Izola is Home to the Best Pizza in Slovenia

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Regina has been the pride of Izola since 2023. Don't let the name fool you: it's not a nice lady you'll meet on a visit to our town, but the name of the best pizza in Slovenia! It was created by Igor Volk and Matjaž Antolovič from Casa della Pizza. You will find out about the beginnings of this cozy Italian pizzeria and plans for its future in the conversation with the owner, Matjaž Antolovič.

How did the story of Casa della Pizza begin, and what was the initial vision? Has it evolved over time?

My journey in the hospitality industry began immediately after graduating from the Catering and Tourism High School in Izola and completing my mandatory military service in the Slovenian army. Over the years, I've owned and managed several establishments along the Slovenian coast, predominantly in Izola, where my heart is at home.

I've always been passionate about pizza! In 2002, we opened a pizzeria in Drevored 1. maja (1st May Avenue), and within a year, claimed first place in the competition for the best pizza in Slovenia (Nona Gustina).

After a few years of experimenting in the catering industry, my long-time friend and current business partner, Igor Volk, and I opened pizzeria Bambola in Koper in 2017. Back then I met a great man in the pizza world—Italian "maestro" Graziano Bertuzzotto. A four-time world pizza champion, Graziano proved to be a profound source of inspiration. He offered invaluable insights on refining the dough-making process and selecting premium ingredients.

I decided to offer the finest pizza to guests in my beloved Izola. On 16th April 2018, the "old" Moby Dick bar became a pizzeria. My business partner Igor and I decided to go for an Italian-style pizzeria and named it Casa Della Pizza. I have to say that the guests accepted the change very quickly and warmly.

Last year, you once again secured victory in the competition for the best pizza in Slovenia. What do you think is the key to your success and the reason for being acknowledged once more?

Yes, 2023 was a very important year for us, as Igor Volk claimed the title of the national pizza champion with the best pizza in Slovenia—the Regina pizza. In my view, the key to our success is perseverance and finding joy in our craft. We won because we, as a team, believed that we had the best recipe. Igor convinced the jury with just the right combination of dough and toppings, and his profound understanding of dough preparation served as the cherry on top.

How does the local environment influence your work and how do you collaborate with local producers and suppliers?

Istria is a natural wonderland when it comes to local produce. We can be really proud to live in this area. We have the best that nature can give us - both from the land and from the sea. We use all of our local delicacies diligently, but we blend them with Italian ingredients as well. 
 

 

What are these really special local ingredients that you use? Do you ensure that your guests experience authentic Istrian flavors on their plates?

Our pizzas definitely include local ingredients. Much of the homemade spicy olive oil we use is exclusively crafted for us by a renowned Istrian olive oil producer. We also take seasonal dynamics into consideration: during spring, for instance, our menu features Istrian wild asparagus and salted fillets sourced directly from our fisherman, Marino, while in summer we focus more on seasonal vegetables.

In terms of wines, our carefully curated wine list highlights top-quality winemakers from Izola, particularly showcasing the excellent Malvazija and Refošk varietals.

One could say that your Istrian flavors are harmoniously blended with Italian influences. How does this atmosphere resonate in your pizzeria?

It all starts with the ambience itself: when you walk through the door of our pizzeria, you can immediately feel Italy, not only in the aroma but also in the portraits of renowned Italian figures adorning our walls. Then you hear the Italian music that takes you back in time... A special feature of our large bar counter is the display case with 130 bottles of the popular Italian liqueur Aperol. We are also proud ambassadors of Italy's most renowned craft beer, Angelo Poretti, available on tap in eight distinct flavors.

"We are delighted to receive compliments from our guests from Trieste, who have discovered that we can also craft an excellent dough using sourdough - 'lievito madre'."

How do you cater to the needs of tourists and visitors coming to Izola? Are your guests primarily locals or does the pizzeria attract a diverse crowd?

At Casa della Pizza, we pay special attention to our local guests, especially our neighbours, residents of Izola, and all those from Istria, who faithfully visit us throughout the year.

In recent years, we have been fortunate to welcome many Slovenian families who visit our town for weekend getaways during the winter months. They regularly visit not only us but also other popular restaurants in Izola.

I'd say the most popular foreign guests at the moment are the Austrians, who appreciate attentive service and leave generous tips. They are followed by the Italians, who have been somewhat more reserved in recent years. However, we've also noticed a growing number of Ukrainian and Russian guests in the past year.

"Izola has greatly developed in the culinary field. The fact that we offer high-quality and diverse cuisine on such a small piece of land is certainly our great advantage."

What do you think is most important in creating a memorable experience for your guests?

