We are here in Vama Buzăului, a historic customs region between Walachia in the south and Transylvania in the north.
Here the Teutonic Knights built fortified towers and customs points in the 13th century to collect taxes from those crossing the Carpathian mountains. When they tried to offer the lands to the Pope in Rome, the Hungarian King sent them packing. The lands were too valuable to the crown to be lost to a faraway master.
The village today is quintessentially rural, horses are still used to pull the tree logs cut down for the winter, or the carts full of hay, and even to go from one neighbour to another. Yet, almost everyone has a modern car, the homes have modern bathrooms and kitchens and satellite dishes.
In the last few years, the locals have come together in a culinary project called Gastro Local (Local Kitchens) to offer set menus to tourists. If you happen to be in the area and you are hungry, you knock on the door and you’ll be served the speciality menu of the house. You can also book, and I would advise you to, since these local kitchens are now very popular.
I took the filming crew to Mrs. Anca Vlad at Gastro Local, she’s famous for meatball soup, ciorbă de perișoare, and curd cheese doughnuts served with sour cream and blackcurrant jam, called papanași.
Her husband, Vito, is Sicilian, looking strikingly like Al Pacino in The Godfather. He fell in love with Anca and Romania and is now helping in the family business. ‘Irrrina’, he said, ‘Sicily has mountains and forests but not like here. When I saw this place, I didn’t want to leave.’ ‘Sicilian dolci buonissimi’ I said trying to speak Italian. ‘Si ma..’ Romanian papanași the way Anca makes them are the best.
If you go from Bucharest to the Saxon villages in Transylvania, choose to go through Vama Buzăului and use Google Maps to eat at one of the many Local Kitchens in this valley, and start with Mrs. Anca.
Both recipes are in my book ‘Carpathia’ but it’s only in Vama Buzaului that you will find Mrs. Anca’s version.