We’re in San Michele del Carso, a place filled with history because it was the location of many battles during the First World War. And it’s right here that the Devetak family has been continuing their tradition of great food and hospitality for the past 130 years.
It opened initially as a place where people could stop for a drink as they waited for the cobbler (an ancestor of Avgustin) to fix their shoes, and Locanka Devetak has undergone a great deal of changes before becoming the place you see today; the building was completely destroyed and rebuilt after the Great War, and since then it has been expanded and extended 8 times.
And now that Avguštin has retired – but always hidden behind the scenes – he is here to tell me about this fabulous adventure. Six generations of restaurant owners!
The patron in this adventure is accompanied by a nice little group: his wife Gabriella (chef and mistress of the kitchen), his daughters Sara (owner of the family farm house) and Tatjana (sous-chef, who also takes care of administration work) as well as Tjaša (dining room manager) and Mihaela (manager of the hotel and osteria).
Here you will feel as comfortable as you would at home; a lovely place with open spaces and furnished with care and detail. You’ll feel the air of tradition and simplicity, almost as if from a different era.
The restaurant has three rooms, two large ones and a smaller one for private events; in the summer, if you open the large windows onto the garden, a lovely summer breeze will blow in.
From here you pass through the wine cellar and reach the osteria (the tavern).But the wine cellar is the real heart of this place… or almost!
If you ask Avguštin to take you to see the secret rooms you’ll know what I mean; there’s a small metal gate that closes off the cellars where, surrounded by rock, you can walk around their collection of 13-14 thousand bottles!
A wonderful sight, as well as wonderful tastes I’m sure! You’ll even be able to see the ŠTIRNA (which means well in Slovenian) built before the First World War and where now they keep the distilled wines.
Before I start talking about the restaurant I’ll tell you that if you want to spend the night here after filling up on a lovely dinner, you can do so because the Lokanda has been a hotel since 2007.
“Most of what we earn here is reinvested in the activity” says Avguštin “that’s why we’ve always made it through all these years”.
Since 2009 Sara, the eldest daughter, has started managing the family farm, always with their mind to innovation: the Devetak family don’t just offer homemade food. In each dish, they offer the products of their land, of their vegetable patch, the simple cold cuts and homemade jams. Here you can enjoy the experience of a proper family production.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, here is what I ate for my meal in this lovely place.
Accompanied by a Ribolla Gialla Noir by Primosic, I tried a pork liver pate on toast, a product of the family farm. An explosion of flavour (and the mint on the top was perfect).
The farm run by the eldest daughter also produces the cured meats: salami, coppa, pancetta and lard spiced with herbs and aromas. They practically melt in your mouth, you barely need to chew them…and a collection of flavours explode in your mouth!
This lovely starter is accompanied by my favourite wine, Vitovska; a wine from the Karst which is often served with fish. I adore it with almost anything. Pure poetry.
It’s autumn now, and it’s mushroom season. And so the next dish is a trilogy of Porcini mushrooms from Postojna: baked, diced with a soft polenta and wrapped in a dumpling with ricotta cheese. I can almost still smell them.
From the season special to traditional local dishes, here I had some of the best first courses I’ve had in a long time! If you stop by here you really must try them.
Fusilli with sausage from their own farm and Jamar (a cave cheese from Zidarič)
Biechi (a type of pasta) with chicken, marjoram and crunchy speck.
All with an excellent wine, a Radikon from 2009!
With such excellent food time flies by. It’s time for the second course: meat with Terrano wine and fish with an excellent Malvasia.
I tried the piglet loin with the rind, cooked at a low temperature for 4 hours, served with a cabbage salad, kimmel and polenta. Incredibly soft!
What about the cod? Lots to say about that too. Tapas with home grown tomatoes, polenta, potatoes and baccalà mantecato like Grandma Žuta used to; a similar version to the traditional, served on a basket of grana Padano cheese. Delicate and tasty!
The desserts? Also exceptional.
A semifreddo made with acacia honey (from Sara’s farm, obviously) with raspberry sauce and hazelnut crumbs, followed by the “Raffioi”, an excellent carrot ravioli with a quince jam and caramelized apples, all accompanied by a lovely glass of Passito.
But that’s not all. What else? They also have homemade cakes: the krasko pecivo, made with nuts and raisins and the brownie.
There’s not much left to say except that the Devetak philosophy, “Tradition, love for the local territory, research and creativity: future with a thought to the past!” has been perfectly followed.
I had imagined it since the beginning of the meal, when I saw that the bread basked was filled with homemade bread and breadsticks. It’s always special!
I really felt at home in this lovely place, I would have loved to stay to sleep in one of the rooms that are always ready to welcome any travellers 😉
Ph. Andrea Zangrando