Trieste is famous for its “buffets”. No, not the American style, all-you-can-eat self service brunchy buffet you’re thinking of…. In Trieste, buffets are an institution, a legacy from the days under the Austro-Hungarian Empire of which the city is still proud. The buffet is a “democratic” eatery equally loved by workers, students, retirees and ladies who lunch, all looking for a quick, satisfying and inexpensive bite to eat. Here you can find anything from sandwiches to typical local pasta dishes and plates loaded with boiled meats or simply a “rebechin” (“re-be-keen” = snack).
When you are walking down the street and a wisp of smoky cooked ham and vinegary krauts tickles your nose, you know you are in the vicinity of a buffet. This is what the they are most famous for, their “caldaia” (dutch oven like cauldrons) where they cook all types of meats from sausages, tongue, collar, weiners, ribs, “porzina” (braised pork) and the famous, succulent Triestine ham cooked in a bread crust (“cotto in crosta”) are cooking all day long. All are served with “crauti” (sauerkraut), “kren” (fresh, grated horseradish) and “senape” (a strong, creamy yellow mustard). Other staples include goulash, stews, “knödel” (gnocchi made either from potatoes or bread) and, if you go in the summer, you can enjoy the other famous, seasonal and uniquely Triestine treat “gnocchi di susine” — dumplings made with damson plums that are served either sweet or savory.
There are many buffets in Trieste, da Pepi near Piazza della Borsa is probably the oldest (1897) and most well known but another that is highly regarded among locals is Da Siora Rosa. Dating back to 1921 when it was called Bar Vittorio Veneto, Rosa Cattaruzza –the original “Siora” (Signora) Rosa– was famous for her generously stuffed ham sandwiches and her jota, sausages and other home cooked specialties. When I asked where to go to have a typically Triestine meal, Da Siora Rosa was the unanimous reply. Here the cotto in crosta is melt in your mouth delicious. The warm calamari stew (in a tomato sauce) over a creamy white polenta made me a believer. The ambiance is friendly, easy and you feel like you are dining shoulder to shoulder with the locals, despite the increase in tourist traffic. Located in a once depressed area of Trieste, Piazza Hortis and Via Torino are now bustling with new trendy bars and eateries. The park has just undergone a huge renovation and is now very family friendly.
Today the restaurant is run by the Facco family, and their matriarch, Signora Albina and daughter Monica who maintain the traditions established long ago by Siora Rosa.
Open 8-16 and 17-23 Tuesday through Saturday
Da Siora Rosa
Piazza Attilio Hortis 3, 34123 Trieste