in three versions. Almond sweets made in pots and oven-baked almond sweets, with and without their skins. A must-try is a package of heavenly kourabiedes with no powdered sugar but lots of almonds, and even the rose-flavored submarine sweet – ypovrichio – sesame sweets with local honey, and amazing almond-filled boureki.

Artemonas, Sifnos, tel 22840.31.370

Papaparaskevas in Xanthi: Famous kariokes and more

Synonymous with the name Papaparaskevas, the chocolate candy is made from scratch, as are all their other sweets, with the finest ingredients and elaborate techniques. [Konstantinos Tsakalidis]

The most famous kariokes in the country are made in a large, perfectly organized 1,200-square meter workshop in Petrochori, Xanthi, with a staff of about 45 people. Synonymous with the name Papaparaskevas, the chocolate candy is made from scratch, as are all their other sweets, with the finest ingredients and elaborate techniques. Even the butter is made in-house, the icing is handmade, the nuts are cracked on site, the praline is prepared in-house, and the dough for the syrupy pastries is rolled out by hand. Giorgos Arsenis, the master pastry chef and one of the owners, took the baton of the family business, faithfully following the teachings of the founder of the confectionery, Giorgos Papaparaskevas, who opened his cafe-confectionery in Xanthi in 1926. According to his heirs, he went to Athens to find his chocolate supplier and to see how it was made. Once inside the factory, he asked to have a taste, and by adding and subtracting ingredients, made a blend of chocolate just the way he wanted it. To this day, the same chocolate factory uses the same recipe to make the dark and milk chocolate that it sends exclusively to Papaparaskevas. Sur mesure chocolate! They use this chocolate to make the famous kariokes and the popular crispy wafer rolls. They also make excellent saragli wrapped in paper as individual sweets, handmade isli cookies, buttery kourabiedes and more.

186 28is Oktovriou, Xanthi, tel 25410.22.677

Lygizos, Tziotis, Zairis, Laskaris and Kallivrousis on Andros

Andros, like no other place, became associated with the modern art of confectionery.

If you ask someone from Andros to choose a pastry shop on their island, it’s like asking them to make a Sophie’s choice. The pastry heritage of Ioannis Athineos, who was born in 1870 in the beautiful village of Lamyra on Andros, studied the art of pastry in Alexandria and founded the famous Patisserie Athineos, which still exists today. It was passed on to the equally great Andrian pastry chef Dimitris Galanos, and from him it spread all over the island. In this way, Andros, like no other place, became associated with the modern art of confectionery, so that in the small streets of the Hora and around it, other artisans appeared, excellent confectioners who continue the inherited tradition of Athineos. Zairis, Tziotis, Laskaris, Lygizos and Kallivrousis are the local confectioners who work with Western recipes, whipping up thick meringues, puff pastries, rich buttery creams and light sponge cakes. They make pastitsakia, small cookies with a chewy macaroon-like texture, nougatines with almond cookies and rich cream, soumada, a traditional sweet drink made of sweet and bitter almonds, and of course the island’s classic almond sweets, sesame sweets and kalitsounia, the island’s Lenten dessert. On Andros, it is customary to serve kourabiedes all year round, not just at Christmas as in most of the rest of Greece. They make them buttery and sprinkle them with powdered sugar according to the classic recipe, and they also add plenty of crunchy almonds. The first thing Andrians do when they arrive on the island is to visit the pastry shops to stock up: They go to Lygizos’ for the famous mille-feuilles of the Athineos school, Tziotis for the best kalitsounia and the chewiest pastitsakia, Zairis for their famous nougatina bites, Kallivrousis for their famous chocolate cake, and Laskaris for the perfect kourabiedes. Rare spoon sweets can be found here made with pampiloni (a very large, seasonal citrus fruit) and the bitter orange blossom or lemon blossom and other citrus fruits.

Tziotis, Ormos Korthiou, tel 22820.61.125
Lygizos, Hora, tel 22820.24.380
Zairis, Messaria, tel 22820.22.926
Kallivrousis, Provincial Road Andros – Gavrio Port Andros, tel 22820.24.432
Laskaris, Hora, tel 22820.22.305

This article originally appeared in Gastronomos, Kathimerini’s monthly food magazine.