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Savoury smell of lepinja with goulash wafts its way through Skadarlija

Updated: Nov 23, 2021

Pekara Spasa is the baker's shop, located amid the hustle and bustle of Belgrade but still tucked away on a small side street in the Skadarlija quarter. Situated right at the very beginning of the most famous Belgrade bohemian 'borough', right above the famed fountain, normally referred to as " česma" and right by the flagpole with the traditional banner of Skadarlija, it has opened its doors for the sweet toothed lovers of widely known 'lepinja' with 'baked in-house' gourmet specialties.

After some partial refurbishment, which had taken more than a year in Pekara Spasa, it opened its doors for the sweet toothed lovers of widely known lepinja the enticing scent of a gloriously lavish lepinja freshly taken out of the baker's oven , smothered in goulash, kajmak and other condiments, wafts its way through Skadarlija.

Never overshadowed by other apparently more renowned restaurants and cafes or other bakeries in close proximity as well, Pekara Spasa is in its seventh decade now. It has earned its legendary status with the Belgradians and their guests with its aforesaid signature dish 'lepinja with goulash' which has got swathes of both peckish and famished hordes standing in long queues along the kaldrma i.e. well trodden cobbles of Skadarska Street.

Photo: Pekara Spasa

This image still seems to be lingering in the well kept memories of many generations, given that this idiosyncratic gourmet signature dish with the status of an unofficially declared local foodie brand per se, used to be served in the afternoons only.

The long , winding queue of guests flocking there to grab a bite of lepinja with goulash used to stretch from the then 29 November Street, which is now Despot Stefan Boulevard, after the city government has changed its official name (lest we have grim recollections of the notorious Communism times, which comes across as political 'white washing' of history 'Serbian style').

Photo: Pekara Spasa

Crowds of apparently all generations, the children and the whole families alike, would stand in a neat line patiently waiting to be served their own lavish portion of hot 'off the oven' lepinja with goulash complete with a delicious dollop of condiments. Hopefully this could be a chance for them to remember their childhood days because Pekara Spasa is there again to provide busy Belgradians with a gloriously tasty on the go - snack or alternatively welcome you inside to take your time and thoroughly enjoy the feast of your choice, while sitting at the tables indoors.

Interestingly enough, after one has had a sip or two of alcohol or perhaps one glass too many in the local kafanas, they would tend to seek comfort from a bad hangover in this renowned mouth watering lepinja with kajmak and goulash coming from the proverbial hot baker's ovens of Pekara Spasa.

Browsing through the potted history of Pekara Spasa, we stumble across the detail that this bungalow building was built as early as the 1930s . It was built with an underlying architectural principle 'brick- mud- brick - mud' in mind. It might be worth mentioning that originally a hairdresser used to occupy these premises to run his small business at the time.

Photo: Pekara Spasa

The founder of the Pekara Spasa was Radomir Spasović, father of four sons, Jovan, Sreten, Spasoje and Tomislav, who did manage to go on with their family business. Sreten and Tomislav managed to set up an independent business at the end of the 1970s, setting up the baker's shop Charlie, which used to be famous for its pogačice with čvarci and kifle. When the founder's son Spasoje died in 1990, his mother Andjelija, inherited this small business and then passed it on to her daughter Jelena, who now runs the bakery with the immense help coming from her husband Ivan.

Photo: Pekara Spasa

After being a successful business for decades, in 2017 it was time for refurbishments and renovations . The massive Turkish baking furnace couldn't withstand the passage of time and thus was long overdue and fell into disrepair, new official approvals were not easily granted by the authorities so the neighbours started making complaints and an odd scowling look on and off.

So in line with the overall appearances and architecture of Skadarlija, the landlady owner of Pekara Spasa tells us that on about 60m2 of usable area, old materials , techniques and flooring were preserved so that the ambience and authenticity of the old house and the working premises remain intact.

The old looks, though revamped, were well kept for the chairs dating from the 1960s, wooden beams for the house fenestration such as the front doors and windows and the old style glass fronted chest of drawers , whereas the tiles at the front door date back from 1953. Though, due to legal and technical constraints, the owners had to abide by the technical standards and minimally distort the original appearances.

Photo: Pekara Spasa

A particular interesting feature there now is the wall at the very end of the bakery where one can see the remnants of an old Turkish oven in which the old granddad's shovel was cast as well and the oklagija ( i.e. a rolling pin) and tools are there as well which seem to stand in silent testimony of the longstanding tradition of this family business.

So lo and behold, our dear neighbours and the residents of Stari Grad: this is a great opportunity for you inasmuch as the warm welcome particularly extends to our younger generations to check whether the tales told about Pekara Spasa are a heartfelt recommendation to drop by and taste the specialties prepared here so that you can spread the word further about these mouthwatering delicacies . If you are too scared it might be too strongly flavoured, no worries, it is flavoured right to the bliss point.

Photo: Pekara Spasa

Alongside their well known lepinja with goulash , kajmak or 'chilli' cheese , one can order a mixture of all these as well, if they so wish, the 'formula' of which the founder Sreten came up with way back in 1968. There is also the famous 'reforma torta' cake , sutlijaš , oblanda and a galore of traditional flour based food: pastries and pies on offer coming from the proverbial baker's oven by the Spasović's who are genuine masters of their craft. All these are gloriously versatile , seasoned generously and well coated in spices and sauces. In this way they surely help Belgrade mark its role in food history. This is certainly a bakery with enormous character, so unfussy and uncomplicated exuding inexplicable charm but consistently good for decades now; 'a must - try' in the food map of Belgrade. This is a treat that surely can convert sceptics.

Photo: Pekara Spasa

Pekara Spasa is located at Skadarska 26 ,Skadarlija, Stari grad, Beograd 11102.

Glossary of terms

kaldrma # old style, cobblestone lane or a cobbled street with outdoor asphalt or stone cube shaped tiles similar to macadam laid out next to each other

lepinja - a rounded loaf of bread cut in halves typical of the region similar to that of a hamburger but somewhat bigger normally stuffed with kajmak

gulaš/goulash - a dish of Hungarian origin popular in Eastern Europe# a rich soup or a stew with vegetables and meat seasoned with paprika and other spices

kajmak - a very delicious dairy product similar to creamy cheese typical of the region

Skadarlija - a famous bohemian borough in Belgrade

despot - an archaic name for the title of a Serbian king or prince and such

česma- outdoor water fountain with a tap for free consumption of water by the public

kafana - a traditional Serbian inn or a tavern , the word also used in the whole Balkans

pogačica - a bakery product similar to a small bun with layers of tiny sfogliatella

čvarci - delicious pork rinds or pork belly cracklings typical of the region made in the process of making pork lard , popular among the elderly people

kifla - a loaf of bread similar to croissant but thinner and longer

oklagija - a somewhat old fashioned word for a big long wooden rolling pin used to spread dough into a rounded structure prior to making pittas, pies, gibanica, burek by hand etc

oblanda - biscuits called : wafers

sutlijaš - boiled rice as a stand alone dish either with added sugar, cinnamon or salty condiments. Pekara Spasa serves a tiny but sophisticated but still an appetizing dessert in a smallish rounded bowl of boiled rice sprinkled with cinnamon

reforma torta - a popular cake which appears to have gained its name due to its popularity during the times of 1 political reforms in the Former Yugoslavia

translated, adapted and submitted by our guest author Natasha

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