Greek Cooking at its core is all about simple, fresh ingredients. That’s why at Diporto in Athens, a bowl of beans, or pureed yellow split peas can be just as satisfying as a steak.
Dispatch from Diporto restaurant in Athens, Greece
We love visiting Diporto in Athens, Greece. The name of this subterranean restaurant means two doors. Simply, one to get in and one to go out. There’s no sign, so just look out for the doors and/or the people waiting for their chance to dive down into the dining den. It’s just adjacent to Varvakeios Market, the Central Municipal Market of Athens. This market is a must visit for any food lover. You’ll find fresh produce in the outdoor stalls. But heading into the market is the real adventure to explore all the fresh meats and fish. And after you’re inspired by everything there, head over for a tasty meal.
A basement culinary haven
Diporto’s semi-basement locale is lined with massive wine barrels. Chef/owner Mitsos’s tiny kitchen is at one end with only about 10-ish tables in the middle. Sometimes we sit at a table by ourselves, sometimes we get sat communally (at least before covid). It’s always a delight and an opportunity to experience traditional Greek dishes at their best.
Mr. Mitsos has been working there since he was a kid. The family who used to own it eventually sold it to him after the original owner passed away. Now he dishes out bowls of fasolada (bean soup), fava (pureed yellow split peas), revithia (brothy braised chickpeas), some stews, a salad or two, and sometimes small grilled fish. You don’t really order as much as the food is dropped in front of you. You may have a discussion, you likely will not. No matter what, your meals starts with a large portion of fresh bread, and always with retsina wine (do. not. decline. the. wine.). At the end, his food runner will either tell you how much you owe, or write it on the table.
Eating at Diporto is always like coming home. Has it changed at all since my first time there 20 years ago? Not so much. On this trip, I shook out my jet lag by diving into a Greek salad bursting with ripe red tomatoes, fresh crunchy cucumbers, oddly spicy peppers, and creamy briny feta cheese. This was my first tomato Greek tomato on this visit, and I really forget how good they taste until I savored my very first bite. We also devoured a simple fasolada, and fava (a puree traditionally made from yellow split peas fro Santorini). The papara — soaking up the juices of the salad or scraping up any sauce at the end of your dish is heaven on Earth.