International eats in Prague: Pan Panzerotto brings a taste of Puglia to Karlín

A variety of dishes from focaccia to pastas and salads are lightening up lunchtime at a new neighborhood eatery

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas
Published on 27.08.2020 14:17 (updated on 27.08.2020)

Pan Panzerotto is a new Puglian kitchen near the Expats.cz office in Karlín. The small space on Vitkova is unassuming but has much to offer anyone who’s in need of some Mediterraneans flavors in the face of the ongoing travel restrictions.

On recent repeat visits we sampled panzerotti, focaccia, and some to-die-for iced coffee with almond syrup, as well as cosi, fried bread dough filled with mortadella and scamorza.

We’ve also been chatting with the owner, Mauro Lovecchio, about what he believes the Czech market is lacking for in food and what he misses most about his hometown.

Lunchtime caponata and pasta salad / Photo via Facebook @PanPanzerottoPrague

Where are you from and what do you miss most about your home?

I’m from Bari, South of Italy, but I’ve been living abroad most of my life. The only thing I really miss in Prague is the open horizon of the sea. I still find Prague the most balanced city to live in, among those I tried so far.

Is this your first foray into the food industry?

I graduated from the University of Naples “L’Orientale” in International Relations specializing in Middle Eastern Affairs and from Cardiff University in International Journalism.  I have a very long experience in the food industry as a consumer of good Italian homey food, but when it comes to running a restaurant, I’m a total newbie. 

Peperoni ripieni / Photo via Facebook @PanPanzerottoPrague

What is your signature dish that everyone should try?

Our signature dish is one of the most traditional street foods from Apulia. The panzerotto. A fried dough pocket filled with tomato and mozzarella. On top of the traditional version, we are offering some variations such as the gorgonzola with mascarpone and walnuts, the stracciatella and mortadella, and many others, including a sweet one that my great grandmother used to make with ricotta, cinnamon, and lemon zest. We are also offering the traditional focaccia from Bari, based on a recipe from my grandmother.

Tell us a bit about how you came to be in Prague?

I first came to Prague in 2006, that time I was living in Bruxelles, and I progressively invested in the real estate market. I decided to move here when my son was born. That time we had to decide where to live between Italy, China, and Prague, where I was starting my business. The choice was easy.

Is Prague a good city for international cuisine?

I have seen Prague changing a lot since I first came here and so did the food scene. I believe now Prague is a very receptive place for different styles of cooking. Czechs are more curious to different realities and the vibrant expat community is constantly looking for something new to try or something that reminds them of their home food culture.

What sorts of food do you find missing from the Prague food scene?

Nowadays I believe it is possible to find almost anything in Prague and the quality of the offer has significantly increased. There is still space for improvement, especially when comparing it with other bigger and capitals in Europe.

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Cosi fried dough balls / Photo via Facebook @PanPanzerottoPrague

Why did you decide to open your restaurant now?

We found that in Prague the niche of Apulian street food was still unfilled and we decided to start this project. We had been thinking about it for a few years and we simply decided that the time had come. We believe the market is ready for our offer and, checking other locations where panzerotti was sold, we believe it is a product that both locals and expats will enjoy.

Tell us a bit about your national cuisine and why you want to share it with the world.

When talking about Italy and its food culture I believe there is no such thing as “national cuisine”, if we want to step out of the pasta-pizza stereotype of course. Each region, but more, each city, has its own very local food culture. So we should be talking more about regional cuisine. In our case, the Apulian tradition.

It is not always easy to find the right ingredients and that is one of the main challenges. Apulian food is very simple but it relies on the quality of the ingredients and, of course, on the expertise of our chef. We select the best ingredients we can find and we use our knowledge coming from generations of family meals to make sure we offer the best product we can.

Foccacia / Photo via Facebook @PanPanzerottoPrague

As we are located in a neighborhood where many companies are operating, we understand that people can not eat fried food every day, therefore we also offer lunch deals with healthy and traditional dishes, prepared by our chef Andrea Fortini and carefully supervised by my mother, Marisa Milella who, after 40 years working for the Italian Ministry of Culture, decided to embark in this new adventure in Prague.

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What is your favorite Czech meal or favorite places to buy ingredients/dine out in Prague?

Although Czech cuisine might appear a little limited in its offer at a first glance, after years living in Prague, I learned to appreciate some of its characteristics. Although most places changed and adapted their offer to the tourist trends, it is still possible to find some little pockets of authenticity where a proper Koleno or a juicy Svíčková are still served as they should be.

And of course the Czech beer. I lived in Bruxelles and in Wales before coming to Prague and I was used to very different (and much strong) kinds of beer. But in years I learned to really appreciate the freshness and body of a true Czech brew.

***

Visit August 27, 2020, for all you can eat panzerotti and draft Malastrana beer for 350 CZK.

Follow Pan Panzerotti on Facebook and Instagram or to book a table e-mail info@panpanzerotto.com.

What’s your favorite international kitchen in Prague?