Trifylli (Gate 13)
Oinomageireio “Trifylli” is located at 7 Panathinaikou Street, just behind the west stand of the stadium of Panathinaikos football team in Alexandras Avenue (Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium). Oinomageirio is a cooking house where the traditional humble dishes served are washed down with wine kept in barrels inside the taverna. In the old days, the owners of the taverna would produce the wine themselves that they would later offer or sale to clients.
“Trifylli” is housed in two tile-roofed low-rise folk-houses sharing a small yard, a surprisingly pleasant setting, such a far cry from the surrounding omnipotent tall cement blocks of flats eliminating the notion of open space.
Although I am a fanatic fan of Olympiakos football team myself, during the 70s “Trifylli” (which means three-leaf clover, the emblem of Panathinaikos) was my favourite koutouki. Koutouki is a traditional basement-level taverna with walls usually covered with wine barrels where humble food is served.
The Greek cultural elite, actors from all over Greece, writers, film or theatre directors, almost the entire intelligentsia of the country, journalists and film critics but most of all, students would come to “Trifylli” for the pleasure of eating in a koutouki and drinking the famous retsina (wine flavoured with pine resin) that was kept in huge barrels.
Nevertheless, everyone would come here to tuck-in to the delicious fare served willingly by Nikolas; lachanodolmades, cabbage rolls stuffed with ground meat and rice served with egg-lemon sauce, the all famous Greek style meatballs of kyra-Koula, offal, cod with potato purée prepared with a generous quantity of garlic and, certainly, the succulent fried potatoes. Want to know where all this was cooked? You would be surprised; in just three frying pans over a small gas kitchen.
The history of this koutouki starts at the end of the 50s when kyra Koula (kyra, added always before the name of an old married woman, is a way to speak about, address or salute her with respect, an informal word) decides to boost her family’s budget. In an effort to supplement the lean income of her husband who worked as a truck driver, she would sell souvlaki outside Panathinaikos stadium on those Sundays when Panathinaikos would play its home games. In 1962, kyra Koula turned the garden with its waterwell next to her house to a tavern; the taverna served wine and a few mezedes (Greek appetizers).
Officers from “Averof” Prisons, located back then just across the street, and employees working at the Municipality of Athens, who would park the municipal vehicles a few meters down the road, would arrive here at noon. They were the only clients who could afford to eat meat. All the others, would eat legumes and fried cod.
Little by little, this small taverna became a legend and one of the most cherished haunts. Even though kyra-Koula is no longer with us, her children have kept this place open and are currently running one of the most authentic koutoukia in Athens.