Heart of the business Restaurant, animal husbandry, vineyards
Vendodhja Shko te harta
Nearby City of Tirana
By car from Tirana, take the ring motorway to TEG, and then from there follow signs to Nari Lundra.By public transport, the regular TEG bus brings you in approximately 20 minutes from the centre of Tirana to within 15 minutes’ walking distance to the restaurant. From TEG, follow the signs, passing a gated community and take the street Rruga e Vilave on the left uphill until you reach the restaurant.
Eleven single and double rooms, to open soon
What to do
Enjoy views of green foothills leading to Mount Dajti and Petrela from the top of the lookout tower, stroll through the vineyards, feed the goats.
What to bring back
Fresh goat’s cheese.
Just a 20-minute drive from Tirana lies the restaurant of Ardian Tufa, better known to his friends and patrons as Nari. Leaving the TEG shopping centre and a row of gated communities behind, the surroundings quickly turn more rural. Shortly you enter the village of Lunder, and Nari’s building with an iconic little tower on top, reminiscent of a castle, comes into sight.
Nari Lundra has a history of over 25 years, though the beginnings were far more humble than the well-kept garden bursting with flowers and the large four-storey building of today’s restaurant and hotel suggest. It started in 1992, when Ardian, part of a large clan that owns considerable stretches of land around Lundra, started producing wine and raki and supplying it to bars and restaurants in the area. Following this business idea he built on the history of wine production in Lunder, which was surrounded by vineyards during the communist period. These however fell victim to the population’s wrath towards state property after the fall of the regime, and were largely destroyed, but the Tufa family continued the tradition.
Soon Ardian realised that he could sell his wine directly to clients, and opened a tiny cantina to serve it alongside a small selection of side dishes. In 1994 the premise was renovated into a two-storey restaurant, of which only the first floor is left, serving as a venue for private events, while construction on the main building started in 2007 and extended little by little to this day. However, while the restaurant has grown considerably throughout the years, it managed to stay true to its origins and its regular patrons.
Nari Lundra is a family restaurant at heart, and its owners are proud that its regulars who have spent weekends at the restaurant over the years are still happy to return here today, now with their own children. With a clientele base having grown over such a long period, it is no surprise that the 130-table setting, stretching over a large, bright indoor space and an outside seating area, is often packed, easily serving one thousand guests over the course of a weekend. To avoid crowds and waiting times, it’s best to visit during the week.
To cater to their guests, Nari Lundra employs over 40 staff from the area, and many of them have been with the restaurant for 15 years. They are overseen by the general manager Endrit Gidaja, a hotel business studies graduate, who brought a wealth of experience in hospitality with him when he started working here in 2015, having worked previously at a prestigious hotel and as a bartending coach. He is also in charge of training staff and thereby “growing the family” as the restaurant has increased capacity, something that he found challenging at times due to the lack of training among candidates.
With the restaurant, the menu has grown over time, mostly by adding items according to the requests of loyal clients. It currently it offers a little bit of everything, including traditional food like byrek and roasted kid or lamb, chicken with a maize porridge called qull, different traditional casseroles, qofte (meatballs), stuffed peppers and aubergines or grilled offal, in addition to international fare like pasta and risotto dishes, pizza, antipasti platters and salads.
The majority of the food on your plate has usually not travelled more than a few kilometres, with olive oil and dairy products from on the nearby farm, and vegetables and meat being bought locally from farmers. The farm, home to 100-150 chickens and 140 French Alpine goats, some dogs and a handful of ducks, is located just 1.5 kilometres from the restaurant. A grant in 2016 helped extend the barn and allow the purchase of new milking equipment, and the farm’s dairy today produces cheese, salcë kosi (a yoghurt sauce), dhallë (a yoghurt drink), and other products from goat’s milk to meet the restaurant’s demands. The capacity of the dairy is expected to be increased further, in order to produce enough cheese to sell at a little on-premise kiosk for clients to take home.
Just behind the farm, in the rolling hills towards the east, lie the vineyards of the Tufa family. While most of the grapes grown on the 20-hectare area are used by the Tufa Family Winery, run by Ardian’s brothers and cousins, for their production of bottled wine, Ardian makes his the restaurant’s house variety using cabernet and merlot, and the local shesh grape for his own raki. A little further, atop a small hill, lie the family olive groves, comprising 2100 trees over more than 7 hectares, producing 12 tonnes of olive oil annually. Only a small part of that goes to the restaurant though, and more olives have to be bought from nearby farmers to meet the restaurant’s needs.
The vineyards and olive groves are a few kilometres from the restaurant and so the link to the farm is currently not very clear, but general manager Endrit would like to change that. In order to put more focus on farm activities, he would like to develop a tour of the dairy farm, including explanations of cheese making, as well as a vineyard and olive tour for interested visitors.
For now, the extensive outdoor seating area of the restaurant with ample greenery invites to simply relax, and two playgrounds, a parrot called Toto, and a few cats that roam the property provide entertainment for young guests. Soon it will also be possible to spend the night at Nari Lundra. Construction works were delayed by the spring 2020 lockdown, but will eventually be finished. Eleven rooms with a sleek and modern design are already completed and ready to receive guests, while ten more are still in the planning phase. Planned restaurant space on the first floor will create a more private experience with tables further apart.
Even after this phase of improvements to his restaurant, Ardian Tufa and his team will come up with more ways to build upon Nari Lundra’s accomplishments. After over 25 successful years of business, the restaurant seems ready to reinvent itself to attract the next generation of regulars.