Let’s start this guide by stating the blatantly obvious – Corfu cuisines are scintillatingly delicious.
Corfu, much like the other Ionian Islands, is popular for its traditional foods, which are the result of the four-century long Venetian occupation. It boasts a combination of conventional and modern results in a wide variety of mouth-watering dishes, prepared using many different kinds of natural ingredients and flavors.
In this guide, we will explore some of the most famous Corfu dishes, alongside discussing the places where you can find these dishes. Before we start, let us warn you – if you are feeling hungry at this moment, reading this article might not be the best idea.
There are several different reasons for visiting Corfu, but food is one of the main ones. The Corfiot dishes stand out due to their Venetian influence and Mediterranean character. The combination of these two elements results in some of the most sumptuous dishes that you will ever try throughout your life.
Thanks to the Venetians, Corfu was introduced to foods and ingredients, such as tomatoes, chocolates, peppers, and corn. In fact, the Venetian influence is the main reason that many Corfu cuisines have Italian names.
The Most Popular Corfu Dishes:
A trademark in Corfu cuisine, the Pastitsada requires no introduction. The Pastitsada is more of a meat-cooking technique than a food, and was utilized during special occasions. Essentially, this technique involves cooking meat using garlic, onion, spices, oil, and even red wine. Once the meat is cooked, sugar, tomato paste, fresh tomatoes, laurels, nutmegs, and cinnamon are added to it. This meat is served with grated cheese and pasta.
Sofrito is yet another iconic Corfiot dish. The name of the dish clearly points towards its Italian background (In Italian, ‘so fritto’ translates to ‘lightly fried’ or ‘sauteed). Sofrito is prepared using thin, floured veal slices, which are fried using a pan. Once the veal is fried, it is cooked with a unique kind of sauce that contains vinegar, white wine, parsley, pepper, chopped garlic, and salt. Sofrito can be served alongside a variety of sides, with mashed potatoes and french fries being two of the most common.
Another meat cuisine on our list, the Stifado is prepared using beef pieces, which are cooked with pepper, salt, sage, rosemary, carrot, onion, and garlic. The dish is then cooked again, with olive oil, pork, and just a pinch of sugar.
Savoro is a kind of spicy sauce, and is believed to be a sailor’s favorite dish. The sauce is used across a number of Greek islands, and is often paired with fried fish. Savoro is based on olive oil of the highest quality, and contains ingredients, such as rosemary, garlic, raisins, laurel, and vinegar. If you are a seafood enthusiast, Savoro is a MUST try.
Another typical Corfu food, Bourdeto can be prepared using many different types of fishes (although the recipe and method will remain unchanged). The chosen fish is cooked in combination with lemon juice, red pepper, and onion, and the result is a unique but brilliant fish dish.
A vegetarian dish, the Tsigareli is one of the spiciest dishes that you will find throughout Corfu. Tsigareli is a staple in the island, owing to its immense simplicity, outstanding taste, and high nutritional value. The dish involves green, boiled leaves, which are cooked with hot pepper, garlic, onions, and salt.
Like we mentioned, Tsigareli, typically, is extremely spicy, which makes it a particularly desirable dish during the winters. The Corfu landscape and weather is ideal for growing a wide range of leafy green vegetables, and Tsigareli manages to fully leverage this advantage: the kind of leafy-green that you use for the dish will have absolutely no impact on its taste.
Another mainstream Corfu cuisine, the Stacophysy is derived from the popular English stock-fish. This fish is prepared with tomatoes and a little pinch of sugar, and is sautéed using red pepper and onions.
10) Bianco Fish:
As the name suggests, this is another fish-related cuisine, and is normally cooked using ingredients such as potatoes, lemon juice, onion, parsley, and garlic – all of which are combined in a pot. It is best to eat this dish with bread, as it allows for a perfect pairing with the fish broth.
