In our column Meet a local we present interesting individuals from different professional fields living in Belgrade. The idea is to get to know some locals and their favorite neighborhoods and venues in the city.

  1. Please introduce yourself to our readers:

Zdravo a tutti dal vostro srpski zet! I am Alfonso. A proud Italian from a little place where mozzarella di bufala was born.

So, you might be wondering how I ended up in Belgrade.

After spending my entire life just south of the Amalfi coast, amid olives, the smell of the Tyrrhenian Sea, pizza Napoletana, and… well, all the Italian cliches that are my reality, I decided to go on an adventure to Greece. On my own, for the first time in my life.

I knew this experience would be life-changing, but I couldn’t have imagined, not even in my wildest dreams, that I would meet the love of my life and best friend – who happened to be Serbian.

Fast forward five years, dozens of sagre (traditional Italian food festivals), numerous trips, and one magical wedding – I’ve packed my video-making gear and transferred to Belgrade to start a new life with my wife.

2. Has there been a new project lately?

I’m Italian, so, naturally, tradition is very important to me. Back in Italy, I used to film traditional food festivals so I could preserve the heritage of the South-Italian cuisine, old recipes that are getting forgotten, and villages that are slowly dying.

In Serbia, I’m doing a similar thing. I started with filming events such as kobasicijada, to get to know the traditional cuisine – like svadbarski kupus and mast na hlebu, but also the people behind these recipes and products. For me, this is one of the best ways to truly get to know one’s culture and immerse myself in it.

And now, in Belgrade, I’m working on a new project. I can’t say too much yet, but it will be a beautiful fusion of history and food, of experts and an Italian craving to learn, and taste, everything Belgrade has to offer.

3. What do you like about Belgrade?

Belgrade was such a big surprise. I love that it’s a big capital, and while fast-moving, it still feels very peaceful and safe. It might be the fact that I can walk around so much! Where I come from, you can’t do almost anything without a car or motorino. Here, there are so many parks and river banks where you can take a walk… Incredibly, I can walk from Banovo Brdo to the city centre! I love this.

Aside from this, I love the spirit of Belgrade. It’s like a phoenix. It was destroyed so many times, but it became more beautiful and bigger afterward.

And finally, I truly like the many beautiful restaurants and cafes. I honestly never saw such diversity and attention to detail. And it’s not just that they are beautiful, but the food is divine!

4. Where do you like to go out?

Believe it or not – Zemunski kej. More precisely – Reka. I know, it’s a bit old school, but I truly love the energy of the Saturday evening and evergreen songs. Plus, taking a walk at Zemunski kej is always a good idea.

5. Name 3 of your favorite restaurants in the city.

I’m yet to explore (a lot), but up until now:

Ambar – this one will always have a special place in my heart because I went there the first time I came to Belgrade. And, it was also my first encounter with Serbian food – though with a modern twist. I still remember that I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was!

Dogma – a very urban pub/brewery near Ada Ciganlija. The entire concept is fabulous, and I truly like the beer (and gin) they make. Not to mention that I tried one of the best burgers ever here. I just love supporting local businesses! You never know what you’ll uncover.

Kafanica – an Ethno-looking house located in Košutnjak, packed with old pots, traditional furniture and carpets, and not to mention – home to some super special chickens that wander around freely. This is the place where I first tried meso ispod sača. My love for Serbia was sealed with the first bite!

6. Where do you drink coffee?

I know this is extremely Italian of me – but I take my espresso only in my apartment. I brought supplies from Italy. It’s mostly down to the fact that we don’t have the culture of sitting and drinking coffee calmly, for hours even! This might be the biggest difference I noticed so far.

Having said this, I did find really good espresso in Caffico. Unfortunately, it’s not close to where I live.

7. Where do you spend your leisure time?

I love sports – so, weirdly enough, I spend my leisure time in Borča or  Zemun where I play football, and Ada Ciganlija, where I either go for a walk or a game of Padel. I am very passionate about cycling, so I’m looking for ways to bring my bicycle here. Then I’ll probably be a regular on the cycling path from Ada to Zemun.

8. Name your 3 favorite locations in Belgrade and justify your choice.

In no particular order – Ada Ciganlija is one of my favorite locations. I live some 5 minutes away from it, so I truly think I’m blessed that I can enjoy this oasis whenever I want. I love that I can go there to grab a coffee and chill, or for a run, bicycle ride, padel… It’s such an amazing mix of things!

Now, I know that people in Belgrade will roll their eyes, but I love Skadarlija. Everyone told me it’s very touristy, but to me, the cobblestone reminds me of Trastevere, and the bands playing traditional music paired with colourful houses make me feel like I’m in a different epoch. Somewhere far away from this reality.

Finally, Kalemegdan for its panoramic view of the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. There’s something beautiful and melancholic about it that leaves me breathless every single time. Plus, I love the story behind Pobednik.

Follow Alfonso on Instagram