Manjada has been delighting locals and visitors for the past 10 years


The Manjada team celebrated the restaurant's tenth anniversary at the beginning of the year. Renowned for its seafood dishes as well as its delicious pizzas, the restaurant has undergone a few changes over the past decade. We had a chat with Aljoša Tomšič about the evolution of this restaurant, which was primarily aimed at local diners and is located in San Simon.


Ten years is quite a long time ... Can you tell us about your own personal growth and evolution over the last ten years?

I have grown older. (laughs) The years can really make a difference, mainly in the fact that you get tired sooner. I'm glad I was able to put together such a great team to keep the story of Manjada going. I have stepped away a bit from waiting tables at the restaurant; I still do some work and help out, but I am no longer what you might call the "main man" or "the jack-of-all-trades".I once was. Nowadays, I'm really more focused on the management and the procurement aspects, etc.


How has Manjada's menu changed over the decade? Is the philosophy still the same or has it also matured a bit? (laughs)

The menu has changed quite a lot, more than I have. (laughs) The basics are the same, but we have changed the products, that is, the dishes that we serve, and we have focused more on seafood. Nowadays, our kitchen dishes are outselling the pizzeria part of the business by a significant margin. We have also made a change in our pricing policy: we have switched to slightly more expensive ingredients and, as a result, we have raised our prices slightly.


How have the locals responded to the changes? Manjada is very popular among the people of Izola, as well as those from other parts of Istria...

We always adapt our pricing policy to the locals, trying to make sure the prices are right for them. My wish from the very beginning was to provide a space for the locals. As a result, although the word has spread and brought us more tourists and other visitors, our guests are primarily "our" people

What about tourists and other visiting guests? What proportion of your guests are from this category?

On an annual basis, I would say that we average 70 % local people and 30 % tourists. When it comes to attracting new guests, Google reviews are a big help. We have over a thousand of them on the restaurant's profile, and that's just from the last two years. But word of mouth is also very important. For us, this matters too, especially since we serve people in our home environment.


At Manjada, you offer a wide range of dishes: from pizzas to various meats to seafood. With restaurants becoming increasingly specialised and menus becoming shorter, is this approach still paying off?

Speaking of our plans for the new decade. (laughs) The plan is exactly that: in the next 10 years, we'll be trimming down the menu at Manjada. Because a diversified offer is very challenging to deliver in terms of quality: both from the point of view of the sourcing of the ingredients and the quality of the preparation. In the future, I see us focusing on around 25 selected dishes. 


In view of the current trends: have you noticed a decline in demand for meat dishes?

It depends on the season: there is definitely much less demand for meat dishes over the summer. However, I have noticed that when people go out to eat, they want to eat quality meat first and foremost, so they order a fine cut of meat, like steak, roast beef, etc. Barbecue meat is not as popular as it used to be.


What about seafood? That is still popular, I assume. Is Mediterranean cuisine a best-seller at Manjada? Is pizza your greatest hit?

Mediterranean cuisine is a hit in our area! It's also a best-seller at Manjada. The most important thing is to use quality ingredients. I source 70 % of my seafood from local fishermen. The rest is sourced from a few selected suppliers, as our supply is not sufficient or is limited at certain times. It is also important not to add flavour enhancers, extra flavourings, etc. to the food itself during preparation. We try to preserve the basic flavours. 

On the other hand, I don't think people are going to stop loving pizza any time soon either. Pizza is a great affordable option, and kids particularly love it. So we are not going to stop making pizza just yet. Pizza also brings a lot of people to our restaurant.

What is your favourite dish at Manjada? What's your favourite treat?

When you work in a restaurant, you can sometimes get fed up with food. (laughs) My favourite dishes are our daily minestrone, and fish soup. But I'm also a fan of pasta, especially if it involves seafood: prawns, queen scallops. I just love it all.

Grilled mussels can make a great seafood feast!

Manjada also regularly features in culinary days. What will you be offering during the Days of local mussels?

Mussels alla busara are always on the menu, as it's our top-selling shellfish dish. This year, however, we will be offering something different during the Days of local mussels – grilled mussels. It's a really simple recipe, and it's the ultimate seafood dish. Grilling is the best way to preserve the authentic shellfish flavour.

We source our mussels from local suppliers; Mitja Petric - Mytilus and Nevjo Vižentin from Strunjan.

Check out this recipe created for you by Manjada. And if you don't feel up to cooking mussels at home, just visit Manjada! Make sure to reserve a table in advance.

So you're sourcing locally, which is a great sustainable practice. Do you follow any other sustainable guidelines?

