It may well be the least industrialised city of the Triveneto region and that with the highest average age in the country; it may also be a city whose mottos are “no can do,” “leave well enough alone,” and “if it ain’t broke why fix it?” It may be – as an erstwhile local newspaper editor put it – the Naples of the North, minus the creativity of the Neopolitans’. In short, the city may well have many shortcomings. However, this does not necessarily mean that the fiercely conservative city of Trieste does not know how to appreciate fine cuisine and the good life.
Historically, Trieste has always been a melting pot of cultures and traditions, stretched out as it is between the sea and the Carso, only several kilometres from the border with Slovenia. The cuisine here has its own unique flavours and characteristics. The cafés and restaurants of central Trieste and the upland plains (the hilly area which lies behind the city) offer typically Central European dishes, a fusion of local cuisine and that of Hungary, Austria and the Slavic countries.
The people of Trieste are crazy about their food. Take away their factories, nightclubs, football team or amusement park; but don’t take away their food. Sunday lunches with friends and dinners at the local trattoria (always at reasonable prices) are worth more to them than anything else. In recent years, hordes of tourists have also found this to be true, with a little help from the marketing strategies of the mayor Riccardo Illy (also a successful coffee merchant, capable of selling sackfuls of Arabic coffee all over the world, from the Maldives to Bahrain).
Trieste is not really the sort of place you would happen to pass through due to its location in the northernmost corner of Italy. However, there are hundreds of good reasons to come to Trieste, not least for its cuisine. Prepare yourself then, for a brief guided tour of some of the best eateries in the city.
If you should find yourself on or around the Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia (the largest seaside square in Europe), pop in to Pepi for a snack. This seemingly unassuming little café has even enjoyed a mention in the New York Times. Here, at any time of day or night, you can try boiled pork, toasted ham sandwiches, sausages with sauerkraut and horseradish and paprika sauces. These can be washed down with either beer or Terrano – a full-flavoured red wine from the Carso region which even has a street named after it. Prices here are relatively low.
Alternatively, you could try Tommaseo or Specchi – two of Trieste’s oldest cafés. These both have elegant lounge areas and warm, friendly atmospheres. A word of warning: if you order a capuccino in these parts, you will get what is known in the rest of Italy as as caffè macchiato caldo, served in a small cup with frothy milk.
If however, you would prefer to combine elegance with tradition and modernity with delicious flavours, you should try the Subantrattoria which offers gastronomic delights for carnivores. Even Pope John Paul II has dined here! In an impeccably elegant setting, you will be able to choose from an excellent selection of both international and local dishes including Jota, a hearty bacon rind soup, goulash, tripe, veal stew, bread gnocchi or gnocchi stuffed with jam or prunes, ham and an excellent selection of desserts.