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Albanian Gastronomy: From Identity Dilemma to Rural Renaissance

Food for Thought | Presented by The Greene Space x MoFAD

Originally Aired: Thursday, May 27, 2021


On demand video is not available for this event.

Albania, a small country located between Italy and Greece, has been historically at the crossroads of empires and civilizations. From Greek and Roman through Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, Albania has been paradoxically at the heart of the birth of Western Civilization, yet outside of the mainstream of European history. Over the centuries, Albanian Cuisine has been strongly influenced both by the culinary cultures of its Mediterranean and Balkan neighbors and the cuisine of the Ottoman period.

Unfortunately, Albania’s rich and varied gastronomic traditions were almost destroyed by a half century of communist dictatorship. Acute poverty and isolation, along with collectivization and state control of agricultural production, dismantled the ecosystem of small farmers and artisan producers that are the pillars of traditional gastronomy. In response to these challenges, a group Albanian Chefs from around the world created RRNO, an organization that aims to Preserve, Develop and Promote Albanian Gastronomy worldwide

In partnership with MOFAD and The Greene Space, join RRNO for an evening of cooking and conversation between Irida Hysenbelli, Dhurata Thanasi, Gazmend Kapllani, Bledar Kola, and Nikolin Kola, who will share their stories and memories of Albanian Cuisine during communism and post-communism and unpack issues of identity and the role of Albanian women working to preserve Albanian food traditions.

At the end of the program, RRNO will launch the NÀNA Cooking project, a network of women-owned/led guest-houses in rural areas of Albania. Bardha Jano, who is a NÀNA Cooking member will present a cooking demo with a traditional Albanian recipe.

The contemporary reinvention of the same traditional recipe from the cookbook “The New Albanian Cuisine” will be presented on a second cooking demo.

*Recipes for the cooking demonstrations will be emailed to ticket holders in advance of the event.

Gazmend Kapllani

Credit: Photo provided by guest.

Gazmend Kapllani is an Albanian-born journalist, Poet, and Writer. Kapllani’s work as a writer, researcher and teacher centers on themes of migration and identity, borders, totalitarianism, societies in transition, and how Albanian, Balkan and (Eastern) European history has shaped public and private narratives and memories. Currently he lives in Chicago where he is Chair of Hidai “Eddie” Bregu Endowment in Albanina Studies, Departament of Modern Languages at DePaul University, Chicago. At DePaul Kapllani teaches also a class on food titled: “The Unbearable Similarity of the Other: Food, History, Identity in the Balkans”.

Nikolin KOLA

Credit: Photo provided by guest.

Nikolin Kola is a serial entrepreneur co-founder of RRNO Foundation, currently living in Tirana, Albania. Since early age he migrated in UK with his brother Bledar Kola. After studying and working several years in London, they both decided to return back home in Albania.

Upon return Bledar open restaurant Mullixhiu which now is one of the best restaurants in Albania, listed on the World’s 50 Best Discovery Guide, and recently published a cookbook in Germany called “The New Albanian Cuisine”

On 2018 both Nikolin and Bledar established the initiative “Rrno Per me Gatue” (Live to Cook) which initially started as a network of Albanian Chefs working worldwide aiming recover the traditions of Albanian cuisine nearly lost to communist oppression and the Post Communism identity crisis. From this initiative RRNO Foundation was formed which is now an organization with the mission to preserve, develop and promote Albanian Gastronomy Worldwide.


Bledar Kola

Credit: Photo provided by guest

Bledar Kola is the chef and owner of Mullixhiu, and co-founder of RRNO. Bledar started his career in London and has a long experience with French, Italian, Japanese and Nordic cuisine. His work to reinvent Albanian Cuisine been inspired by the revolution of Nordic cuisine and particularly by the work of renewed chef Rene Redzepi of Noma Restaurant, where he went as intern for 3 summers in row.

After returning home, he decided to focus on exploring and understanding the Albanian cuisine and that is how Mullixhiu started.

Today Mullixhiu is considered to be one of the best restaurants in Albania, listed on the World’s 50 Best Discovery Guide and was recently published in Germany the cookbook, “The New Albanian Cuisine”.


Credit: Photo provided by guest.

Dhurata Thanasi Daneri is a researcher of the history and culture of Albanian gastronomy and the founder of the well- known brand “Luga e Argjendte”.

Since 2010 Dhurata has been dedicated to discovering traditional and forgotten Albanian recipes, but also the culture and anthropology of Albanian food.

She is a promoter of the “Slow Food” movement, which preserves the values of good, clean and fair food as well as educating children and young people on responsible eating and sustainable agriculture.

Irida Hysenbelli

Credit: Photo provided by guest.

Irida Hysenbelli was born in Tirana, Albania, she migrated to the United Kingdom in her late teens, where she studied Anthropology and Political
Science. From early on she felt passionate about issues that discriminate women’s place in society. Over the years she has worked in a variety- of social projects that support and empower vulnerable people, and women especially.

Irida is co-founder of “It’s a Woman’s Cuisine,” an initiative that aims to encourage and empower female chefs to take leadership roles in the hospitality. In the last years she has been working as a Life and Career Coach, as well as being a mother to a 6 yr old boy.

Credit: Photo provided by guest

Bardha Jano was born in small village close to the town of Permet in South Albania. Bardha is a mother of three children and has a wide range of experience including farming, baking and hospitality. Currently, she works at Restaurant Mullixhiu in Tirana, the capital city of Albania, where she will join the NÀNA Cooking project.

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