I can say, without boasting that I know the South Balkans well and Albania where I lived for almost 4 years. As a guide I had the chance to wander around the area and attend countless restaurants, taverns, puffs and canteens from Pristina to Butrint and from Durrës to Ohrid and I can easily say that I never I have experienced something like the incredible Mrizi i Zanave.
Mrizi i Zanave (the shadow of the fairies) is located in Fishtë, a small village north-west of Tirana, which does not speak to many people except to literary lovers who know Gjergj Fishta. It goes without saying that the north of the country being very little visited (which is a big mistake) it is easy enough to imagine that Fishtë and his campaign is not really touristy. And yet the restaurant Mrizi i Zanave has a clientele from around the world. And for good reason! This place is a real UFO in the Balkans!
Founded by the brothers Altin and Anton Prenga, this restaurant is based on a simple and yet very innovative concept for Albania: The Slow Food. That is to say use products that come only 20 km kilometers around, which are seasonal and grown in respect of the environment. Here, we do not hide anything, the twenty producers who provide the establishment are detailed at the entrance and Mrizi i Zanave produces a good part of its ingredients, that’s why the restaurant is lost in the countryside, it is a farm agricultural! Here, we grow, we raise, we harvest, and we cook. Whereas the political and social diktat of the moment in Albania wants that in order to be trend it is necessary to move away as much as possible from the culture and the Albanian traditions, at Mrizi i Zanave one advocates the 100% made in Albanian campaign and that sells of the dream ! The Prenga brothers have made their weapons abroad, especially in Italy,
But then, what are we eating? Well, I can not give you the detail of the menu not only because it changes according to the seasons but especially because there is no menu! Here, everyone eats the same thing, which avoids wastage and allows to have extremely fresh products, but also which adds a surprise effect to the taste experience. When you sit down, the adorable waiter (like all the staff) asks you if you have known allergies and if you want your white or red wine (Kallmet, neighbor grape of course). There follows a succession of discoveries and wonders. The dishes are beautifully presented, but not too worked, unlike some gourmet restaurants that tend to denature their products.
Mezze: dried tomatoes, quail eggs, pickles, olives
Yfka with mushrooms
Assorted cheeses and cold meats
Do not ask me what I prefer, it is impossible to choose as there is a variety of dishes but also the flavors are special. Yet there is something that really caught my attention and completely amazed me: The desserts. While the dishes were simply presented to keep the nobility of the products, the desserts are them straight out of the kitchen of a great starred chef! Who would have thought that at the bottom of Fishtë we make ice creams and sorbets with liquid nitrogen ?! The crème brûlées with figs are “burned” old-fashioned to the poker before our eyes (amazed), melting ice cream sprinkled with coffee beans also roasted old-fashioned, Mrizi i Zanave .
This gargantuan meal ends on a dogwood raki that gives us the impression of having gone to the head as the bill arrived was low. This is also what makes this establishment a unique place, while almost all the great restaurants in Albania are generally frequented only by an international clientele because of the prohibitive prices, here there is mainly an Albanian clientele because prices remain affordable for the standard of living of the country,
I could go on for a long time to tell you about the Mrizi i Zanave experience or even write a poem about it because this place inspired me and gave me faith in humanity, but like any unique experience I invite you to go live by you even.