The most important thing is that the guest is always satisfied. This means they leave smiling, come back again, and share their good experience with their acquaintances and friends. This is the only key to success and visibility.

What sets your pizzeria apart from other pizzerias in the region?

Casa della Pizza stands out due to our commitment to using exquisitely selected Italian ingredients. What truly sets us apart, however, is our dough. Instead of using conventional yeast, we use a yeast starter called 'lievito madre,' which is much healthier. Our pizza won't make you feel sick to your stomach, and it won't leave you feeling thirsty either.

"Our pizza won't upset your stomach, and you won't feel thirsty."

How important is sustainability to you? Have you recently taken any specific measures to reduce your environmental footprint?

Sustainability is not just a trend; it is our future. We are actively working towards it through various initiatives, such as waste separation, using environmentally friendly energy, and employing eco-friendly cleaning products. Our goal is to minimize the environmental impact of our activities and operate as sustainably as possible. Additionally, we are proud sponsors of the Izola Basketball Club, supporting young people and promoting a healthy mind in a healthy body.

In the context of sustainability, trends and habits in the food industry are also slowly changing. How are you addressing the changes, especially in the area of vegetarian and vegan cuisine?

We closely follow gastronomy trends and regularly visit the best pizzerias in Italy to gain new knowledge and learn from top pizza makers and pizzeria owners. We also make sure not to miss any trade fairs or competitions in this field.

Vegetarian pizza is very popular among our guests, and we are increasingly adapting to the needs in the vegan offerings as well. I would also mention our gluten-free pizza, which is highly praised by people with celiac disease and recommended by their association.

What are your plans for the future of Casa della Pizza and how do you see it evolving in the coming years?

There are always many plans. I live for each day and I never know what idea I will have tomorrow or what life holds in store for me. The most important thing for us right now is to keep the quality of the pizzeria that we have achieved to this day, to keep as many of our guests happy as possible, and to keep them coming back to Izola for the best pizza.

Since you are speaking in plural, one more question: do you run the pizzeria together with Igor, or is there family involved in the business?

I run the pizzeria with Igor, but my father is the one I always turn to for advice or when I'm making an important decision. Family always comes first for me, although in the catering business, it is sometimes very difficult to coordinate schedules in a way that everyone is satisfied.

My belief is that the sun always shines after the rain and that a true restaurateur needs to experience the worst in his career to be able to appreciate every single guest later on. By that, I mean that you have to be persistent and strong, even when things don't go as planned. But at the same time, you have to believe in your ability to take the place to the level you envisioned. I have to give special thanks to my father, who has always been by my side and has been invaluable in helping me with all my projects. My son, who is 16 at the moment, also likes to help out and gain work experience with us, especially during the holidays.

The Italian pizzeria actually fits in very well with the environment of Izola, where two cultures coexist—Slovenian and Italian. The language of our neighbours is also very much part of our space. What are all the ways in which you connect or get involved in the local community?

There has always been a spirit of networking in Izola; we have always been keen to collaborate within the hospitality sector. In addition to offering the best pizza in Slovenia, we also pride ourselves on having the best ice cream, cappuccino, fish soup, cod spread (baccalà), and, of course, fish specialties. And it wouldn’t be the same without the local fishermen, who provide fresh catches every day, truly embodying the concept of “from the sea to the plate.” This is also the famous slogan of our friend, Chef Ivek, from the Marina Hotel Restaurant.

How would you describe the essence of Casa della Pizza in three words?

I would describe it with the tagline "Never give up." Achievements in the hospitality industry are similar to those in professional sports. Winning a gold medal once doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll always be the best.

Last year, we won the national championship for the best pizza in Slovenia, making it our most successful year yet, with guests literally waiting outside the door even in winter to try the award-winning Regina pizza. But we have to remember that winter in Izola is long and lasts longer than the summer season, so you always have to think and invent new things to make sure you survive the next period and, most importantly, to keep the staff employed throughout the year.

What would you say to tourists and daily visitors who are coming to Izola and thinking about visiting your pizzeria?

Welcome to Izola, the most beautiful fishing town on the Slovenian coast, where everyone can enjoy the fresh sea air and the best food for every taste.

Finally, here are some interesting facts about Matjaž:

If I were a pizza, I would be: Pizza Regina—Slovenian National Champion.

An experience in Izola I really enjoy is: summer on a boat at Bele skale beach (White rocks), and winter on the same boat, trying to catch something delicious. I can’t imagine life without the sea.

Something I always recommend to my guests is: Visiting the restaurants in the town and wineries and olive growers in the countryside.

My favourite event in Izola: The Olive, Wine, and Fish Festival.

My favorite free time activity is: Fishing for cuttlefish and calamari at sunset at Ronek, Izola.

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