This article originally appeared on VICE Serbia
Pavle Korcagin is a family-run restaurant in central Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. The establishment's unique selling point is its varied international menu, serving Angolan, Spanish, Iraqi and Indian cuisine, next to Jamaican, Kazakhstani, Moroccan and Israeli dishes. Korcagin has only one rule when it comes to selecting which national delicacies to serve – the dish in question must come from a country that does not recognise Kosovo's independence.
After the breakup of communist Yugoslavia in 1992, Kosovo remained a part of Serbia – even though 90 percent of Kosovo's population is ethnically Albanian. After the landlocked state declared independence from Serbia in 2008, 110 countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, formally recognised the Republic of Kosovo. However, Serbia continues to insist that the region is part of the country. So far, several attempts at negotiating a lasting solution have failed, though an agreement in 2013 helped normalise the relationship between Serbia and Kosovo.
To find out why someone would run a restaurant entirely based on ideology, I decide to stop by Korcagin to speak with its owner. Inside, it doesn't just smell of tasty food – it reeks of nostalgia, too. The restaurant's walls are covered with communist memorabilia – images and slogans from famous communist and socialist leaders, and pictures of Tito, Stalin, Lenin and Che Guevara hanging side by side.
It's lunchtime, and the place is filled with a mix of young and old people – many of them actors on break from their rehearsal, still in their costumes. In the corner, two workers in bright orange uniforms are having lunch under a map of the former Yugoslavia. I order the Sunday special – a Belarusian dish of chicken wrapped in bacon and stuffed with ham, mushrooms and boiled eggs. New items are added to the menu whenever Korcagin's owner hears about another country that doesn't recognise Kosovo, and all meals are prepared by his Serbian chefs.
That owner is Vojin Cucic, and he's inherited Korcagin from his father – who, Vojin says, was a self-proclaimed "Yugo-nostalgic". Vojin agrees to an interview, but tells me he doesn't have much time for me, since he looks after several other restaurants and has a christening to prepare for. He does insist that I answer a few of his questions first, in order to "get to know each other". When I've sufficiently convinced him that I'm not a "pro-Albanian extremist", he agrees to talk about Korcagin and the message it's trying to promote.
VICE: Do you think a lot of people in Serbia support the theme of your restaurant?
Vojin Cucic: I can't really imagine anyone living in Serbia today can have anything against our place. Apart from some NGOs, everyone is really supportive – we're always full.
So you don't see anything wrong with Korcagin's message?
No, not from our point of view. Maybe an Albanian might have a problem with it. This is just our way of making Serbians aware of our allies. Hopefully, people will leave the restaurant and go learn more about the countries and cultures that appear on our menu. So many countries don't recognise Kosovo's independence, and people should know about them.
How do you decide what goes on your menu?
Our customers are always recommending cuisines we should feature next. We try to be as contemporary as we can. This week, we've added Belarusian dishes, and next up we'll add a delicacy from Guinea-Bissau.
Would an Albanian be welcomed here?
Sure, as long as they're not an extremist. Everyone is welcome here.
Watch: I Made My Shed The #1 Restaurant in London
In our chat earlier, you mentioned that you had a "problem with homosexuals". So when you say everyone is welcome, does that include gay people?
I do not support homosexuality, and I never will. But what people do outside of this restaurant is entirely up to them. Everyone has a right to their own opinion, but I don't think we will ever agree on this one.
Do you think it's a smart move to mix ideology and food?
So far, we haven't had any negative reactions. We do not support any political parties, but what we do support is something that most people in Serbia already believe in.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.