The humble pie is perhaps one of the world’s oldest street foods. A quick survey of global food history finds pies everywhere, from East to West, mirroring the local ingredients, agricultural practices and dietary needs of different cultures.
In Greece, pies certainly go way back. There are a few references to pie-making during the Minoan times (2600-1600 BC), but most mentions are from around the 5th century BC onwards, when pies were generally known as plakous. Ancient Athens was particularly famous for its bakeries and pies, especially a cheese pie known as tyronos plakous or tyron artos. They were the main snack consumed by Athenians while listening to public speeches at the Agora or while watching theater.
Back then, like today, there were both savory and sweet pies; most of them, according to the historical records, were made with some combination of olive oil, milk, cheese, herbs and spices, honey, eggs and nuts. Similar to today, their shape would vary: some were round, others a half moon or pyramid shape.
The pie-making tradition in Greece never died out; on the contrary, it evolved over the course of time. Generations of Greeks grew up on their beloved pies. They became an important staple for large rural families on account of the fact that they don’t cost a lot to make and can feed many with little hassle. Moreover, pies are equally tasty at any temperature and portable, making them a good choice for when you’re working out in the fields.
Eating habits haven’t changed as much as you might expect. Pies are still big in Greece, and different regions are known for particular types of pies. As a result, Greek pies, both sweet and savory, are seemingly everywhere: they can be found in almost all bakeries, as well as in specialized pie shops and many restaurants and snack bars. You’ll see people across Greece enjoying pies (mostly savory) at any time of the day, for breakfast, a snack, lunch or even dinner.
Amidst this sea of Greek pies, one shop in Athens is looking beyond national borders to the plethora of pies across the globe. With the motto, “Bake the world a better place,” The Pie Shop has opened up our eyes (and our stomach) to the wide world of pies.
The Pie Shop opened in October 2017 in the heart of downtown Athens, right off Syntagma Square. The cute little shop is owned by two women, Marina and Nanda, who clearly love food and have spent most of their lives working around and in it.
Amidst this sea of Greek pies, one shop in Athens is looking beyond national borders to the plethora of pies across the globe.
However, the day-to-day running of the shop mostly falls to Nanda and her daughter Estelle – both are smiley, generous and as sweet as the sweetest pie they make. Chatting with them is always a pleasure, and we learn something new about pies, pastries and geography on each visit. While the delectable pies lure us in, we find ourselves savoring our conversations with these two women as well – they may even be the best part.
All the pastries are handmade and prepared with only the best ingredients. After having spent most of her adult life working in the food industry, Nanda has learned the simple secret to success: use the finest and freshest ingredients. They don’t buy anything processed, frozen or canned. On top of that, their pies are fresh-baked daily and their menu changes according to season.
On each visit, we have tasted our way across the globe, from Indian samosas to Argentinian empanadas and British egg and bacon pie – we even tasted a Korean tomato tart that rivaled the Mediterranean version. All of these many different pies looked good and tasted even better. After a lot of chewing and pondering, we made a list of the top five pies from The Pie Shop (and even that was tough work).
First on the list is our beloved Greek alevropita, a traditional open-faced pie with feta cheese from Ioannina in northwest Greece. Next up is the fresh spinach and goat cheese tart from Corsica, which features whole spinach leaves topped with a large slice of chèvre cheese and sprinkled with nutmeg.
From the savory options, our favorite was the Peruvian tequeño, which comes in third on our list. Stuffed with chicken, carrot and ginger and served with refreshing guacamole, the pie is one of the shop’s bestsellers, as it was almost sold out when we arrived on our last visit.
The blueberry pie from the U.S. was just perfect, and comes in at number four. Their flawless brisée pastry was stuffed with fresh whole blueberries with no added sugar, just a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top (at the customer’s request).
Last but not least is the French lemon tart. Simple, light and delicious, it’s probably the best lemon tart we have ever tasted in Athens.
Prices are very reasonable for what you get. Savory pies range between 1.50 and 4.50 euros and sweet ones between 3.50 and 4.50 euros. We recommend visiting in the morning or around lunch, or else your choices may be limited (their pies sell out fast!). Pair your choice with a well-made coffee or even better with something from their long list of teas, served either hot or iced.
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Published on June 20, 2018
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