Antica trattoria

Antica trattoria “Suban” Trieste: “Earthfood” between tradition and innovation

by Gogo on December 10, 2009

in Restaurants

…beautiful and elegant ambient with a touch of good old times, excellent price-quality ratio, good house wine, perfectly prepared regional dishes that change with season, tradition combined with innovation. Continuous existence of “Suban” for 144 years is definitely not a matter of pure chance like it was its foundation.

Antica osteria "Suban" Trieste

144 years of tradition can be felt in the air

There is no doubt, fish and all kinds of seafood are of excellent quality in Trieste. It is easy to find a good restaurant that excel in preparing them (see last summer’s post about a dinner at Osteria Istriano). But in autumn and winter time, when extreme bora wind blows and you start to doubt if Trieste is on Mediterranean or Baltic sea, my organism demands for heavier and more caloric food. It asks not necessarily for meat but for “earthfood” (it. prodotti della terra) instead of seafood (it. prodotti del mare). It’s time to visit trattoria “Suban”, the guardians of Trieste’s traditional cuisine.

Just one kilometer uphill from hectic and busy street Via Giulia, on the outskirts of the city where timid signs of countryside begin to show up, you will find Antica trattoria “Suban” – a restaurant famous for its traditional “earthfood” dishes. It was founded in 1865 by Giovanni Suban after winning royal lottery in Vienna and today it is run by Mario Suban who belongs to the fourth generation of the same family. Crazy story! Pure chance contributed to the fact that today, 144 years later, I am able to stand in front of this trattoria. As soon as we entered inside savory aromas from the kitchen seduced us.

The interior is warm and cozy, not pretentious and over-designed like in many modern restaurants these days. Simplicity and tradition lives here. Enjoyable view on Trieste and surrounding hills. Our table is just in front of glass screened barbecue, where a skilled chef is preparing all sorts of meats. For the whole evening we could not stop looking at the live cooking show.
Ambient 9/10

Subans barbecue

Suban's barbecue

Having a barbecue in restaurant can be only praised. But, if they used barbecue wood instead of coal the meat would acquire those fine smoky notes and become tastier. The bread is nothing worth remembering, it was obviously not homemade and had a taste of supermarket bread. The olive oil on the table is a Tuscan one made from Frantoio olive cultivar – it is sweet and fruity, of decent quality but again nothing special. Buying olive oil from local producers in Trieste’s countryside or in Istria would be a much better choice. We order 0.75 l of red house wine and get a really nice wine, as good as some bottles you would pay more than 15 €. It was cabernet sauvignon from Friuli, red fruits and vegetable notes in the nose , medium body, good acids, equilibrated, not very tannic, easy to drink. The wine and a bottle of sparkling water costed us 15 €, a bit too much. There is a cover charge of 3 € per person.
Details 8/10

Soon, Mario (the owner) comes to our table to take the order. First he thinks we are Hungarians and switches from Italian to Hungarian, than realizes we come from Istria and switches to perfect Croatian. We remained deeply impressed not only of his language skills (probably he knows every language of the former Austro Hungarian empire, but we did not check) but of his sincere passion for food. He starts to tell us what is on the menu. The list is long, mostly based on traditional dishes from Trieste and Mittel Europa, but modern and creative dishes are not missing either.

We skip antipasto and proceed immediately to primo piatto. The first one is a very requested dish, a specialty of “Suban”:

Pancakes in basil sauce (Palacinke alla Mandriera)
Creamy filling is made of melted sheep cheese (pecorino) with a lot of basil. It tastes a bit like pesto Genovese but here the accent is on cheese. Outside – cream and some meat stock sauce. Perfect preparation. A very juicy and delicious start and impressive in its simplicity. Here is the recipe.
Score 10/10

Pancakes in basil sauce

Pancakes in basil sauce

Pumpkin spaetzli with vegetable ragout (spaetzli di zucca con ragu di verdure)
The spaetzli had a noble sweetness due to the pumpkin inside and they were really tasty and well prepared (in Italy they know that pasta should be cooked al dente). Too bad they put some unseasonal vegetables like zucchini and green peas (probably unfrozen) in the ragout – this only made the dish boring, like something to be served in a cafeteria. It would have been better if they had served the spaetzli only with simple butter and sauge sauce.
Score 8.5/10

Pumpkin spaetzle in vegetable ragú

Pumpkin spaetzle in vegetable ragú

The list of other primi piatti is so interesting and uncommon that I have to mention it here: Istrian fuži in chicken stew sauce (a traditional Istrian pasta that I mentioned few months ago), jota carsolina, spinach and ricotta gnocchetti in butter and sauge sauce. Then we proceed to the main course (secondo piatto) where there was also plenty of local specialties like always popular roasted veal shank, spicy and temperament Hungarian gulasch, pork sirloin with peppers and potato chips, decadent calf liver venetian-style, sauerkraut rolls with pork ribs, sausages and paprika (very similar to sarma in Croatia and Balkans)…

Usually when I come for the first time in a restaurant I order the most unusual dish on the menu and sometimes I manage to convince others to do the same (they usually hate me after the dinner). But that evening my experimental soul was sleeping so we took two quite standard meat dishes that you can find anywhere in the world.

Char-grilled T-bone steak
Preparation on the barbecue was excellent, the meat was crusty outside but juicy and tender inside. The meat quality was very good but nothing to die for.
Score 8.5/10

Char-grilled T-bone steak

Char-grilled T-bone steak

Char-grilled duck breasts in aromatic herbs sauce
Here again we have excellent preparation, maybe a bit the breasts were overdone for my taste (too bad the waiter did not ask us for the doneness of the meat). The meat was much better than that of the T-bone steak, tender inside but with crusty skin. The sauce was elegant, subtle and full of aromas.
Score 9.5/10

Char-grilled duck breasts in aromatic herbs sauce

Char-grilled duck breasts in aromatic herbs sauce

Buttered spinach and baked potatoes
We shared one side dish. Fresh, seasonal, genuine vegetables. You know when sometimes it happens that you can not stop yourself in eating potatoes?
Score 10/10

Buttered spinach and baked potatoes

Buttered spinach and baked potatoes

Sponge cake rolls with chestnut cream
This sponge-like cake (pan di spagna) is very popular in the region and it is often the base for many elaborate desserts. Chestnut cream was light, aromatic and not too sweet. Maybe it was a bit too dry. Simple and nice.
Score 9/10

Sponge cake rolls with chestnut filling

Sponge cake rolls with chestnut filling

Chocolate soufflé
Good preparation. The chocolate was not extraordinary, it would be better to use a darker one and put less sugar.
Score 8.5/10

Chocolate soufflé

Chocolate soufflé

In conclusion, beautiful and elegant ambient with a touch of good old times, excellent price-quality ratio, good house wine, perfectly prepared regional dishes that change with season, tradition combined with innovation. Continuous existence of “Suban” for 144 years is definitely not a matter of pure chance like it was its foundation. Can’t wait to come visit Mario and his family again.

Price 77 eur
Overall 9/10

Antica Trattoria Suban
Via E. Comici 2/d, I-34128 Trieste
tel. +39 040 54368
email: anticatrattoria@suban.it
http://www.suban.it/


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Clem December 15, 2009 at 10:28

I read the whole article and every dish looks good, but I’m totally stuck on the 1st one, pancakes in basil sauce ! It’s great to have the recipe, I might try that one day.

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Gogo December 16, 2009 at 01:18

These pancakes are not like the French or Croatian ones. Italians put much more eggs, so it’s more like an omelette. Two of them and you are full.
By the way, how are pancakes made in Normandie?

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