We love surprises. The less we know, the less we expect. And – at the end – if the ordeal is overwhelming – we remember such things for almost all of our lives. The last shock came from Slovenia. To be exact – from the restaurant Pri Lojzetu (it means “chez Louis”) situated at the Zemono castle on a hill in the middle of picturesque vineyards of the Vipava valley. I knew that, I knew what was going to happen, but my guests hadn’t a clue. Pri Lojzetu is one of the most renowned Slovenian restaurants. Located some 30 minutes driving from the Italian/Slovenian border at Gorizia (Friuli), it is basically in the heart of central Europe. From the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, you are there in less than an hour.
Tomaž (Tomi for friends) Kavčič is the fourth generation of a family of restaurateurs. His mother Katja is the living icon of Slovenian gastronomy. She was the one who introduced Slow Food to Slovenian and Italian guests long time before the movement was “invented” in Bra by Carlo Petrini! Her mother (Tomi’s grandmother) followed the family tradition before WW2, by joining the nun’s cooking school in a monastery nearby. Her diploma work was to create a six dish menu which contained local dishes. This kind of culinary experience was strongly represented at restaurant Pri Lojzetu, which until ten years ago was situated at the family house in the village of Dornberk, in the middle of the Vipava valley. Following this heritage Katja began working with fresh local materials and seasonal dishes that she adjusted to modern times. Even during communism (Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia and gained it’s independence in 1991) they were lucky. Tito’s communists were not as harsh as their ideological comrades behind the Iron Curtain, you could have your own company, it was allowed, it had to be small, but it was allowed. And this was crucial for small traditional businesses like restaurateurs, winegrowers… it was the most important thing for the survival of traditional Slovenian cuisine. Therefore it is not surprising that the first official Slow Food dinner in Slovenia was held in December 1995 at the restaurant Pri Lojzetu, it was totally obvious and logical.