Trieste, like many of the border regions of Italy, is not particularly famed for its food, but this is to a large part because it’s overshadowed by the more famous Italian regions like Emilia-Romagna, Sicily, and Tuscany which have largely come to define our idea of what Italian cooking is about.
It’s also because, like so many aspects of Trieste’s character, it’s hard to pigeonhole or define its cooking- ranging as it does from typical Italian through to dishes shared with their neighbours Austria, Slovenia and Croatia, and its historical links with the Austro-Hungarian empire.
Trieste, though is a fantastic city to visit, and one where you’ll eat superbly if you know what to look out for. We’ve put together a list of 5 typical Trieste dishes that you should be able to find in most Trieste Restaurants.
Jota is a stew found, in various different formats and with different names all the way from Trieste in Italy down to the far points of the Istrian coast (in fact, it’s also commonly known as Istrian Stew). It’s a hearty stew made up of beans, potatoes and saurkraut (crauti), along with olive oil and garlic. It’s a real-life melting pot to accompany the metaphor of Trieste as a meeting point between the mediterranean culture of Italy and the mittel-european culture of the former Austro Hungarian empire.
There’s a certain amount of debate about the origins of the term Calandraca, whether it is Greek in origin (this coastline has plenty of Greek influence from antiquity), or whether it refers to the machine (la Calandra) used to flatten out and prepare meat, but either way the origins of the plate are generally agreed upon as being a simple stew, with potatoes, prepared by fishermen. The dish usually uses salted meats including mutton that would last during long fishing trips. Nowadays it’s one of those dishes that has come to symbolise the local cuisine, and comes in a number of variations. The standard Calandraca has a tomato based sauce; Calandraca al bianco is cooked without tomatoes, and Calandraca co’l vin includes a glass of white wine in the recipe.
Strucolo de pomi is the Triestine version of apfelstrudel. The word strucolo again gives us an idea of the special position of Trieste, as it is an italianization of the slavic word strukllj, which itself comes from the German term strudel. The Triestine strucolo de pomi is a light pastry filled with apples and grapes, and pine kernels.
Chifeletti are an ideal side dish to accompany the various dishes found typically in Triestine restaurants. They are made from a dough-like mixture of mashed potatoes, flour, butter and eggs. The mixture is prepared and left to stand for some time, before being moulded into a crescent like shape (like a number of other foods, the shape is said to date back to the Turkish invasions in the 1600s) and fried. In some cases sugar is added, and the fried mixture used as a dessert.
Trieste was, of course, the main port for the Austro-Hungarian empire, so it should come as no surprise that there’s a definite influence from Hungary in the local cuisine, most notably in the adoption of the Hungarian national dish Gulasch or Goulash. The main difference in the Triestine version is that, while it does include Hungarian Paprika, it doesn’t include potatoes in the stew itself, and in fact often it is served just with bread or with polenta.
These are just five of the many wonderful local dishes that go to make up Triestine cooking. Try them out on your next visit to Trieste!