At a shady outdoor table in Gjirokastra, overlooking stone alleys and whitewashed houses, we tucked into a plate of Kujtimi restaurant’s specialty: bretkosë. That’s frog legs, if you’re curious. It’s a dish that Albanians are crazy about (much more so than the French). From the window of a speeding furgon we once saw whole frogs roasting over a spinning fire. The two times we've ordered them, though, they've come lightly breaded and fried.
an interesting time eating roast lamb's head in the capital, and have had a hard time avoiding it since. These chunks of melting fat and succulent meat were grilled for me by a dour man over a spitting fire, seasoned lightly and served simply.
Byrek is the local name for börek, which is a staple food in most ex-Ottoman places from Ankara to Athens to Zagreb, so we’ve seen this flaky-crust and oily filling before. They can be stuffed with cheese, ground meat or greens – something like a flatter, thinner spanakopita (itself a derivative, but don’t tell the Greeks that). This woman in the south made wonderfully toothsome versions with a firm crust.
According to tradition, Albanian cuisine is a mix of Greek and Turkish influences – but in practice, it’s Italy that has lent some of the most important flavors. Under Italian rule for a time in the twentieth century, and only a short boatride away from Puglia, the country soaked up pasta and risotto, proshutë and domate. Italian dishes are on almost every menu not strictly "traditional."