It’s no secret that there’s a substantial difference between the urban and rural environments in Cyprus. The cities are a bulwark of business and tourism. Inside they are cheerful and noisy, yet provide no representation of а traditional Cypriot way of life. This is coupled with national and cultural traditions being erased in cities, paving the way for a lifestyle which is more customary and comprehensible to tourists.
For a “genuine”, authentic Cypriot experience, it’s worth visiting the countryside, where for centuries, a lot of things have remained unchanged. Here you can assess both the culture and way of life. Also, if you’re on a quest for traditional cuisine, it’s more interesting to venture to the countryside.
Limassol — the largest coastal city in Cyprus with almost a quarter of the country’s population, receiving the lion’s share of visitors to the island. Where is it worth heading to for authentic and delicious food nearby Limassol? The optimal choice is the village of Pyrgos..
It’d be best mentioning straight away that there are several villages in Cyprus with the name Pyrgos. The one we need is located 15 km to the east of Limassol. For all intents and purposes, it’s a satellite village connected to the seaside capital. Despite its close proximity to the sea and the large city nearby, this small village still appears quiet, cosy and vibrant.
Pyrgos has only a page of text dedicated to it on English Wikipedia! This is a grave injustice, as the village has a history which traces its roots back to the Medieval ages, and possesses several ancient, fascinating historical monuments. But there’s more! And it’s the “more” that we’ll be speaking about today. You need to visit Pyrgos for the excellent cuisine. And we’ve compiled a small guide to make it easier and more straightforward to get your bearings here.
This establishment isn’t considered a restaurant of national cuisine. Better to say, if it is national cuisine, then it’s certainly not Cypriot. Al Borgo is merely a pizzeria. But what a pizzeria indeed! It’s considered the best in the Limassol district! With 165 reviews (which is a lot in Cypriot terms) on TripAdvisor, the establishment has the highest possible rating of 5.0, along with 88 ratings and a rating of 4.8 on Google (the maximum possible is 5.0, but that nigh on never happens. Realistically, 4.8 is the highest rating).
The restaurant itself, albeit located in the very centre of the village, is rather unremarkable to the eye; but inside, everything is very cosy and stylish. The atmosphere is more resemblant of something you’d find at home. In some places, this is even too much so, as it can be a little dark when you enter the rooms. There’s a sturdy wooden beam hiding above a semi-lit ceiling. It’s almost invisible to the eye, but you can 100% feel it with your head. Be careful.
Another traditional feature, lying at the base of many a debate, is the “capricious” working hours. Very many island establishments operate in such a way that you occasionally need to hire an experienced detective to determine when they open and close. With Al Borgo’s working hours, everything is clear. But the restaurant only works 5 hours a day, from 17:30-22:30.
There are 54 dishes on the Al Borgo menu, the majority of which are, naturally, pizza. But there are also salads, lasagne, bruschetta and others. Pasta, on the other hand, isn’t served at Al Borgo. To complement this culinary delight, there’s a rather decent wine selection.
The prices are average. A 33 cm “Margherita”, let’s say, costs 9.5 euro, while a 28 cm “4 cheese” pizza costs 12 euro.
The main feature of the restaurant is its ideal pizza. It’s cooked following Italian traditions. All the canons are observed. There are many pizzerias in Limassol for easy-to-please foodies who eat lunch while on the go, the choice is huge; but there are actually very few places which do good gourmet pizza, and at Al Borgo, we guarantee you’ll get what you need.
A classic restaurant with Greek cuisine. What do Greek culinary traditions entail: huge portions, an excess of fried meat and a serious clampdown on condiments. The case in question has all these points observed. The authenticity levels are off the charts.
The classic pork chop is a must try here. A full portion will set you back 8 euro. We also recommend trying the fish mezze at Galini restaurant.
By the way, the restaurant has a great enclosed play area for the kids. You can “cast off” the little munchkins there so nothing distracts you from the delicious food.
