Escape to Trieste: 8 places to fall in love with the City's gastronomy

Jul 9 2024, 16:17
Falling in love with Trieste in 8 places: A City steeped in history and unique flavours, capturing the charm of an old European Marina

Trieste, a city rich in history and unique flavours, may not be a typical summer destination, but its charm as a marina of Old Europe is undeniable. Here are eight places to fall in love gastronomically with Trieste.

Bars and Cafés, Symbols of Mitteleuropean Trieste

Trieste: a melting pot of cultures

Trieste is historically known as a melting pot of cultures: it feels Venetian, remains the sea of Vienna, and serves as the gateway to the rich and complex Balkans. Gastronomically, all these identities coexist perfectly, blending Adriatic fish with robust yet refined charcuterie. Trieste is a vibrant city, full of venues (including many chain restaurants), buzzing until late in this summer period, yet it retains an ancient soul, with historical places and traditions still alive.

The Hall of Antico Caffè San Marco

The City of historic Cafés

The historic Viennese-inspired cafés, notably the magnificent Antico Caffè San Marco, which now also serves as a sophisticated bookstore, are emblematic of Trieste. Trieste and coffee are a well-established duo, with a history of great global brands and new, intriguing roasteries like RoaTS, which stands out for its quality and creativity, and also serves as a modern, enjoyable venue.

A sprinkle of horseradish on cooked ham, a Trieste classic

The tradition of pork and buffets

Another solid Triestine tradition is the buffets —places of delights open all day, originally meant to feed hungry dockworkers at all hours, serving primarily pork in various forms. Both summer and winter, the boilers in these buffets emit the aroma of porcina (boiled pork neck), cotechino, wurstel, carré, and magnificent cooked ham, always accompanied by mustard and horseradish. The tradition since 1897 is primarily upheld by Pepi (known to locals as Pepi sciavo), but Mano also merits a visit, combining an interesting delicatessen and rich buffet. Don’t miss the cooked ham sandwiches with mustard and horseradish, the hanging prosciutti crudi, plum gnocchi, and Jota (a hearty Triestine soup with pork and beans).

The historic Osteria da Marino that resists every trend

The old tavern experience

If you’re seeking pork, don’t miss the charcuterie platter at Osteria da Marino in the historic centre: they resist the temptation to include a slice of mortadella, instead showcasing local charcuterie at its best. This place also introduced me to Brinjevec, a delightful and semi-clandestine Slovenian juniper distillate (legend says 10 kg of fresh berries per litre), which I’d love to try in an ultra-dry gin tonic.

A snapshot from Barakin San Giusto, where you can enjoy a "sunset" over the Adriatic.

A snack at Pedocìn

A tradition that enhances the quality of life is leaving Trieste’s city beach, Pedocìn, for a snack (rebechin) of a good meatball at the bar just outside, or enjoying a white spritz—wine, soda water, and lemon for 3 euros—at Barakin, a bar at Castello di San Giusto, offering a splendid sunset view unique to Trieste on the Italian Adriatic.

L'Osteria Salvagente owned by Marco Munari

The charm of simple seafood cuisine

Speaking of fish, I returned twice to Osteria Salvagente (a train strike extended my stay in Venezia Giulia, which was not a bad thing). Marco Munari, a Venetian with solid experience in Michelin-starred restaurants and grand hotel dining worldwide, took over this historic osteria a few years ago. Located in a side street off the Rive (Trieste's waterfront), he delights guests with refined yet simple seafood cuisine. It was a pleasure to hear someone with fine dining expertise express the joy of creating popular, local dishes. The result is a seafood osteria that impresses from the antipasti counter, featuring a fantastic baccalà mantecato, gratinated canestrelli, gurnard fillets with snap peas, heartwarming mackerel meatballs, and excellent mains (the clams are particularly noteworthy).


The discovery of Genuino

Finally, a mention of something completely different, Genuino. Several trusted friends insisted that I try this natural fast food and meet its delightful founders, Giovanna De Gavardo and Stefano Lonza. Genuino could be considered the antithesis of traditional Triestine cuisine, aiming to offer a quick and health-conscious dining experience, but it’s much more. The sandwiches, soups, brown rice with chicken, vegetables, fish, desserts, and all dishes at Genuino are prepared with love and attention to detail, embodying the spirit of Trieste. Opened in the heart of the Ghetto in 2012, Genuino expanded to Milan in 2018. Despite Milan's generally insincere food culture focused on profit rather than passion, Genuino has numerous projects in the pipeline, deserving its success.

A beef rib at Osteria Da Marino. In the photo below, the meatballs from aMano.

Resisting gastronomic stereotypes

On Monday morning, as I had an early coffee at the station bar, I finally saw the ubiquitous pici cacio e pepe and carbonara among the ready-to-eat dishes, a reminder that the invasion of gastronomic stereotypes driven by overtourism can be controlled. This is successfully demonstrated in this last corner of Italy, where dining is still a serious and traditional experience.

Where to eat in Trieste

These eight addresses can make anyone fall in love with Trieste, a city of many faces and deep identity.

Genuino - Trieste -
Buffet da Pepi - Trieste -
Antico Caffè San Marco - Trieste - via Battisti, 18a -
Osteria da Marino - Trieste - via del Ponte, 5 -
RoaTS - Trieste - l.go della Barriera Vecchia, 17 - roaTS Urban Café
Barakin San Giusto - p.zza della Cattedrale - @barakin
Osteria Salvagente - Trieste - Regus - via dei Burlo, 1c - @OsteriaSalvagente
aMano - Trieste - l.go della Barriera Vecchia, 11 - @aManoTrieste

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