One afternoon I was wandering Ljubljana seeking lunch. I was starting to give up and go back to somewhere I had already been even though I was itching for something new. As I am walking up Trubarjeva I notice a new place. “Raw Pasta Fresca Bar” was the sign out front and I can never really turn down pasta so I ventured inside.
I walk in and I am greeted by the warm smiling face of Erika, one of two owners. In the back, preparing the food is Maxx, her other half. A case of fresh-made pasta in baskets sits next to the register glaring at me as I browse the menu. I opted for the Ravioli di Magro with butter, sage, Parmesan, and edible flowers.
I enjoyed my meal outside, but as my day progressed I couldn’t stop thinking about the lunch I had the experience that came with it. The ambiance and food that was cooked to perfection. It was as if you tasted their passion for food on your plate. I was intrigued and sent Erika and Maxx a message asking them to meet for an interview. Thankfully they agreed so on a wet gray Monday, after the lunch rush, we sat down and talked about food – and I mean really got into it.
Connecting Cultures Through Ingredients
Erika and Maxx came to Ljubljana via Italy and are not new to the restaurant scene. They had a boutique restaurant in Milan which they owned and operated for several years. Ready for a new challenge and change of pace they set off to Slovenia three years ago. Here they would live and work for a few years before opening Raw Pasta Fresca Bar in October (2019).
Their vision is to bring fresh and fast pasta done properly to Ljubljana. All of their products are made from natural ingredients, most of which are local. They described it as a sort of “fast food done in a craft way”.
The way that Maxx talks about food is enchanting. You can see that it is something in the back of his mind processing aspect. He professed that food is the one thing that can connect all of us, that it is a physical response that we can not overcome.
For example, I mentioned the gnocchi with duck ragu dish that they made for Martinovanje, and I said it was a nice tribute to Slovenian traditions. They confessed that it was a recipe from home, but it was in this way that they could connect both cultures through ingredients. It was this clever moment that I confirmed my suspicions that this goes deeper than food for them.
Erika began to share that because they come from Milan and it is geographically similar to Ljubljana, they benefit from similar ingredients in their cuisines. While the recipes may differ the ingredients are the same so they aren’t introducing new foods to people just new combinations.
It is clear that connecting our primal instinct of hunger with our cultural association to ingredients (taste, smell, etc) is a very powerful one. Maxx told me he believes that people who despise each other can set aside their differences over a plate of wonderful food. It is a positive thought to linger on and one I might agree with.
Challenging Misconceptions About Italian Cuisine
Maxx started to discuss what he felt is his current challenge and why he is passionate about sharing real Italian recipes. He continued to explain that Italian cuisine has been given fake traditions fabricated by Italian immigrants and foreigners. For whatever reasons, maybe due to new ingredients, environment, and culture. Now the challenge is to bring the real traditions back to the table. With the world so connected there is an opportunity to stand up and say “Hey, this is real Italian food. Not that.”
They shared with me their horror at the thought of Chicken Alfredo, eating pizza with a fork and knife, or using a spoon to eat spaghetti.
We even dove into the misconception that pasta is unhealthy food. Maxx went right into the science explaining that if pasta is overcooked then the starches break down, and your stomach works overtime to digest it, causing you to feel sleepy and the food to feel heavy. The solution to this is cooking pasta al dente so that it is more gentle on the stomach and gives you immediate energy through direct carbohydrates.
The discussion shifted to the importance of moderation and how the Mediterranean diet embraces this concept. Italians understand the importance of eating a diverse and moderate diet but also to indulge in food and life when the moment arrives.
Moderation with indulgences is the secret of life was our conclusion. With food, friends, and love. Enjoying life and enjoying food together is at the core of our existence.
For Erika and Maxx, their food philosophy is also their life philosophy. Their attention to detail, patience, passion, and kindness are at no shortage and I am sure you will feel right at home enjoying a plate of food at Raw Pasta Fresca Bar.
You can find their restaurant at Trubarjeva ulica 43 hidden down a small alley. It is open Monday to Friday from 10:30-18:30. Don’t forget to follow them on Facebook to see their latest offerings.
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Ljubljana Eats Series
This is a new series I have been working out and testing and would love some feedback in the comments or via email. I have a new Instagram you can follow to find all of the best foods around Ljubljana, Slovenia!