Heart of the business Restaurant
Vendodhja Shko te harta
Nearby Lalzi Bay (Gjiri i Lalzit), Rodon Cape (Kepi i Rodonit), Durres, Tirana
No public transport,signposted from the main road from the Tirana-Durres
highway towards Gjiri i Lalzit *Lalzi Bay* the 800m on a well-maintained dirt
road to the property suitable for all cars.
7 detached wooden cabins with double bed, from €50/night.
What to do
Paddle boat ride on the small lake, barbecue at one of the picnic areas, fishing.
What to bring back
House wine, a blend of teroldego with local varieties, meat prepared in the farm’s well-turned-oven.
The restaurant of Gezim Huqi could hardly lie in a more idyllic location. Off the main road to Gjiri i Lalzit (Lalzi Bay) and only half an hour from the capital Tirana, it is located right along the shores of a small reservoir, surrounded by terraced hills, and with views all the way to the Adriatic.
After a successful career in the military and Ministry of Defence, while in a leading position of a large insurance company, Gezim felt drawn back to the land of his ancestors and thought of building himself on the family property in a rural part of Durres County, near the village of Rade. He and his family had been working the land they owned there even up to that point in 2015, so there were already plenty of trees and some vegetables planted. Eventually his son Rogert inspired him to change his plans, instead starting a small farm and restaurant on the property.
Arriving at Agroturizem Huqi, it is striking how immaculately well-maintained the site is despite its size. Even the parking area is nicely arranged and has olive trees interspersed between parked cars. A long staircase leads up from the parking lot to the restaurant, which is located right at the shore of the small liqeni i Huqve, “lake of the Huqi family”. The buildings and canopied sitting area are covered in plenty of greenery, and upon entering the restaurant, in the summer you can sample irresistibly ripe and juicy blackberries and raspberries as a quick appetizer even before sitting down.
The farm is a perfect destination for families. Long tables with wooden benches offer plenty of space for larger groups, and in addition to the main restaurant area, there are more tables in small, separated patches along the lake shore. Booths cater to those who want a more private and intimate setting, despite the restaurant’s total capacity of 250 people. Overseen by manager Selim, up to 40 wait and kitchen staff take care of this number of guests, especially during peak times on the weekends. In his mid-50s, Selim received food management training during communism, equipping him with decades of experience under his belt, on top of his great eye for detail.
The farm and restaurant employ workers from the surrounding villages, and finding committed and well-trained staff is challenging.
The restaurant offers a variety of traditional dishes, like lakror, a two-layered pastry pie filled with tomato and onion, spinach, or yoghurt and egg; homemade cheeses, including a salted goat’s cheese and unsalted young soft cheese similar to mozzarella; as well as baked local farm chicken with different sides, prepared in the traditional saç, the Albanian version of a Dutch oven. All food is exquisitely accompanied by the house wine, a red wine from the village of Gose near Kavaja. The blend of the Italian teroldego grape and local varieties is very palatable and has a distinctly pleasant, mild sweetness to it.
The main specialty of the house, however, is lamb or kid baked a truly unique way: Wood is burned at the bottom of the roughly 3-metre deep, dry, brick-lined well just a few metres from the restaurant. Once the fire burns down to coals, a large metal container with water is hung inside to create steam, while eight to ten lamb or kid, previously skinned, gutted, and marinated in salt and water, are also hung in the well from the top. With the opening of the well covered, the meat is then cooked for 3 hours until tender, a process that is usually done very early each morning.
While waiting for the food to arrive, children will enjoy exploring the restaurant garden and animals around, including dogs and cats, rabbits, chickens, ducks and swans. The main vegetable patch is behind the restaurant, where one finds tomatoes and a small variety of other vegetables. Agroturizem Huqi mostly cultivates fruit and nut trees, as well as olives and grapes. The property is surrounded by grape vines along its borders, while the slopes of the hill near the entrance and the small hill behind the restaurant comprise the farm’s orchards. Production is still far from meeting the restaurant’s demands, so additional produce is bought from the nearby villages.
On the same hill, in between plenty of greenery, lies the accommodation that the farm offers to its guests. The seven wooden cabins have been constructed in 2018 with a government grant, and are partly on stilts given the sloped terrain. While their design looks somewhat futuristic from the outside, the inside has a warm, cosy and welcoming feel to it, equipped with double beds, modern interior and private bathrooms. Their decentralised arrangement creates a sense of privacy for guests, and you’ll enjoy great balcony views of the lake from every cabin.
Visitors travelling with a campervan or on a tighter budget can make use of the campground and car park, which has suitable electric outlets in place. Water supply and toilet and shower facilities are planned to be added in the near future, in order to make the stay for camping guests more comfortable. Furthermore, more huts along the lake shore are foreseen to be built on the other side of the lake to increase the farm’s hotel capacity.
The large, open building across the lake is the farm’s event hall. It is reached by a paved walkway that runs on top of the reservoir’s dam, decorated with arches of heart-shaped greenery, which are illuminated after dark. The event hall is particularly busy during the summer months, hosting wedding parties regularly. Equally popular are the barbecue-equipped picnic spots along the shore of the lake that the farm rents out to families who prefer to bring and cook their own food but who would still like to enjoy the beautiful setting. A reservation for these picnic areas is particularly recommended on weekends.
Other activities around the premises include a tour around the 15-hectare farm, a walk in the surrounding hills, or trying your luck fishing in the lake. A boat ride on the lake with one of the farm’s paddle boats also makes for a fun afternoon activity, not only for young guests. Last but not least, the nearby beaches of Lalzi Bay (Gjiri i Lalzit ) and Rodon Cape (Kepi i Rodonit) are superb day trips for guests that stay for more than a night. No matter how long you stay, the fresh organic food and tranquil setting will be sure to stay in your memory for a long time.