THERE is no doubt in the picturesque Alonissian universe that ‘Tassia’s Cooking’ in the tiny, fairytale-like fishing village of Steni Vala, serves the most memorable food. It is no secret, either, as day tours take tourists there for lunch daily, but at night it has a magic about it that the large groups popping over to Alonissos from a nearby island such as Skopelos usually miss out on. an ageless classic, the taverna is as good today as it was 15 years ago, and unsurprisingly has developed a fan base made up of gourmet foodies and diners with the simplest of demands alike.
Head to Steni Vala at the start of what photographers call glow-time just after sunset and as you approach along the downward curvy road, stop to take in a view of the village from above: the glittering sea, dim little lights that announce the loud brightness of the day has been replaced by evening calm, and uncontrolled lush greenery where sturdy little fishing boats and tall slender sailboats huddle together in the marina.
At Steni Vala you will find nothing but three tavernas and a café, as well as some basic but quaint rooms to rent. We hit the culinary jackpot there by following the travellers wisdom that when in doubt, you should always choose to the restaurant where you see the most locals, although many foreigners also step off their sail-boats in low-key VIP style to relish in the restaurant’s fare.
The menu is simple but scrumptious, made up of some ‘home cooked’ ladero dishes, freshly caught seafood and fish, tangy and creamy local goat’s cheese, and crunchy salad made solely of kritamo – a rarity anywhere in Greece, as kritamo usually calls for risqué acrobatic techniques to gather as it grows on the craggy edges of rocks that tower over the sea and feeds chiefly off the salt and iodine rich sea air, hence its awesome flavour.
Although lobster is the island’s trademark seafood, the main attraction at Tassia’s was the succulent and very tasty crayfish pasta (karavidomakaronada) which even by my tough raised-in-Rome pasta al dente standards was cooked to perfection, and exactly as teasingly spicy as we indulgently requested. We did also try the “famous” lobster pasta (a neo-Greek obsession and never priced below a biting 60 euros on islands & mainland alike) and although tasty it paled in comparison.
The service at Tassia’s was friendly, while the décor is basic and unpretentious but also warmly welcoming and simply traditional, with the large veranda bedecked by a multitude of proud local plants like gardenia, jasmine and basil, the joyous fragrances of which waft through the air mixed with the ozone of the sea as you smile into your chilled hima house wine.