At first glance it appears a “new” restaurant has opened on the Rive, just across the street from Eataly — in fact, Joia opened 4 years ago in Via Diaz, but recently relocated to this prime spot on the waterfront.
When I first saw it in its original location, I was impressed by the spillover of clientele into the street, it was obviously popular but until recently, below my radar. However, thanks to a more robust social media strategy and attention to brand building, the restaurant has been popping up in ads, FB feeds and Instagram and beckoning me with enticing ads to Apericenas, or to partake of their adventurous (for Trieste) Poke Bowls. No longer able to resist their tantalizing invites, I decided to check it out.
By day the restaurant is sunny and bright, a bit of a green house look with big windows and warm relaxing interiors, at night, it is just as inviting. The move to this location was driven primarily to access prime outdoor seating real estate, just in time for the warmer days of an early Spring.
Joia’s chef, Pasquale Sorrentino is a transplant from Naples who has worked his way up in the food industry – studying with Italy’s Antonio Canavacciuolo of MasterChef Italia fame and then working at some of the more established Triestine eateries. Sorrentino joined the Associazione Cuochi di Trieste and earned several important accolades along the way, including top honors two years in a row, in 2014 & 2015, as Best Chef of Trieste as recognized by the Federation of Italian Chefs (FIC). His vision for Joia is part restaurant, part lounge. He is pushing a fusion between local and mediterranean fare relying heavily on fresh caught local fish. His “Aperi-fish” is a sort of happy hour offering small plates: tartares, mantecati, fish frys, fish meatballs, etc.
Arriving at Joia, you are warmly welcomed and offered, on the house, the first glass of “bollicine” (ubiquitous bubbly white wine) and a small amuse bouche – in our case we received some warm savory zeppole. The restaurant boasts a well-stocked bar and a vast wine selection.
While we perused the menu, we saw several beautiful appetizer boards float by, piled with crostini covered with seafood tartares and others with assorted fish crudi. For our starters we settled on a huge bowl of mussels in white wine and a “millefeuille” of breaded and fried anchovies sandwiched between layers of a concasse’ of mozzarella di bufala, grape tomatoes and basil pesto.
For our pasta dish we had paccheri with shrimp, black olives, and stracciatella which was delicious and not too heavy. Our entrees were a lovey little pot of seafood stew and a roasted octopus on a potato puree and served under a glass cloche with cherry wood smoke — very dramatic. Obviously, this is a seafood lovers’ restaurant but they also have a few meat dishes as well as vegetarian options. We finished off the meal with lovely lemon Sorbetti (traditional lemon slushies which you can order either virgin or with a splash of vodka, ideal after a fish based meal).
The pricing is very reasonable and the staff is friendly. Service was a little slow but the quality of the food and the atmosphere more than made up for it.
Open every day from 12-3 and 18-23.
Riva Tommaso Gulli, 4/a, Trieste
Tel. +39 040 347 8940