Το Δελφινάκι (To Delfinaki) is a lovely family-run taverna located on the north-east side of Naxos in Lionas. If you are staying in Chora, or any of the other more popular parts of Naxos, it can be quite a drive to get to the small bay of Lionas, which is about 9.5km from the village of Koronos. I must say, though, that it is a very beautiful drive up there and it is definitely a great experience driving high up through the mountains of Naxos and only a tiny bit scary. Furthermore, despite its being located at quite a distance from more mainstream locations, To Delfinaki is definitely very popular amongst locals and tourists alike.
It is a very beautiful drive up there and it is definitely a great experience driving high up through the mountains of Naxos
I am not surprised about the taverna’s great reviews, really. Not only is the food amazing and wholesome, but the first thing you notice upon arrival is the incredibly warm welcome. While driving up to the little square the taverna is located on, the family was already standing on the steps infront of the restaurant happily waving and greeting us. Upon entering the restaurant, the owner welcomes you with a strong handshake and a smile while finding you a great place to sit. No matter how busy the place is, he always seems to find the time to have a little chat and show some true Greek hospitality.
However, he is not the only reason why the restaurant is doing so well. According to him, all the credit goes to his wife who prepares all the wonderful food at the back of the restaurant – you can have a little sneaky peak at all the food and preperation as the place has an amazing open kitchen. Indeed, this taverna has some amazing homecooked-style food on the menu. Not only do they serve fundamental Greek homecooking staples such as moussaka, pastitsio (though, not always on the same day) and κεφτεδάκια (meat balls), but they have some amazing salads, wines and fresh seafood as well – of course, you will be informed as to what is the fresh catch-of-the-day, of which you often have the choice of it being served either fried, or grilled.
The refreshing, crunchy vegetables in their simple (but amazing!) salads come straight from their own garden, while the soft myzithra cheese and wine are also homemade and/or local. I believe that there’s just that extra bit of love and care that goes into homemade and homegrown food that always makes these dishes taste just that much better. I dont think I need to explain any further exactly why this gives their food just this little something extra that other restaurants might not have. Inside the restaurant you also have the opportunity to buy some local fruit marmelades and the like.
The one dish I always love to order if they have it on that day is their stewed κατσικάκι (young goat), which consists of some chunks of the softest goat meat that slides straight of the bone stewed in a slightly sweet tomato-ey sauce on top of some potato fries, or pasta – don’t forget to suck the flavorful bone-marrow out of the bones!
I also had my first χταπόδι στιφάδο (octopus stew) at this place only a few years ago, so, whenever I come back there I always have to order this dish as well… for nostalgia’s sake, not for gluttony, I swear! I have to admit, that my own octopus stifado recipe is heavily influenced by the flavors I tasted at To Delfinaki that first time. The octopus is amazingly tender and the sauce is bursting with flavours coming from caramelized onions and a warming combination of spices such as all-spice berries, cloves and bayleaf.
Of course, you can order some of these amazing dishes straight off the menu, but dishes may vary a little upon each visit. Definitely ask what kind of special they have for that day, as the extremely kind people working at the restaurant will always make sure they offer you the best and the freshest produce of that day. Very often, though, you do not even have to ask what is the best dish that day, as they will proudly tell you while presenting the menu.
To Delfinaki is definitely worth the little roadtrip unless you’re not into some of the best hospitality on the island and homecooked meals prepared with the freshest ingredients and lots of love and care. This is definitely a place that makes you feel very welcome and that makes you want to return over and over again. Oh yeah, don’t forget to bring your swimsuit… the restaurant is located right next to a pebble and black sand beach inside a little cove surrounded by mountains… as if the food and warm welcome wasn’t already enough to make you go there!