The story begins in 1987 when a teenage girl, Katerina Xekalou, the scion of a bourgeois family from Rethymno, while in Athens studying Political Sciences in Athens Law School, falls in love with an architect from Rethymno, and becomes mesmerized by a deserted residence standing in the old town of Rethymno, back when today’s top tourist attraction was just a desolate and uninhabited place. Katerina won all battles. She marries the architect Kostas Iliakis and within just one year she manages to renovate part of the residence and transform it into a restaurant.
This is how it all began. The restaurant was named Avli (which means courtyard in English), since this is what the place was in the beginning, just a courtyard.
Katerina shares her dream with us:
“At the beginning, only cooks and dishwashers staffed the restaurant. Very soon, we hired a kitchen brigade of French chefs; they were the ones who made all the difference. I knew nothing about cooking myself. However, my own childhood summers rolled seamlessly into a courtyard full of voices, laughter, games and life experiences; a large loving family of uncles, aunts, cousins, friends and visitors, sharing feelings, flavors, fragrances and dinners, under the watchful but so loving and tender gaze of my grandmother Penelope. What I wanted to do was to revive these feelings of love and care and share them with our guests in another courtyard, in our Avli”
In defiance of the obstacles met, the restaurant was a big success. Little by little, it expanded and currently occupies an entire building block of 500 m2, a maze of Venetian alleys.
Since the mid-90s, Avli has become synonymous of quality food in the town of Rethymno. Years went by; the old city of Rethymno has been restored and our young university student is now an important business woman, CEO in a complex of two restaurants, a wine cellar and a suites’ hotel.
Avli Restaurant offers a wide menu of tasty Cretan dishes, such as:
- Crispy cheese rolls with myzithra, spearmint, honey and sesame
- “Sfakiani pita” – cheese pie from Sfakia with xynomyzithra (sour myzithra), honey and walnuts
- Sfakiano – lamb cooked in its own juices, served with potatoes
- Sizouma – pasta cooked with meat broth topped with anthotyro cheese and green pepper
- Lamb stuffed with gruyere cheese and scented herbs, served with lemon roasted potatoes
Katerina, who is very fond of the Cretan creative cuisine, works often with young talented chefs allowing them to leave their mark on her “Avli”. Have a look on some of their marvelous creations:
- Pork tenderloin in white grape sauce
- Kadaifi eggplant with xynomyzithra (sour myzithra)
- Sole fillet in bitter almond sauce with caramelised finocchio and fresh mushrooms
- Beef liver with stamnagathi (a wild green with a bitter and sweet flavor and an exquisite aftertaste), carob bread bruschetta and roasted apaki (Cretan traditional smoked pork)
- Tenderloin with oven roasted mushrooms, fig paste and hazelnut.
Exquisite flavors, high level of aesthetics – attended to the smallest detail, an exemplary architectural restoration of the Venetian structures, young and polite personnel – happy to attend to the guests. What a magical ambiance! This is the fairytale of Avli, this is the fairytale of Katerina Xekalou.