Pies go back a long way in Athens. Harry’s Kitchen, a tiny pie shop on Axarlian, a small pedestrian street near Syntagma Square, does not – this hole in the wall only opened around a year ago. Yet the pies that Harris Satiridis, the shop’s namesake, and his wife, Yiouli, put out have already gained a reputation as some of the best in Athens.
You could easily miss Harry’s Kitchen, it’s that small, but you won’t miss the queue of people outside, waiting to get their hands on one of the very tasty-looking pies in the small display case. And after biting into one, you’ll better appreciate why pies have been enjoyed in Athens since antiquity.
As we’ve written before, pies – mostly savory Greek-style ones that is – have long played an important role in the Greek cuisine. Going back to the 5th century BC, they were a popular snack Athenians enjoyed while watching theatre or attending a public speech.
The pie-making tradition and recipes evolved over the years, particularly along regional lines. Almost every part of Greece is known for its own local take on pie, resulting in hundreds of delicious recipes and variations. There are some general similarities, though: Pies in Greece are usually enclosed (the open-faced ones are most often called tarts), and most recipes are for savory versions although there are a number of popular sweet ones, too.
Pies are enjoyed throughout the day here. They’re a popular breakfast, snack, main meal or even dessert when sweet. It’s common to see locals walking around the streets of Athens with a pie in hand, especially during the morning hours.
Most rustic-style savory pies in Greece reflect the ideal of the Mediterranean diet; they are made with wheat-based phyllo dough, seasonal veggies like eggplant, spinach, leeks, peppers and onions, fresh herbs, high-quality cheese (when included) and olive oil (although some versions of phyllo, made mostly in northern Greece, are prepared or brushed with butter).
Harris is in charge of the phyllo, and Yiouli prepares the different fillings.
You’ll find plenty of pie shops all around the city but our favorites serve up more homemade rustic versions, where the phyllo is a bit thicker, not greasy or heavy, and the ingredients are fresh and seasonal. Like those that Harris and Yiouli, who have been married for almost 40 years, make at Harry’s Kitchen.
Harris learned the secrets of the trade from his grandmother Angeliki, who was a magnificent cook and opened a grocery store on Sophokleous Street near the Central Food Market in 1928. After getting married, Harris followed in her footsteps: Together with Yiouli, he opened two delis on the outskirts of Athens. In addition to food products, they started selling their homemade pies and other daily specials – all based on his grandmother’s recipes. Their pies always sold out pretty fast.
After years of hard work, they decided to close the delis and open a small shop in the center of town selling only pies – fresh, delicious handmade pies. Every day they bake 14 different ones, each one better than the next. Their secret? Fine ingredients and their amazing, non-greasy handmade phyllo. Harris is in charge of the phyllo, and Yiouli prepares the different fillings. Their spring cheese pie is a must: a mix of feta, myzithra (fresh creamy white cheese made from the whey of feta) and graviera from Crete (a hard cheese made of sheep and goat milk), with chopped spring onions and fresh mint all enclosed in their delicious pastry. We’re also partial to their special fish pie with hake, and their chicken pie with caramelized onions.
If you are heading there for breakfast, go for the pie with kayiana, a Greek version of scrambled eggs cooked with fresh tomato, oregano and crumbled feta cheese – imagine that enclosed in Harris’s hand-rolled perfect phyllo.
Among our favorites are their five vegan pies; one with potatoes, turmeric and green pepper; one with eggplant, onions and parsley in a tomato sauce; one with zucchini, carrots, spring onion and parsley; one with onions sautéed in balsamic vinegar with fresh thyme; and one with fresh spinach and herbs.
All of their pies are so light and delicious that one is hardly enough. The good news is that they only cost between €1.50 and €2.80. But you better head there early or else there may not be any left.