Italian Dining Adventure

Welcome to Ilona’s Stueberl where pasta is nowhere to be found

On The Town | Michelle Falkenbach | December 2008 / January 2009

The three of us, my aunt, sister and I, were on a mission.  We needed to find a good and decently priced place for dinner without going to our usual haunts (Café d’Europe on the Graben or Café le Bol) and still have enough time to make it to our 20:30 movie.

Walking out of the UBahn, the words chianti, and prosecco leaped out from a hand written tablet. Aha! We quickly made our way to an empty table. But what was that waiter saying? I struggled to dust off my Italian…

We opened the menus. The first page was confusing: roast lamb? Tzatziki? Isn’t that the yogurt and cucumber thing we had last summer on Santorini? We looked at each other and laughed; it was a Greek restauraunt! Nothing against the Greeks, but when you’re expecting pizza and pasta it’s too much of a palette shock. Embarrassed, we got up from the table, excused ourselves to the dumbfounded waiter who was about to take our drink order, and left.

Next stop, the Graben. After we stumbled over yet another construction site in this beautiful city, we saw green, white, and red. A flag, an Italian flag, followed by an Italian restaurant (or so we thought at first glance), "Ilona’s Stueberl." We eagerly sat down, ordered wine, and started looking through the menus.  I was particularly interested in eating pasta so I turned from page to page looking for the big pasta heading only to be slightly disappointed when I hit the end and had found none.  It was at this point when my aunt and sister had also realized that we were, in fact, not at an Italian restaurant.

Right before our eyes the placemat read: "Welcome to Ilona’s Stueberl, one of the oldest Hungarian restaurants in Vienna . . ." When the waiter came with a basket of peppered wheat bread, it became clear that we would not be granted the opportunity to indulge in the Italian cuisine tonight.

My aunt and sister ordered gefüllte paprika (filled paprika - a well known Austrian specialty, and, as it turns out, a Hungarian, Italian, and Scandinavian specialty as well) and I had an enormous mixed salad with tuna fish.

Needless to say, we finished everything with delight and in time for the film. The only thing we weren’t so keen on was the one authentic Hungarian item on the table – the bread. To our credit, we did sample it –– which was actually very good until we found out that it had pieces of fried pig meat hidden inside.

What we learned from this experience: plan ahead when in a hurry; most foreign restaurants have dishes familiar to those of the country they are in; and, most importantly, the Italian flag is green, white, and red in three vertical stripes, going from left to right.

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