Trieste is located in the upper corner of Italy, located just at the border of Slovenia. It’s a compact port city and in addition to Slovenian influences, you might be surprised to come across a shop carrying beer steins, since there are residual Hungarian and Austrian influences in the melange as well. But unlike other Italian cities, you’ll find people drinking big glasses of beer, and dining on sauerkraut and dumplings…and I mean, big, hearty ones…not just gnocchi, although you’ll find those too. Which I certainly did.
Along with perhaps a little gelato here and there…
Since my time was limited, I wasn’t able to explore the areas far out of town, which I’ve been told were where the best food was to be found. The restaurants in the city were a bit uninspiring, although the bars filled up in the early evenings and were great places to have a Gingerino or my favorite aperitivo; an oversized wine glass (God bless the Italians…) with a shot of bitter orange aperitif, chilled prosecco, and a chunk of blood orange served with a handful of ice. I couldn’t catch the name, but it sure tasted good with all the food the Italians pile up at the bars nightly to snack on. The first time I saw an enormous spread of food on a bar a few years back in Italy, free for the taking, I expressed my surprise to an Italian friend, who replied, “Well, it’s so much nicer to have a little something to eat with your drink…don’t you think?”
Why yes, since you asked.
Although I know it’s not a trend that’s going to cross the border into France. But it’s a national custom I’m happy to partake of when in Italy.
After all, I don’t want to be rude. Do I?
My first day in Trieste, I discovered this amazing little shop filled with nothing but dried mushrooms. They had a glass showcase that was packed full of them and nothing else. Not wrapped up. Just a big pile of them. Since that was just my initial exploration, I knew that was one place I’d definitely be returned to, and stocking up my extra, empty suitcase I always bring along on trips to Italy.
Unfortunately after three days of pounding the pavement*, even in a small town like Trieste, I couldn’t find it again. So here’s some hard-won addresses in case your travels take you to Trieste. If you’re looking for dried mushrooms, I can’t help you out. But I did find some great chocolates, aperitivos, and, or course, gelato.
Via San Nicolò, 25
Well-priced and centrally located, this is a wonderful little hotel right on the main street of Trieste, close to the sea, and just about everything else.
(Note: A taxi from the airport to downtown will run you around 55€, since it’s located about 40 minutes from the city-center. There’s also a shuttle bus that runs downtown every 30 minutes to and from the airport. If arriving by train, the station’s located downtown and a short walk or taxi ride to your hotel.)
Via Ghega, 10
The best gelato in Trieste. I went daily for my fix, which may have included riso (rice) or pistachio made from Sicilian nuts, or gianduja, or nocciolo (hazelnut).
But always paired with a smear of cioccolato gelato.
Via Battisti, 7
Pasta-maker specializing in handmade extruded pasta in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
Viale XX Settembre, 8
Gelato shop that uses organic milk to make its creamy-cool scoops.
Via Roma, 3
Delicatezze, specialty food shop, with faro pasta, regional salumi, Italian cheeses, and tablets of chocolate. A good place to stock up.
Via XX Ottobre, 3
Specialty confectionary shop, founded in 1850. Beautiful wood cabinets filled with cakes and chocolates to eat on the premises with coffee, or to take away. The giant almond macaroon filled with chocolate cream then dipped in dark Italian chocolate was superb. I like it so much, I asked for another! A must.
Via Roma, 10
Huge cookware shop with bakeware, truffle shavers, chestnut roasters and anything else you’ll need for true Italian cooking.
Via Mazzini, 42a
Smaller cookware shop downtown as well.
Erta Sant’Anna, 63
Restaurant featuring raw seafood specialties and house-made pastas, which you can finish off with a sgroppino; lemon sorbetto blended with fizzy prosecco and a shot of vodka.
Buffet da Pepi
Via Cassa di Risparmio, 3
If you like meat, this tavolo caldo is for you. Spartan surroundings and big plates of boiled sausages, tongue, and brisket all served with a pile of rather good caraway-flecked sauerkraut.
Via Nicolò, 1/B
Downtown restaurant frequented by locals serving standard fare. My pasta and chicken were satisfying, but average. However the staff was friendly and when the restaurants filled up with locals by 9pm, the atmosphere made up for the food.
Via Ponchielli, 3
My hang-out, the best caffè/bar in Trieste. Friendly staff and lively clientele.
*Update: A reader alerted me that he found the mushroom shop!…thanks:
“I did a thorough search of Trieste in November to find your dried mushroom shop.It is found. The name is Trieste Funghi, address Via XXX Ottobre 13. As the shop is almost a hole in the wall…it is easy to pass by without notice. They had all kinds of dried mushroom, several kinds of fresh (and fresh Porcini expected the next day) and fresh truffles at reasonable prices. A heaven for mushroom lovers.”
To learn more about attending Illy’s Univeristà della Caffè you can visit their web site. At present, it’s limited to professionals although they’ve assured me they’re tailoring courses to consumers, which they’ll offer in the future.