The Best Albanian Food in Tirana, Albania

Oda Restaurant, the Best Albanian Food in Tirana, Albania

The front desk clerk at my hotel didn’t hesitate a moment when I asked if she could recommend a good restaurant in Tirana.

“Oda Restaurant,” she said. “You will love it.”

Off I went, without even asking what type of cuisine they served. My GPS soon showed that I was close. I was debating whether to turn down a narrow alley that ended in darkness when a jowly street vendor whistled and nodded toward a second lane, a bit further down the street. This one was brighter, but I saw nothing other than an unassuming little house with wooden tables on the front porch, beyond which were sterile-looking apartment buildings. A young boy with saucer eyes stopped kicking his soccer ball and looked at me curiously, no doubt wondering why I had wandered into the bowels of his neighborhood.

Front porch of Oda Restaurant, serving the best Albanian food in Tirana, Albania

Front porch of Oda Restaurant, serving the best Albanian food in Tirana, Albania

“Oda?” I asked. I spun around when he pointed behind me and realized the old house was what I had been looking for. A young woman sitting on the porch, who had been watching the scene play out, smiled broadly and ushered me inside.

Argita Prifti brought me a menu and showed me which items were vegetarian. “The stuffed eggplant and stuffed peppers are both very good,” she said. I asked about the rice balls, but she again gently recommended the eggplant and peppers. I got the point. “Which would you choose?” I asked. “I can make you one of each if you like,” she offered. I liked.

Argita Prifti behind the bar of Oda Restaurant. The bottles of homemade rakia in the foreground are still made the traditional way, in a copper still in an attached outdoor kitchen

Argita Prifti behind the bar of Oda Restaurant. The bottles of homemade rakia in the foreground are still made the traditional way, in a copper still in an attached outdoor kitchen

While I waited for my food to arrive, Argita took me on a tour of the restaurant.

“This is a traditional Albanian house, built in 1930. My father bought it and, in 2005, opened a restaurant in it. He did not remodel the house, because he liked to be surrounded by the familiar, which is why he insisted upon an authentic Albanian menu. He was an actor and he wanted a place where all his artist friends – poets, writers, singers, actors – could gather to have something to eat and drink while they sang and played traditional folk music.”

Her father has since passed on, but Argita and her mother, Thellenza Prifti, still run the restaurant. They have changed nothing. “The spirit of my father is still here, so we honor his wishes,” declared Argita. Today the “living” and “dining” rooms provide seating for customers, who have a view down the tiny galley kitchen where all the food in prepared. Homemade rakia (a very strong fruit liqueur) is made in a copper still that sits in an attached, outside kitchen. Even the toilet, a traditional squat affair, is still located outside the main house.

Barbara Weibel at Oda Restaurant, home of the best Albanian food in Tirana

Barbara Weibel at Oda Restaurant, home of the best Albanian food in Tirana

I followed my nose back into the old house and sank down into plush pillows on a low wooden bench built into the wall. When my food appeared on the low round table in front of me, I dug in and didn’t stop until I had devoured the last scrap. In addition to the stuffed eggplant and peppers, I wolfed down hunks of fresh bread dipped in homemade soft sheep’s cheese, baked and topped with roasted peppers. I washed it all down with herbal tea, sweetened with local honey.

My traditional Albanian meal: peppers stuffed with rice and garlic, roasted eggplant stuffed with onions and tomatoes, soft baked sheep cheese with peppers, and homemade bread

My traditional Albanian meal: peppers stuffed with rice and garlic, roasted eggplant stuffed with onions and tomatoes, soft baked sheep cheese with peppers, and homemade bread

About the time I thought I would burst, Argita brought me two rice balls to try, as well as a bowl of raw sheep’s cheese so I could taste the difference between the baked and raw varieties. Had I been a meat eater, I have no doubt she would have offered me samples of tripe (calf and lamb intestines), liver in cheese, head of lamb, or goat meat.

And a finishing touch of rice balls

And a finishing touch of rice balls

Today, Oda is the only restaurant in Tirana with a menu that is entirely traditional Albanian food, and it should be a mandatory stop for anyone planning to visit Albania’s capital city.

14 Comments on “Oda Restaurant, the Best Albanian Food in Tirana, Albania

  1. Hi Barbara,

    Albania is a lovely place and so much of it undiscovered by tourists. Tirana is becoming more westernised which is why is really important that traditional foods are served, the foods are amazing and there is so much to learn about the history of this forgotten country through the recipes and foods they eat. In the villages nearly all the fruit and veg are grown in their own gardens with other produce traded for ungrown or required ingredients. If you do go back, the outskirt villagers take pride on hospitality, they will take you into their homes and cook traditional home foods, show you their customs and also serve you Raki! It is a life changing experience, highly recommend it.

    Thank you for sharing about Oda, it nice to hear of traditional foods being sampled.

    • Hi Michelle: Thanks so much for your comment. I was blown away by Albania and it’s on my list of places that warrant a return visit. I’d love to explore this country more thoroughly, and it’s one of the countries I’ll be featuring in an upcoming ebook about unique European destinations.

  2. Too bad we’ve only one full day in Tirana, Albania and I wasn’t feeling great with my stiffed neck. But I agree with you, Barbara, the stuffed eggplants and pepper are great. We had lunch in a lovely home in GJIROKASTER and the grandmother cooked everything. Just visited Albania November 2016.

    • So sorry you’re not feeling well, Fe. Being sick is one of the hardest things to deal with when traveling. But I’m so glad you got to try some traditional Albanian food. I thought it was just delicious.

  3. Would have loved to try this restaurant – although I can’t complain about the food in Albania, relatively tasty and copious. Still, this one is going on my list for next time.

    • It was pretty amazing, Leyla. Like you, I’d like to return to Albania.

  4. That food looks soooo good! It’s good to know there are traditional Albanian dishes that are vegetarian. It can be difficult to find that in many parts of the world. I hope to go there next fall and experience it myself.

    • I hope you go, Vicki. It was one of the more fascinating places I’ve eve visited.

  5. I love the style of that place and the food looks amazing! I haven\’t hit Albania yet, but when I do I will remember Oda.

    Thanks, and keep on travelling!

    • Hi Sonal: Sheep cheese is fairly common. I’d be willing to bet that you’ve had it and just didn’t know it.

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