These addictively delicious chips from the island of Chios are the Greek answer to the nacho. The marcitos are made from cut sheets of wheat-and-potato lasagne, flavored with things like spinach and dill, rocket or paprika, and fried in olive oil. The lightly salted chips are a bit thicker than a nacho and are sturdy enough to hold up to a dip of fava beans or chunky aubergine salad. Interestingly enough, they bear, if in description only, an uncanny resemblance to what is described in a 1st century CE recipe for lagana: sheets of dough made of wheat flour that is flavored, not with rocket but with lettuce (juice), and, once spiced, fried in oil.
No chip is particularly healthful food, but for a chip, the marcitos, which is preservative- and additive-free, does very well, thanks to the olive oil (50 grams comes in with only 1.2g of saturated fat). Though there’s clearly a market for an alternative, natural-ingredient Greek “nacho”, the chips haven’t been discovered yet to the degree they deserve to be. The distribution network for this hand-manufactured product, produced by the Hiotiko Kellari (the Chios Pantry), is still quite small. But I expect that will change soon.
The Kellari was created by Nikos Konstantoulakis in Vessa, his birthplace and one of the mastikohoria in Chios, a complex of largely medieval villages renowned for the production of mastic, the aromatic resin from the tree of the same name that was known in antiquity as a chewing gum and is now used to flavor pastries, liqueurs, traditional Easter egg-breads and the renowned Greek ice cream kaimaki. Konstantoulakis left the village as a young man, traversing a professional arc that included a cook’s apprenticeship at sea, years of experience working with Athens hotels and caterers, and a stint at a small Corinth factory that produced pasta, before returning to Chios in 1999 to work, again as a chef, at various hotels on the island. In 2009 in a landmark building in his home village, he opened the Hiotiko Kellari, where he turned out and sold artisanal pasta that drew on traditional ingredients but in a decidedly original way: chick-pea or carob or whole-wheat flour could serve as a base for casarecce (striftari) or tagliatelle flavored with nettles or tender artichoke leaves or rocket.
The subsequent success of the Kellari reads like an entrepreneurial fairy tale. Konstantoulakis sends samples of his products to a widely read food journalist, who encourages him to move ahead with his plans to expand distribution of his products beyond the island. His products are gradually placed in a few of the city’s gourmet delicatessens and begin to receive some good press. The big break comes when one of the food emporiums, the Mediterranean Food Shop (To Παντοπωλείον της Μεσογειακής Διατροφής), organizes a live cook-in with a well-known Athens chef, who makes a dish with his carob-flour pasta. More write-ups and awards followed, including a listing in the highly esteemed annual “Gourmet Awards” put out by an Athens food magazine. And then the lasagne chips came out, once again to general acclaim. The rest isn’t exactly history—but it may be soon.
I am indebted to Elina Giannalopoulou’s article in the Ethnos for information on the history of the Chiotiko Kellari.