Three years ago, the Fustanella Farm founders, driven by a long held dream to establish an organic farm, saw the place where it is currently located. “The panorama leaves you breathless. From that day onwards for the next three years we thought only about Fustanella, what would be done with it, how would it come together.”
Fustanella Farm, named after the Balkan dress-like garment of the same name, is a new agritourism enterprise, located in the Zaranik neighbourhood of Petrela. Fustanella consists of a small guesthouse with three rooms, an agricultural farm and an organic restaurant operating on the farm-to-table principle. “Our guesthouse is still unfinished. We have three wonderful rooms on the second floor and each of them will have the capacity to accommodate two to three people, according to the wishes of the visitors. Our farm produces a wide range of vegetables, generally local crops, but also new crops that have entered our country in recent years, or that we have either brought ourselves or with the help of well-wishers. The restaurant offers Mediterranean and Balkan cuisine following and reinterpreting traditional recipes cooked for centuries in the hearths of the houses where the dress was and is still worn. We offer a seasonal menu, made up of produce we pick directly from the plots surrounding the restaurant and guesthouse. We get meat products from other sister farms, giving priority to livestock. We hope to soon be able to establish a poultry farm and a small stables. Our dishes are accompanied by several selected varieties of wines and distillates, mostly local, fresh fruit juices, homemade compotes and organic teas. We are very interested in the tradition of our cuisine and those of neighbours. We have tried to build the dishes around fresh seasonal products, turned into a daily or weekly menu with Albanian, Greek, Arbëresh (the Albanian minority in Italy) specialties, which we combine with seasonal snacks that are very popular with us, in the southern Balkans.
In September 2019, Ms Lucia Martino, an Arbëresh woman from the town of Frashnitë in Calabria, also came and helped us with some Arbëresh dishes, as well as the Ambassador of Calabro-Arbëresh Cuisine in Albania. Our principle is to try to serve seasonal produce. Until the opening of the Fustanella restaurant, we sold our products in several restaurants of friends, in various organic stores, and also offered home deliveries. Now we use them mainly in our kitchen. We do not overcook them during cooking: we bake them in charcoal, or in the oven, we make them into salads, we incorporate them into tarts, we include them in various cakes, dishes and appetizers without ceremonies and they turn out just delicious. At Fustanella we say that our farmers are the best cooks in the world. While we were making plans for the reconstruction of the restaurant and the guesthouse, we had the great fortune to meet our agronomist, Mr Kujtim Shera, who in a few weeks set up a very good working group for agriculture work, installed the irrigation system with his own hands and began setting up the Fustanella farm. The work of these people is really admirable and the reaction of visitors is very positive. Apparently, and this is a very good thing, people have started to miss nature, and as this happens, God willing, they will come to their senses and start caring a little more to try and preserve it. Nature is often beautiful and humankind has either the power to beautify it even more or to destroy it. Furthermore, we want to better organize the warehousing system of our products and to conserve them, so that in the future we can develop a small shop, where visitors or passers-by have the opportunity to buy our fresh products or canned food. The store has meanwhile started functioning by offering our organic products to visitors and passers-by. We plan to build a greenhouse as a start, which will also be organic. The Fustanella Farm, with mentor professor Andrea Shundi and agronomist Mr Kujtim Shera, aspires to soon become an official member of Slow Food International. Our dream is to have a 100% organic farm and this is what we have been working for from the time we came up with the idea up until this day, without using any pesticides or chemicals – only organic materials. The Fustanella farm is surrounded by natural beauty, but also by many stories. Petrela Castle is located only a few hundred meters away and can be seen almost any corner of Fustanella. Not far away, to the south west, there is the monumental tomb of the ancient Illyrian settlement of Persqop and a little further lies the walls of the settlement itself. Natural beauties are all around, starting from the Black Cave in the village of Pëllumbas, the waterfall at the Eye of Cyclops near Krraba, with Lake Farka located a little further afield and so on, making this area a very convenient and preferred place for lovers of history, outdoor sports, walks, but also good food.”