For all Foodies – Gorizia – Gusti di Frontiera
September 26, 2014
Imagine the Greekfest in Ottawa, a welcoming and fun event and an amazing combination of good business organization, and interesting food enjoyed by thousands. Now transport that to the historic centre of a small town in Northern Italy and then multiply by about 200 and you get a sense of the scope of this never-ending food fest.
Gorizia was at one time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and then after WWI part of Italy. At the end of the Second World War it was actually split in two and had a heavily guarded border crossing between Italy and the newly created Jugoslavia. With the entry of Slovenia into the European Union today only empty customs buildings are left as a reminder of the Iron Curtain Years.
Gorizia’s history also dates back to Venetian times so the historic centre is an interesting combination of an Austrian onion domed church and Venetian pallazi with their immediately recognizable gothic windows.
For the Gusti di Frontiera, all of the streets are closed for pedestrian only traffic and the food kiosks (330 of them) line the streets and fill the central piazza. As you walk along the streets all your senses are alive. The smells of the food cooking open air on grills, in huge cauldrons, on spits are an olfactory delight. Then there are the sounds of different languages being spoken by the vendors, Italian and Slovenian but also Serbian, Spanish, German….. The sight of the food being expertly prepared in these makeshift yet very efficient kitchens. You start by saying, oh yes I really want to try the lamb roast, then well maybe the paella, then maybe some seafood, and for sure some strudel and then arrosticini and the porchetta but doesn’t that cassoulet look amazing. Let alone the wine, prosciutto and cheeses. Everything is so enticing that it becomes sensory overload.
The food and drink is organized by country/region. The first represented near the entrance is Holland. A bright red truck trailer has transported hundreds of tulip and other bulbs and artistically arranged flowers. England with its signature double-decker bus and the fish and especially chips start off the taste temptations. We head down the “main street”of the old city that leads to the Piazza.
The historic centre of Gorizia shows the effect of the economic crisis in Italy. Many of the storefronts which would have been small family owned businesses are empty. But for this event enterprising people have transformed the empty stores into wine tasting locals using the history of the location. One would have been a textile store and there are spools of thread and display of antique buttons on the wall and on the shelves along with enticing cheeses, thick slabs of bread and slices of thinly sliced prosciutto to accompany the Collio wines. One would have been an apothecary and the bottles of wine are displayed in the open wooden drawers. It takes you back to another time – dark wooden shelves, long harvest type tables, and worn strip flooring. It is timeless and calm and perfect for enjoying a taste of a Ribolla Gialla Spumante.
There is an area that is renamed Borgo delle Americhe or the American neighbourhood with an American style diner serving Budweiser beer, hamburgers and corn on the cob, a Brazilian grill offering caiparhinas, an Argentian barbeque with long skewers of meat. The Borgo dal Baltico ai Carpazi – Ukranians in their traditional dress and Romanians. Austrian Wienerschnitzel and stinco di maiale (pork) , sausages and kraut. Hungarians with a pastry rolled on a wooden spool, baked over a wood burning fire and then sprinkled with cinnamon. The Balkan – neighbourhood with lamb and suckling pig roasting on a spit, flat bread grilled on the open fire, huge cauldrons of sarma –(cabbage rolls) and palacinke (crepes). The Belgian waffles and round coconut cookies. The French area with huge round flat pans filled with cassoulet. You can’t miss the Borgo dell’Alto Adriatico, with all the bounty of fish from the Adriatic. And of course lots and lots of cheeses, salamis, and prosciutto’s and wines Friuli DOC from Friuli-Venezia-Guilia the province where Gorizia is located.
300,000 visitors in the four days but the feeling is not at all hectic or crowded. It is a beautiful late September evening around 20C and it feels good to be outside. Everyone feels this allegria – the spirit of enjoying food and drink and the company of friends and family. We taste a light and fresh Ribolla Gialla Spumante. Indulging a little yes- but what the heck – Is there anything better than a grilled sausage on a late summer evening accompanied by some kraut, potatoes and a cool beer? And then back to where we started and a plate of spit roasted lamb and suckling pig as only the Serbians can do. Followed up by a nice apple strudel and finishing with that Ribolla Gialla.
Our evening was over but it was only beginning for many more. As we head back to the parking lot, people are still coming in and our spot is filled right away.
A historic setting, enticing foods and drinks from all over Europe and beyond, a perfect late summer evening with friends and family – Chin – chin and zivili.