Like the rest of Epirus, a large part of Ioannina’s local cuisine consists of scrumptious, hand-made pies known as pites. And Ioannina is known as the pita-making capital of Greece, with families passing on recipes from generation to generation. While the younger inhabitants of the region still incorporate it into their diets, the time-consuming tradition of hand-rolling dough made from scratch is unfortunately dying, and Ioannina is one of the last places that you can savour home-made pites made this way. And believe us; that crispy golden crust cannot be replicated from store-bought dough! If you’re looking for authentic pites, Ioannina is the place to go!
Though Epirotes throughout the area have found a way to stuff pita with just about any filling, Ioanninans have a preference for hortopita (pie filled with wild greens), tiropita (cheese pie) and the sweet pies known as galatopita (milk pie) and karidopita (walnut pie).
But Ioannina’s cuisine is so much more than the pies that it’s famous for. The pastures and valleys of the region are full of sheep and goats which produce the milk that makes some of the best Feta cheese in the world. Greece’s two top-selling brands (Epirus and Dodona) are based from the region and dominate the market, being regarded throughout Greek households as the country’s best Feta.
Another well-known cheese within Greece yet almost unheard of elsewhere is Metsovone cheese originating from the picturesque village of Metsovo in the eastern section of the region. This delectable cheese has a distinctive smoky flavour and can be seen hanging in several shops throughout the village.
The village also makes other varieties equally worth trying such as Metsovela, Graviera and Batzisi.
The region’s clean mountain air and fertile soil have blessed the local cuisine with dietary staples such as apples, walnuts, chestnuts, and wild mushrooms. Older generations perfected the art of preserving fruit in the form of jams and jellies as well as spoon sweets in order to enjoy them throughout the year. Fresh garden vegetables also become a year-round dish by the popular tradition of preserving them in vinegar and producing the pickled veggie treat known as “toursia”. Local honey producers provide the pure ambrosia that adorns local deserts such as “diples” or crunchy fried pastries drizzled with honey and nuts as well as the pastry “sker bourek” highlighting the region’s Turkish influences.
The hardy locals keep warm and in good spirits with the popular distilled drink known as Tsipouro which is made from fermented grape skins and tastes a lot like ouzo. Take advice from its experienced devotees that it is not a drink to be overindulged in! Those looking to imbibe in something lighter will delight in the region’s homemade liqueur known as Crano and made from the tart Cornelian Cherry that grows throughout the area.
When it comes to eating in Ioannina, the problem isn’t finding something delicious, but choosing from all of its rich and delectable tastes. Though the region may be full of treacherous mountain trails, wild animals and roaring rivers, going hungry in Ioannina is one thing you’ll never need to worry about!