Where can you get the best pizza outside Italy? You might not expect it, but in…. Slovenia. Yes, Slovenia! On the Mediterranean coast of Eastern Europe, Slovenia’s been intimately connected to Italy throughout its history. Nowadays Slovenia restaurants serve some of the best pasta in the world- and, perhaps unexpectedly, Slovenians take exceptional pride in their pizza. Think thin crispy base, rich tomato sauce, sprinkled with smoked sausage and black pepper. You shouldn’t be surprised if you hear Slovenians saying that their pizza is superior to its Italian counterpart…although you should be the final judge on that!
Italian poets, artists and painters have found home in Slovenia over the years, along with a diverse selection of other peoples from Eastern Europe. All these factors mean food in Slovenia is diverse, if not entirely distinctive. The most traditional Slovenian dish is smoked pork sausage, klobasa, that’s often served in stews or broths, or on its own with potatoes and vinegary salad.
Lunch is the biggest meal of the day in Slovenia, and is generally eaten between 2-4pm. This means that a mid-morning snack takes on extra importance, and it’s something Slovenians take especially seriously! So, if you’ve a sweet tooth and are visiting Ljubljana one morning, you should undoubtedly stop off at one of the branches of Zvezda, arguably Slovenia’s best cake shop. The tables spill out onto the cobbles of the old town, and you can pick from a huge selection of coffees and teas to accompany towering cheesecakes, fruit tarts, and moist, rich gateaux.
For a true taste of Slovenian life, you should definitely eat in a gostilna– a traditional inn, that’s less formal and less expensive than a full blown restaurant (a restarvacija). Portions are hearty, the food is filling, and the interiors are generally quaint – being filled with brass ornaments and, sometimes, roaring fireplaces. Gostilnas lie at the heart of many communities, especially in rural Slovenia, and there’s no better way to experience the kindness and hospitality of Slovenian people.
All in all, restaurants in Slovenia may well surprise you with their breadth and quality. Slovenian cuisine includes some of the tastiest exports of its many European neighbours – the only disadvantage of this being that you may be spoiled for choice!
Image by CanBerriWren