Food Quest: Slovenia
by Marla Norman, TCO Publisher
Given the selection of excellent pasta, risotto, gnocchi and pizza on Slovenian menus, visitors might think they’re in Italy. But Slovenian cuisine is also heavily influenced by Austrian, Hungarian and Balkan traditions. Pork dishes, schnitzel and strudel pastries are of Austrian-origin, while Hungarian-style goulashes have also been incorporated into Slovenian menus. Grilled meats and vegetable dishes trace back to Slovenia’s Balkan heritage.
Even more interesting are the numerous dishes that are completely unique to Slovenia. Be sure to try Burek, a type of phylo pastry stuffed with salty cheese. Also delicious is Jota a soup with sauerkraut, beans and smoked pork. An air-dried ham called Kraški Pršut is another specialty. And the entire region is rich with truffles, that are generously incorporated into everything. Dober tek! Enjoy!
Stari Trg 9
Located on a quiet corner off Stari Trg, Julija Restaurant is all rustic charm – with large vases of flowers, baroque mirrors, blue-plaid tablecloths and a delightfully warm and friendly staff. Al fresco dining is available on a stretch of cobblestone street in front of the restaurant.
Julija is especially loved for native Slovenian dishes: Štruklji, a kind of dumpling filled with cottage cheese, and Idrijski žlikrofi, ravioli filled with potatoes and herbs from Idrija in western Slovenia. Traditional soups and dishes using local Mangold (a kind of Chard) are specialties at Julija.
But, the expansive menu also includes beautifully-prepared Italian dishes, such as: Gnocchi, Risotto, several Pastas, Beef Carpaccio with Truffles, Tomato with Buffalo Mozzarella and Goat Cheese with Truffles on Olive Ciabatta Bread.
The fresh seafood is excellent as well and includes Grilled Octopus and Porcini with Prawns. Sea Bass with Truffles and Mashed Potatoes is a dream. Mediterranean Lamb and Beef Fillet garnished with Truffles are also available.
Desserts are special standouts. Try to save room for the Chocolate Soufflé or Crème Brûlée with Strawberries, Torta di Mandorle (Almond Cake), Panna Cotta with Wild Berries.
The wine list is restricted to Slovenian selections, but because there are so many Slovenian wineries, the choices are broad and the prices, as is the case with the entire menu, are excellent!
Gorniji Trg 28
The menu at Špajza reads as follows: “We took a good measure of home cooking and simplicity, mixed it with the right pinch of verve and freshness, peeked under steaming Mediterranean lids and into Tuscan pots and seasoned it all with noble wine, to serve you our best in the decor of our grannies or in the summer freshness of our garden.”
There’s no doubt the Spajza grannies would be pleased with the outstanding menu offerings: Pea Soufflé with Porcini Mushrooms and Prosciutto, Pumpkin Gnocchi with Rabbit Ragout, Trout in Puff Pastry, Monk Fish with Mint, Lentils and Mashed Carrots. Bacala with Truffles. Heavenly Lemon Cake or Tiramisu are dessert choices.
Between Wolfova & Slovenska
Dining on the terrace of the elegant Gostilna As with views of Ljubljana Castle against the night sky is magical. And the food is an equal match to the ambiance, with a creative blend of Slovenian tradition and contemporary techniques.
Seafood is the star here. Barbecued Jumbo Scallops arrive at your table the second you sit down. Main course choices include Tuna Tartare, Lobster Pasta, Seafood Ravioli or Sea Bass baked in salt. Meat-lovers can select Kobe Beef Steaks. Grilled vegetables accompany the main course.
Sandwiches and lighter pastas can also be ordered. A large wine list features many excellent local and international wines. One caveat: Gostilna As is one of the pricier restaurants in Ljubljana.
Ciril Metodov TRG 18
Waiters scurrying around in ill-fitting Slovenian costumes make Gostilna Sokol seem like the ultimate tourist trap, but don’t be frightened off! The food at Gostilna Sokol is good and the portions are generous. If you’ve been out touring all day and are extra hungry, the Sokol “Hunter’s Menu” is guaranteed to fill you up.
Mushroom soup in bread bowls is a popular appetizer. An assortment of local cheeses, meats and sausages is another great starter. Vegetables (Peppers, Squash, Mushrooms) grilled and served with truffle oil are unbelievably luscious.
Main courses include Deer Medallions in Cherry Sauce – hearty and satisfying. Wild Boar with Porcini Mushroom Sauce or Pork Chops with Black Pudding, Fried Sausage and Cabbage is another substantial option. Lighter fare includes Grilled Trout or a Layered Vegetable Casserole. The wine list includes a number of outstanding Slovenian vintages and beer is brewed on site.
Grudnovo nabrežje 21, the Borough Prule
Ljubljanica River, Ljubljana
Slovenian pizzas are excellent. And tiny Pizzeria Trta is one of the country’s best. Fresh, inventive ingredients go into 40 different pizzas that are then baked in a wood-fired oven. Gluten-Free pizzas are available as well. There’s also a solid beer & wine list, plus a cute terrace for warm days. All at unbeatable prices.
Prešernova ulica 36
At the end of Ptuj’s oldest street, Prešernova ulica, is charming Gostilna Amadeus. An attentive staff serves up authentic Slovenian dishes. Struklji, the native dumpling, is a specialty here and comes with a variety of fillings: Cheese, Meat and Potato are the most popular. Simply-prepared, but delicious Roast Pork and Beef are served with savory mustard sauces. Salmon Steak and Trout are also on the menu, along with local wines. If you’re craving something sweet at the end of the meal, try the lovingly-made strudel. Prices are very reasonable, so you can definitely afford to splurge.
Linhartov Trg 2
This lovely old-fashioned country inn, with an exceptional restaurant, is located 6 miles south of Lake Bled. A visit to Gostilna Lectar could either be a wonderful side trip for lunch or a full day with overnight excursion. And after sampling the incredibly hearty plates and delicious native Slovenian dishes, you won’t want to drive for several hours anyway!
Mixed plates include Black Pudding, Fried Sausage, Gorenjski želodec (Stuffed Pork Stomach), Roast Beef, Sauerkraut, Turnips, Rolled Dumplings, Ravioli and Potato Sauté.
More interesting options: Pumpkin Soup (served in a small pumpkin), Stuffed Black Radish, House-made Pâté, and Stuffed Veal Breast. Desserts: Layered Strudel or an apple filled with house-made Apple Ice Cream.
With a location adjacent to Lake Bled, offering spectacular views, Mino would seem to be the ideal spot for a leisurely afternoon lunch. And many visitors pack into the place. However, the food is quite average and pricey. Recommendation: Don’t follow the crowds. Or, if you do stop in, just enjoy the views with a drink or small plate.
Ljubljana has outstanding chocolatiers. If you need a quick energy boost while touring the city or are longing for something sweet after dinner, pop into either of the shops listed below for a quick treat. The beautiful selections of chocolates also make great gifts to take home.
LA CHOCOLATE: CHOCOLATE & TEA SHOP
Mestni trg 8
Miklošičeva cesta 4