Jun 23

CASA CAPSA – THE MOST FAMOUS DELICACIES IN THE BALKANS (CASA CAPŞA)

One of the most famous families of Bucharest was the one of Dimitrie Capsa. Shopkeepers by vocation and having traveled all over Europe with strong business and connections all over the continent, the Macedonian by origin Capsa Family decided to settle in the heart Bucharest

Up to 1850 being a merchant, bringing loads of great fairs, mean danger, uncertainty. Dimitrie Capsa was lucky, had 12 children and had never faced any dangers; four of his sons established a bakery-confectionery that become famous throughout Europe.

One of the brothers was educated in France at Boissier, the foremost master chocolatier of the time. Two other opened in 1852 the sweet store named  “Two brothers”. The wonderful sweets soon began to put in the shade all oriental goods (baklava, sarailie, Tukish delights, cataif, sorbet) made by other chefs.

At the beginning of the Crimean War, one of her brothers leave to Sevastopol with merchandise; on the way it had spoiled and arrived in Bulgaria without a penny in his pocket. But there, on borrowed money, he began preparing jams. And this is when fame and legend begin. He moves in the center of Bucharest to the place where the cafeteria- restaurant stands today. They begin importing merchandise from France that are being introduced to a new and curious clientele that is astounded at the impressive delicacies: absinthe, pineapple, ice-cream in forms of perfect compositions.

In just two decades, Capsa defeated all competition. A new restaurant was added to the confectionary; the walls of the new place were adorned with red marble – hence the name “tomb of the pharaohs”.

Grigore Capsa invented the “Joffre” cake.

At the invitation of King Ferdinand and Queen Mary of Romania, the famous French Marshal Joseph Jacques Césaire Joffre arrived in Bucharest in 1920. The grand confectioner Grigore Capsa, who meanwhile had become the supplier of the Royal House, created in honor of the Marshal a chocolate cake in a cylindrical shape suggesting the French military helmets.

Marshal Joffre had diabetes, and because of this fact the master pastry chef who studied in Paris invented a cake that could be consumed without risk of the guest. The cake was named after the acclaimed French personality and was made of butter, sugar, eggs, flour, flavorings, cocoa of the highest quality, and was dressed in chocolate. The “Joffre” Cake began to circle the world being taken over by French cuisine, from whose tradition was inspired. However, the recipe has entered the Romanian confectionery offer and there is virtually no confectionery in Romania that does not prepare the cake in question.

The regulars clients of the place were politicians, diplomats, journalists, painters and musicians. The atmosphere at the tables inside or outside was similar to that from Paris (Procope) or Vienna (Sacher). You could hear a lot of French being spoken.

In December 1916, at the outbreak of war, Bulgarian occupation troops established their headquarters at Casa Capsa. They robbed the cellars of all the treasures gathered by Capsa brothers: French wines from the cellars of Napoleon III since 1848-1858. Until 1918, Bulgarian troops now ate, bean soup in clay bowls at the tables once belonging to one of the most elegant restaurants in Europe. It was a reason for them to feast, with undisguised pride, at the most famous culinary Balkans location.

Between the wars, Capsa acquired a new profile, becoming a literary café. All the country’s brightest minds have been there. Gossip, words of wisdom, they all formed under an unequaled intellectual emulations.

At the same time, Casa Capsa was providing the most sumptuous dining for restaurants belonging to the Royal Palace, Jockey Club, diplomatic missions, ministries. The menus were printed, painted or written by hand and on their back there have signed the customers: from royalty, ministers, parliamentarians, famous artists – it all represents today an archive of the Romanian royalty and high class.

The outcome of Warld War II and the arrival of the Communist regime meant a steamroller over the elitism promoted at Capsa. The classic menus that were pieces of art on their own were now typed, some in Russian; the place was renamed simply called “Bucharest”, the silver cutlery was replaced with ordinary pieces, waiters of “healthy origin” – all these have trivialized the place, so proud not long ago.

But still, Capsa was a flashy café during communist times as well, but without the spiritual meetings and discussions that once took place here. After 1989, the attempt of regaining the cultural vibe, but the glory and importance of yore failed to lift to the level that was once known, remaining but a select local with many memories and a history that cannot be overlooked when we refer to Bucharest past.

Photo source

Picture 1: en.wikipedia.org; Picture2 welcome2romania.wordpress.com; Picture 3: getlokal.ro; Picture 4: cazari.ro; Picture 5: booking.com; Picture 6: amfostacolo.ro; Picture 7: mancare.ro.
Jun 13

MANUC’S INN – THE PLACE WHERE HISTORY HAS BEEN MADE (HANUL LUI MANUC)

One of the inns in Bucharest who have enjoyed a great fame in the first half of the nineteenth century is Manuc’s Inn, currently and important tourist and historical monument and the last traditional inn in all Europe.