In every Cypriot village you can witness the following phenomenon: Cypriot aksakals —village elders—, day in, day out, sitting in some old, traditional establishment, watching passersby, playing backgammon and discussing philosophical, existential issues. This picture is a signature portrayal of the island’s true image. It’s pretty much the equivalent of the Irish pubs which used to be the main cultural and recreational point in any city. Only in Cyprus, people have a far more relaxed attitude to alcohol.
In Pyrgos, the place for journeying aksakals is Καφενείο Antreas Tsispouras, where you can drink fine Cypriot coffee, or something a little stronger, if you wish.
It’s an old family establishment with a specific vibe to it. Can you imagine that ownership has already been passed down through three generations!
Καφενείο Antreas Tsispouras is located two steps away from Al Borgo.
A small, cosy tavern in the hamlet’s centre, boasting low prices and simple, national Cypriot food. It’s an ideal spot if you want to have some delicious local kebab.
This place also has some “capricious” working hours, and we ultimately failed to work out when Sotiris – Tasoula Tavern opens and closes.
It may come up on google maps as Meraklitiko Cafe Bar Restaurant. It’s essentially the same thing.
This establishment, located in the village centre, is more sophisticated, featuring both a separate restaurant and bar. On Saturdays, Taverna Kanata hosts evenings of live music, playing English and Greek hits. On occasion, stars from the neighbouring villages and districts come here to perform, in which case, concerts are organised.
Almost the entire menu is composed of meat dishes. There are 32 in total (only two of them aren’t meat-based: one with mushrooms and the other halloumi cheese). The prices fluctuate: for example, you can have moussaka for only 8 euro (cheap for Cypriot standards), but the pork chop, on the flip side, is 12 euro (we’ve seen cheaper).
The tavern’s owner (who is also a waiter there, as is quite often the case in Cypriot villages) is not shy about singing the praises of his kleftiko and mezze. In case you don’t know, kleftiko — is tender lamb stewed over many hours, usually served with stewed potatoes, whereas mezze is a mountain of various meat (or fish) dishes.
An old, traditional family tavern, where all the staff are members of the same family.
There is a wide selection on the menu: it features classic Cypriot food (by the way, try the lamb ribs for 13 euro per portion), as well as modern takes: burgers, nuggets and so on. The menu also has a separate section offering seafood dishes.
On Fridays (and Fridays only) the restaurant servers this special, incredibly tasty kleftiko, as well as tapas — Cypriot ragu with potato and meat. The price for the former is 10 euro (this is cheap), and a portion of the latter will cost you only 7 euro.
The prices here are also sporadic. The moussaka is 12 euro (far more expensive than in the previous restaurant), whereas the tavas here is essentially two times cheaper than its competitors. But there’s an important detail which is worth knowing. None of the restaurant owners understand a word of English, and explaining things on your fingers won’t work either — the owners aren’t the brightest bunch.
A rather odd spot. You get the feeling you’ve ended up in some old Soviet buffet place, a museum, or a city hall. You’ll be thinking about anything and everything, just not a tavern.
The place is old and a little dirty. It has a lot of space which clearly hasn’t been given an ergonomic touch. Portraits of war heroes hang on the walls. In one of the walls, there’s an open door leading to a room which, at a glance, appears to be living quarters. Standing by another wall, there’s an old, rare jukebox. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were no more of a dozen of these left in the world. The bar itself is nothing to write home about, and is situated in a dark, remote corner.
However, despite its rather specific type, the place has a really vibrant look to it. The locals also adore it, and this is clear by the fact that Θοι πυργου practically never empties out.
The selection of dishes very closely resembles what’s on offer at Costas Marias. The prices are also more or less the same.
And don’t forget to pop in to the local bakery. Have a try of the fresh, hot-baked village bread, as well as all possible sorts of traditional pies and buns made using Cypriot recipes.
Pyrgos is a unique place. On one hand, this little village is, in effect, a suburb of the huge (again, based on local proportions) “anthill” that is Limassol. On the other hand, it has preserved the quietness and cosiness associated with a traditional way of life on the island. In addition, the number of working coffee spots and restaurants is highly impressive, especially considering that the population of Pyrgos totals close to a mere two thousand people. The majority of establishments are family-owned. The recipes are old, passed down from generation to generation, and by Limassol standards, the prices are very agreeable.