Local sourcing is a must when it comes to seafood. But I also try to source vegetables locally. I buy from a number of local farmers, as well as from Agraria. This can be a problem when a certain crop is not in season or when the season is short. But we are also making small steps forward: for example, when a particular produce is out of season, we try not to buy it and we don't include it in the menu.


We have already mentioned some of your plans... Let's go a little further into the future. Where do you see Manjada in ten years' time, in 2033?

I hope to be able to continue at this pace of life for the next ten years. If I can last that long.  (laughs) In 10 years I see a different Manjada. With a more specialized offer, a smaller selection of dishes and even higher quality. We have already done a lot of work in this area, but we need to do more. But naturally, we will adapt to the trends dictated by the market. Who knows what the new decade will bring.


Now we are sailing back and forth a bit. But that's ok, we're at the seaside after all. (laughs) What do you consider your greatest accomplishment today?

My greatest accomplishment is that I have managed to build a strong and stable team. We have been together for 8 years. These are not people working for one restaurant today and for another tomorrow, but a loyal team with a real sense of belonging. We have  good energy, know each other well and enjoy working. Another great accomplishment is that we are now at a point where you can hardly get a table without a reservation. For comparison: when we first opened, we used to fill about20-30 tables a day, so that's a huge improvement.


Why do your guests love coming back to you again and again? What makes Manjada so popular and widely praised?

There are 3 key elements to a good restaurant: the quality of the food, the friendliness of the staff and reasonable prices. And you have to find the right balance between all of them. A lot of the great feedback we receive is because of our positive energy. We leave any bad vibes at home and always greet our guests with a smile. We come to work to have fun in a way, we're not overly serious or rigid, but we're a really good team with a big heart! We come to work because we love it. The money is just a result of our positive mindset and hard work. But we also make for excellent psychologists, because that's what you have to be when you're in the hospitality business, you have to know how to approach a guest: some people like to have a few laughs with us, others are a bit more reserved

When you love your job, it translates into good energy.

Let's look at the broader picture and say a few words on the evolution of Izola. How has Izola changed in the last 10 years?

At times it seems to me that in some ways it is even worse today than it was ten years ago. The covid pandemic and other crises probably have a lot to do with that. Our way of life has also changed.

Izola has been doing a lot of work on the gastronomy segment, and the hospitality sector is strong and well-developed compared to some other areas. But things are still quite different today compared to 10 years ago. For example, back then, people used to go out for dinner more often, late dinners included, and this trend is very much on the decline these days. People don't hang out in pubs until late at night anymore, it has become somewhat normalized to close everything down at 10 pm. People's habits are really changing, which can be a good thing.

Is there a particular culinary segment that you think is missing in Izola? Is the offer diversified enough?

I do wish there were more small seafood, snack and tapas places... like the ones you find in nearby Trieste. Places where you can have a glass of good wine and a little snack too. I think there is potential for several such bars or pubs all over Slovenian Istria. I am sure that this kind of approach would be very popular with consumers.

Personally, I also wish there was more happening in the evenings, there is practically no nightlife to speak of, and most of the events are planned for the summer season, so there's definitely a lot of untapped potential in the spring and autumn seasons. After all, we have very mild winters, so there's more potential right there because our region does have a lot to offer. We need to wake up from hibernation! A prime example of how things are done is nearby Trieste, which has undergone an amazing transformation in the last decade.

Do you ever grab a bite to eat at your neighbours'? And I don't mean Trieste. (laughs) What is your favourite restaurant in Izola, apart from yours?

When I have the time, I like to visit my neighbours, especially the Marina Hotel Restaurant. But the place I go to most often is Mai Piu. Well, and Zaro on Manzioli square. I also like DeGrassi aperitivo bar, which is one of the new fresh offerings in town.

Other than that, my favourite thing to do in my spare time is to fish. I have my own boat, and I also compete in fishing competitions. The sea is my main passion, apart from travelling.

And one last question, which I ask everyone: Where would you take your friends from different parts of the world, when they visit you in Izola? What are the three things that everyone should experience?

If you ask me, the most beautiful part of Izola is the walk from Pod Belveder to the Lighthouse. This is the way where you can really feel the essence of Izola and see it in all its glory. And of course, you should definitely stop by Manjada. I also recommend having an aperitivo at Mai Piu. You can really feel the spirit of Izola at this bar, which is a popular meeting spot for us locals. 


Subscribe to our newsletter

Fill in your e-mail address to keep up with fresh info about news and events in Izola.

We use cookies to give you the best possible experience

Accept and continue Read more