Its founder, an Armenian entrepreneur named Maniuc Mirzaian or Manuc Bei, was born in 1769 at Rusciuk (Ruse today), where his family, who originated in the Karp village, Ararat region, had settled after leaving Armenia.

According to historians descriptions in local archives, “Maniuc was endowed by nature with exceptional qualities: handsome and majestic, highly intelligent and educated, distinguished and elegant, deeply knowledgeable of people, skillful and shrewd, generous and broad-hearted, speaking twelve languages perfectly, knew to be both courteous and volunteer.

His biggest quality was to foresee the end of things before it occurs; therefore he was never caught off guard and always knew what to do.

He enjoyed being rich and managed to have a huge fortune in money and property. Through its native qualities he served the Ottoman Empire and Russia, when these two powers were at war; these services have been paid not only with titles and letters of thanks, but also with gold.

He died too soon however, at the age of 48, right when he fully climbed scale of success.”

The Russian-Turkish war, which began in 1806, forced led him to settle in the capital of Romania. Protected by Russian headquarters in Bucharest, and applying his merchant abilities and enormous capital he had at its disposal, Manuc Bei decided he had to do something to differentiate the yesterday merchandise. Thus, in the second half of 1806 Manuc Bei began to build the inn that will bear his name.

The construction differentiates itself from the rest of the inn-fortresses in the eighteenth century, by adopting a much less severe and more attractive architecture. From the inner courtyard, broad and monumental stairs are leading you to wooden arcade-carved galleries, with stucco ornaments above and below the doors and windows, with wooden balusters of the bulwarks; the staircase of oriental style represents an element of persistence and equilibrium.

Featuring a totally innovative architecture which does not follow the patterns of those times, the building is described as being composed of basement, ground and first floor. In the basement there are 15 vaulted cellars, 23 shops on the ground floor, two large lounges, ten huts, 16 rooms for the servants and cooks, four side rooms and a tunnel that can hold about 500 people. The upper floor has 107 rooms, most of them being used for guests.

In the middle of the courtyard paved with river stones there used to be a café with all its outbuildings and a garden with a lovely fountain.

The historical importance of Manuc’s Inn is mentioned in the international historical archives, for at least one important event hosted here: during the Six-Year War between the ottoman and the Russian Empire, which took place between 1806 and 1812, Manuc’s Inn had hosted for five months the Russian and Turkish plenipotentiaries who signed the Peace of Bucharest, which eventually ended the war.

After the end of the Russian-Turkish War, Maniuc moves with his family in Bessarabia. Remoteness caused him to start proceedings for selling the inn, but he died in uncertain circumstances before having found a buyer and the fate of the inn entered a period of nebula being affected by earthquakes, among others.

After decades of uncertainty and prevarication, the inn was bought by Lambru Vasilescu who turned, repaired and renowned and renamed it “Hotel Dacia”. The reopening of the inn that went by the name “Grand Hotel Dacia” was finally announced in 1874.

The two large halls of the Inn started being used for high-life parties of the Romanian capital socialites and important cultural and political figures and for various class events.

Here, at Hanuc’s Inn took place the discussions regarding the entry of Romania in the First World War, while hosting several meetings of political parties.

During the Communists era, the inn managed to survive the demolitions imposed by Ceausescu, thanks to several negotiation tumbling, and it turned into a nationalized institution which was a part of the catering establishment circuit.

With a history of over 200 years, Manuc ‘s Inn had suffered several changes and is still going through an extensive process of restoration and historic rehabilitation.

A local legend says that Manuc’s ghost is still haunting and place, giving friendly pieces of advice to the workers and cooks regarding how to prepare good quality food.

The Inn of Manuc is still one of the most popular places in the Romanian capital, being preferred for its idyllic atmosphere – which preserves the mark of its vast history -, for the traditional menu and excellent service, for the interesting and imposing architecture and the beautiful courtyard, always crowded with people during the warm season, and for the bohemian parties that always take place.

Photo source

Picture 1: romaniidinjurulromaniei.ro; Picture 2: restograf.ro; Picture 3: citybest.ro; Picture 4: hanumanuc.ro; Picture 5: hanulluimanuc.ro; Picture 6: spatiulconstruit.ro; Picture 7: commons.wikimedia.org