Palios (Old) Vourboulos is one of the oldest settlements on the island. Small and untouched by time, with yposkafa (semi-underground dwellings) and traditional farmhouses, it lies alongside the newer village and has a view to the east, in other words from the opposite side of the caldera. This humble village is home to one of the most well-known – to visiting connoisseurs and locals alike – tavernas on Santorini.
Roza’s Taverna is not much to look at. Both its interior and covered verandah are small; its kitchen minute. But it’s worth going just to be greeted by Roza in the kitchen and her daughter, Maro, in the dining area, who have the warmest smiles on the island. Another reason is that you’ll be eating their home-grown produce. Kyr-Antonis Damigos, Roza’s husband, has a garden, where he cultivates small tomatoes, aubergines, fava, katsounia and also makes Chloro, the local fresh cheese, and wine. As if this were not enough, he is also a fisherman and a hunter.
The taverna’s specialities are island classics, like tomato fritters, fava, Santorini salad with sun-dried capers, moussaka with white aubergines, but they also include other favourites, such as stuffed vine leaves, spaghetti with garlic sauce, baked cumin-scented soutzoukakia (Smyrna sausages), and the vegetables of the day stewed with olive oil, onions and tomatoes. That said, Roza’s ‘pièces de resistance’ are rabbit stewed with pearl onions or with wine, salmi of wild boar and pilaf with thrush, while there is always an array of fish or meat cooked to perfection on the grill.
Roza was only 20 when she married Antonis, who was a sailor at the time. But she lured him away from the sea with plans for the ‘tavernaki’. Fortunately, for not long afterwards, Antoni’s ship sank. She has been cooking her splendid dishes with the same freshness and enthusiasm since 1983.
As she told us, ‘It’s our own Greek cooking that attracts me, I never got involved with foreign recipes. In the beginning my mother in law helped, and my daughters, Maro and Rambelia [an unusual name common to Santorini], grew up in the kitchen’.
If you want to find out what Santorini cooking really tastes like, and to see a truly genuine ‘slice of life’, then without question your first stop should be Roza’s Taverna at Vourboulos.