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Generations talking | Róma Ételbár x Viki Hitka

We interviewed Viki Hitka on the occasion of the reopening of Róma Ételbár, the legendary eatery in Buda, who was in charge of the styling of the place in the course of the renovation. 

Róma Ételbár, the iconic place in Csalogány utca operated for 32 years in a row. The owner of the restaurant offering traditional Hungarian dishes, Ilona Sebestyénné Földes also known as “Cica néni” closed the doors of Róma two years ago, which now has been reopened by Dániel Andrusch, to the greatest joy of regular customers. Even though Cica néni is no longer the chef in Róma, the dishes remained the same, and owing to the renovation of the kitchen, perhaps they even got a little bit better. Or at least this is what Viki Hitka says with utmost care, who was invited by the new owners to reimagine the interior of the restaurant, from a stylist’s angle.

Photos: Balázs Mohai

The interior of the tiny eatery was designed by architectural consulting company Alioth Architect Consultancy, but the furnishing and the details were assigned to Viki. “Our primary goal was to keep every element that brings back the old atmosphere. At the same time it was also important not to create a mausoleum.” – Viki explains, who is also a regular at Róma as the owner of NOS boutique situated nearby. 

“In the case of a place like Róma, reopening is quite risky: I thought a lot of people will find it good news but also many out of the old regular guests will be quite sceptic about it. I thought I should place myself in the shoes of a regular guest who doesn’t believe that anything good could come out of this. He wouldn’t like meeting new things, and nor would he appreciate copies of the old ones. I had to find a middle ground, which still has such comfort enhancing objects as the old cutlery, salt and pepper shakers or bread baskets yet it is not built strictly around the past.” explains Viki her concept

The chairs came from an antiquities dealer, while the wall lamps were purchased at various markets as well as Möbelkunst. Some of the small porcelains were sneaked in by Viki and some by Cica néni. A dominant accessory of the restaurant is the mirror with a text, which Viki insisted on. Even though they didn’t find the original mirror with the text “Róma Ételbár Cica”, but according to the stylist of the place, it was so emblematic that she had it remade – to Cica néni’s greatest appreciation. 

And what did the new owner have to say about the new interior? “He came in, looked around and said: it looks good. Then he started the show just like he always does.” – tells Viki and she adds: “If he were to focus on how the curtains looked, Róma wouldn’t have become what it is today.”

Therefore, Róma did not lose its spirit, and this is only partly owing to the design.“I think it is fantastic how the different generations can talk to and understand each other. Dani and his team attracted a whole new audience, while also catering for the needs of the old ladies and gentleman who were regular guests of the original place to the maximum extent.”

Even though it hasn’t been long since the reopening (which took place exactly two weeks before the Covid-19 outbreak), the reopening of Róma Ételbár is already a success from one perspective for sure: it continues the traditions with a new, fresh design, and unfortunately there are only a few similar examples in Hungary at the moment. According to Viki, this could be for multiple reasons: “Perhaps we don’t trust ourselves and our past enough. Perhaps there aren’t any bold elements to which we could reach back or if there are, they are all worn out.” Hopefully Róma Ételbár will serve as a good example for future projects reinventing old-time favorites. Until then, we are happy if get to enjoy such authentic places as Bambi or Tik-Tak Presszó for as long as it is possible.

Cica néni, the former manager and Dani Andrusch, the new manager of the restaurant

Róma Ételbár | Facebook

Photos: Balázs Mohai | Instagram

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