The classic dish of Bosnia, pita is dough filled with cheese or potatoes, and usually rolled up in the shape of a snail. The name differs according to the fillings: A cheese pita is named sirnica; a krompiruša has potatoes and zeljanica is a Bosnian strudel filled with spinach. While the food was long unknown in Austria, pita is gaining popularity, sold in countless supermarkets and restaurants.
But what makes pita an international delicacy?
To find the answer, I headed to the restaurant Pitawerk at Mariahilferstraße 147. Since January 2016, Edin Islamović and Nadan Hadžibeganović have been serving this classic Bosnian dish to the Viennese.
The friends have worked together in the restaurant business before and decided to open Pitawerk out of love for Bosnian culture. The restaurant impresses with its cosy ambience, offering pita advertised to taste “like it was made by grandma.”
“We make typical Sarajevo-style pita,” says Edin, who is the manager and co-founder of the restaurant. His colleague Nadan learned how to cook Bosnian pita in Sarajevo from a local expert. His diligence and skill paid off: With a team of some 17 employees working alongside him, Nadan still works in the kitchen when needed. This year the Austrian gourmet magazine Falstaff honored the restaurant with four stars in the category “Street Food.”
The Bosnian strudels are prepared fresh every morning with what they describe as “the best Austrian ingredients,” particularly potatoes and onions from an organic supplier from Styria. “He also provides us with the regional ingredients we need,” Edin tells me. Only the particular styles of yoghurt and cheese come from outside the country (Slovenia), as their recipes require special products not available in Austria.
Passion and dedication are essential to the preparation of the meals as the paper-thin dough is made by hand at Pitawerk, the quality a reward for sensitivity and patience. Prepared burek (dough strudels filled with meat) accounts for 70 percent of sales, with the remaining 30 percent by the four other pita variations.
The dish tastes best prepared on a coal cooker, although a classic pizza oven is also suitable. “The hot temperatures make the pita really crispy,” Edin explains, particularly delicious with a drinkable yoghurt as a side. “Without yoghurt, it just doesn’t taste the way it’s supposed to,”
reveals the manager. Their goal: To offer the best pita in all of Vienna.
“Since we got the place, my mother has stopped making pita altogether,” Edin admits with a laugh. “I’m probably the only kid who gets visited by his mum, because she wants to eat his pita and not the other way around.”
And if mama is convinced, who are we to argue?