Slovakia: Subtle Signs of Mediterranean Influence

Slovakia: Subtle Signs of Mediterranean Influence

Although Slovakia is one of the areas that has largely resisted the trends of a rapidly modernizing and globalizing world, the influences of Mediterranean culture are subtly evident.

In Kosice and Presov, the two largest cities of eastern Slovakia, April nights are still cold. Only 100 km to the east are the boarders with the still-frozen Ukraine, while to the west the Tatra mountain range that separates Slovakia in two, is still all white. At 8 in the evening, downtown Presov, between the cathedral and the Theatre, is almost deserted. Everything quiets down early, as every central European country requires, and no one is out meandering the streets, or window shopping.

Western consumerism has not yet arrived.  The only shops representing contemporary marketing, effectively lit with multiple colors, are the three mobile telecommunication stores.  Popular brand names are missing, and all of the banks are dark; none of them are advertising consumer loans.

Naming the best restaurant in town Carpe Diem, is rather misleading, since the only Italian menus are the Caprese salad and the tuna fillet that they named Sicilian (with mint, garlic and wine).  The pianist does all he can to warm up the atmosphere of the half-empty room, and so Carpe Diem, realizing with dignity the distance that separates it from the Mediterranean, turns to more familiar choices: duck fillet with fruit of the forest sauce, or trout wrapped in foil with tomatoes, onion, thyme and mushrooms and of course chestnut Mont Blanc for dessert.  The domestic wine Chateau Topolcianky, white wine with strong fruit flavor, is also a nice choice.  The Mediterranean kitchen, just as the western lifestyle, has not yet arrived here, but the residents of this part of Europe won’t have to wait much longer.

In Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, things are different.  The city is ready to welcome the Euro as well as the constantly increasing “week-end” tourists.  Around Hviezdoslavovo, at the boarders of the old city around the castle, is the first stylish Mediterranean restaurant.  Mama a Papa (photo) belongs to the Red Monkey restaurant association, and therefore provides Italian chef Antonio Iacovelli, who has planned special menus from all over the Mediterranean; Paella Valenciana, Moussaka, Tiropitakia, cod in tangine from Morocco and of course classical Italian choices, such as spaghetti pancetta, and ravioli with wild mushrooms.  The rocket salad, with valerian, figs and goat cheese is as good as the risotto and the Chardonnay Yarden from Israel.  At the service, the Slovakian girls are friendly and the decoration with the old portraits displayed under the atrium, discreet, allowing the customers to enjoy their business lunch.    Mama a Papa can easily satisfy the demanding customers that the entry of Euro will bring along, allowing it to become better.  Next year, the plastic plant that is now decorating the window by the patio will be probably replaced by a real one and the bad espresso (over 70% Robusta) will be withdrawn.  Mama a Papa is finally the forerunner of the changes that are approaching, as the whole country is also waiting for the change: currency, sales power, consuming choices, and finally the kitchen.

Around Hviezdoslavovo, at the boarders of the old city around the castle, is the first stylish Mediterranean restaurant.  Mama a Papa belongs to the Red Monkey restaurant association, and therefore has provided Italian chef Antonio Iacovelli, who has planned special menus from all over the Mediterranean; Paella Valenciana, Moussaka, Tiropitakia, cod in tangine from Morocco and of course classical Italian choices, such as spaghetti pancetta, and ravioli with wild mushrooms.  The rocket salad, with valerian, figs and goat cheese is as good as the risotto and the Chardonnay Yarden from Israel.

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