Say hello to another fish dish (we are, after all, discussing one of the most famous islands throughout Greece). The Bourdeto recipe involves roasted onions combined with chili peppers and red peppers, and a tinge of lemon.
Even though the Bourdeto is red, the dish does not contain any tomatoes (the red chilli sauce is the reason for the hue). The Bourdeto is best prepared using fishes that reside more at the base of the sea (scorpions and bass, for example). However, make sure that the fishes are thoroughly cleaned and cooked whole (avoid cutting them into fillets or removing the bones).
Tzaletia are shredded and fried dough dumplings, containing cinnamon and sugar. They are fried using shallow pans, and, since they absorb relatively less oil, they are often used to make donuts. If you are a fan of desserts, keep in mind to try the Tzaletia out during your vacation to the island of Corfu.
We will wrap up the first section of this guide with a rare Corfiot cuisine. The Pastitsio Dolce is a Venetian remnant, and is hardly ever cooked, even within the Corfu locals. One of the most ‘extra’ cuisines you will ever encounter, this dish might well be termed a nutritionist’s worst nightmare. This dish involves cooked pieces of rooster, veal, pork, lamb, boiled eggs, sausages, local salami, and ham – all laying between a couple of dough layers. This is then smothered in grated cheese, ground pepper, tomato sauce, and…another dough layer.
If this is not enough, the dish contains yet another layer of grated cheese, pepper, and sauce. The result? A dish containing a festival of flavors, but also more than 5,000 calories in each serving. As such, the Pastitsio Dolce is not recommended for those with a (literally) weak heart or a high cholesterol level.
Key Ingredients in Corfu Cuisines:
While the above section might have given you a fair idea about the most common ingredients used in Corfiot foods, we thought of adding a brief section that will further explore some of those vital elements.
Although wine is a common feature in many global dishes, it hardly plays the kind of central role that it does in Corfiot main courses. In fact, it might not be wrong to say that pretty much every traditional Corfu cuisine revolves around wine of some sort.
The 16th century saw Corfu become an essential port along the Mediterranean-Venetian trading route. The importance of Corfu as a port can be judged by the fact that the Ottomans tried to capture the island (albeit, unsuccessfully) on more than one occasion.
Since Corfu offered a secure harbor, vessels often stopped here to restock supplies and take care of any repairs. As such, many Eastern spices were offloaded in Corfu, and became a vital component of the local cuisine. Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, and cloves have been part of Corfiot cuisines for several centuries, and continue to play a key role in the modern culinary tradition in the region, featuring in both sweet and savory foods.
Corfu’s sweet mustard has been influenced by the Venetian, as well as the British rule. This unique mustard is actually both spicy and sweet – the sweetness stems from the fruits, while the peppercorns and mustards are responsible for the spicy touch. Several recipes that involve the sweet mustard also contain sweet wine, cloves, and nutmeg. This mustard is extremely versatile, and can be used both in meats, and salad dressings.
Although Kumquats were not originated in the island of Corfu, they have gone on to become an essential part of its produce, ever since the start of the 20th century. Today, the Corfiot kumquats have a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), and are primarily cultivated in the northern part of the island.
While a significant portion of the kumquat crop is used to make liquor, the fruit can also be used to cook, say, baked cookies. Other than that, kumquat is also used for preparing syrups (which often go with Greek yogurts), meat glazes, sauces, desserts, and salad dressings. Besides food, kumquat also has a role in the production of perfumes, cosmetics, and toiletries. The name ‘Kumquat’ has Cantonese roots, and literally translates to ‘golden orange’ or ‘golden tangerine’.
Best Places to Enjoy Corfiot Cuisines:
Now that you have a fair idea of the most popular Corfiot foods and the main ingredients that they contain, it is likely that you simply cannot wait to give these dishes a try. But, of course, you cannot make that happen until you know the ‘where’ of these delightful foods.
