Filled with savory ingredients like cheese and spinach, twisted into a spiral shape, and baked to flaky perfection, pita is one of Macedonia’s favorite traditional dishes. One Sunday morning, we visited the popular restaurant Oreov Lad in order to learn how it’s made.
An institution in the Skopje suburb of Saraj, the Oreov Lad has been around since the days of the Ottoman Empire, when it was an inn for wandering traders. Today, it’s evolved into a raucous restaurant with seating for hundreds, live music on the weekends, and usually a couple wedding parties. It’s the kind of place where people dance, bottles of rakija have a short lifespan, and lunches tend to last for hours. We weren’t here, however, to party with friends and family, but to watch a pita being prepared.
As we watched, the cook rolled out the dough, then stretched it out over her elbow, making it as light and thin as a bed sheet. After laying the dough back onto a cloth, she shaped and then filled it with spinach, cheese and oil. Then, with a swift movement, she lifted the cloth, causing the dough to roll into a thin, long tube. This tube was then laid into a greased cooking pan, creating the pastry’s spiral shape. Covered with a clay lid, the completed dish was baked in a fire pit for fifteen minutes.
That explanation makes it sound simple, but the dish’s preparation requires a lot of skill. After watching the cook flip, fill and roll the dough, I knew that I’d never be able to make a proper pita. Eating it, though, is a skill for which I seem to have an innate knack.