There are few places in the world where you can associate pizza and modern warfare, apart from Italy in 1943 of course. In Ukraine, home of Europe’s only ongoing civil war, where the effects of war have been implemented and almost made a normal part of society, there is a pizza place that does just that.
The Ukrainian Civil war erupted in 2014 and has raged ever since. Over 13,000 people have lost their lives in the bitter conflict. Veterano Pizza was founded by a veteran of the Ukrainian civil war and exclusively employs fellow veterans to provide a job in the civilian sector when they return from war. Initially beginning as a sort of social club in a Kiev underpass for returning soldiers and having very much a barracks atmosphere, Veterano today has not only pizza but also coffee chains, bakeries, security firms, and even taxi companies. The owners of all these businesses are civil war veterans.
The first time I visited Veterano, I didn’t have a clue what to expect but it has since become one of my favorite pizza spots in Europe! As soon as you walk through the door, you’re greeted by an oversized art display of an assault rifle on the wall surrounded by the unit patches of various soldiers who have visited (the brand offers significant discounts to veterans and serving soldiers). The staffs are friendly and as you’re seated at your table, you soon notice that you’ll be eating on top of countless spent rounds collected from the battlefields of Eastern Ukraine.
The dishes on the menu are dedicated to significant battles or men who have fallen in combat, likewise with the drinks menu that has a healthy selection of cheap cocktails and local beer. The walls are decorated with non-conventional decor that you likely won’t see at most restaurants anywhere in the world, from blood-stained national and regimental flags to maps of Ukraine made from bullets in the trenches. The patrons of the restaurant range from families to battle-hardened serving or former soldiers and militia members. Even the toilets have ammunition pouches as decoration.
When it comes to the main feature of the restaurant, its pizza, Veterano does not disappoint. The wide range of pizza leaves something for everyone and the taste is simply exceptional. Made in Italian style, I highly recommend the ‘Hunters Pizza’ made with fresh Mozzarella, locally sourced mushrooms and hunters sausage.
Great pizza, a unique atmosphere and the aim of reintegrating soldiers into civilian life and tackling the effects of PTSD and marginalization on soldiers make Veterano Pizza a must-visit when in Ukraine. Their subsequent coffee chain, Veterano Coffee, makes some damn good coffee also and can be found scattered throughout various cities in Ukraine from Kiev and Odessa all the way to the frontline in Mariupol.
A guest blog is written by the team at sovietwastelands.com, the regional leaders in budget adventure and foodie tours to the fascinating, history and culinary rich lands of the former Soviet Bloc and Yugoslavia!