However, like we promised at the start of this guide, we have got you covered in that regard as well. So, without further ado, let us get down to discussing some of the best restaurants throughout the Corfiot Island:
This restaurant, situated in Corfu town, is one of the island’s most legendary eateries. Rex is located right behind the Liston-paved avenue – in other words, right in the heart of the town. The restaurant was founded in 1932, and for almost the last century, has been beloved among the Corfiot population.
The food, of course, is nothing short of amazing, and offers a wide range of local specialties, including sofrito pastisada, and bourdeto. However, if you are in the mood to try something more modern, Rex, once again, has numerous options at your service, such as the salmon-pasta, ouzo-and-saffron squid and the delightful combination of kumquat sauce and chicken.
As far as sitting options go, we recommend taking one of the outside tables, as that will allow you to take in the local Corfu vibes while enjoying the local cuisines.
Another Corfu town restaurant, Rouvas, has been in existence since 1937. Much like Rex, it is one of the island’s most popular eating spots, and its exquisite food and welcoming environment has resulted in a large number of loyal customers, many of whom have been frequenting the restaurant for well over a decade.
Alongside serving many different kinds of Corfiot dishes, Rouvas also offers plenty of foods from all over the country – bianco fish, sofrito, fresh fish, Greek salad, pastitsio, gemista, and mousaka, to name a few of them. All in all, both the food and the ambience at Rouvas, will make you feel right at home.
A compact fish tavern, Klimataria is a relatively young restaurant, having been formed in 1997. This tavern was previously Nikos’s (the owner’s) family house, which means that the atmosphere at Klimataria is quite a unique one. Since the hotel is small, you would do well to make a prior reservation (you have our word – you will not regret it!). Klimataria offers many different kinds of seafood, along with, of course, the Corfiot specials. Their bourdeto, shrimps, and bianco fish are the dishes that you absolutely need to try out.
Last, but definitely not the least, this restaurant is renowned for offering some of the most delicious Greek foods throughout the country. In addition, its sea-side location means that the only thing competing with the brilliance of the dish will be the breathtakingly beautiful views. The Toula’s menu combines Corfiot, Fusion, and Mediterranean foods, specializing in seafood and fish dishes. The standout cuisines are the pasta-lobsters, shrimp mille-feuille, spicy shrimps, and, of course, their out-of-the-world cheesecake. Also, Toula offers some of the most terrific desserts you will find across the island, so do not forget to try a couple of those as well.
Located in the Spilia district, is the small eatery named Tavern of Marina which, owing to its exquisite cuisines and heartwarming service, is loved by both foreigners and locals. The owner, Marina, has a genuine, lovable, presence, which is bound to win you over right away. In addition, every morning, Marina makes sure to buy all the ingredients herself, which means that they are always fresh and at their best.
As far as cuisines go, Marina not only offers the classic Corfiot foods, but you can also enjoy the green mushroom salad, continental pies, and the cheese aubergines. Oh, and did we mention the mouth-watering sardine fillets?
Getting Around in Corfu:
There are a number of ways to get around in Corfu, with the bus and on-foot being the favorites for the locals. However, since you are reading this blog, we are assuming that you are a tourist or a potential tourist who wants to make the most of their time in Corfu. If this is the case, your best bet would be a car rental service like Royal.
Royal is one of the best car rental services throughout Greece, and offers unlimited mileage and comprehensive insurance. Some of the other benefits of opting for Royal car agency include:
To sum up, if you are a foodie, Corfu will prove to be nothing short of heaven for you. From meat to vegetables, the island has a wide range of unique but equally delicious dishes to offer. We hope that this guide, covering all of the most popular foods in Corfu, as well as the best restaurants to try those foods out, will prove to be a useful reference point for you.
If you are ready to visit Corfu, or are planning to do so, you will need a reliable, efficient, experienced, and informed car rental service to take care of your commute within the island-city – and, as we discussed earlier, Royal car rental service checks all of the boxes. If you want to learn more about Royal, or want an estimated quote based on your specific requirements, please feel free to reach out to us.