Back in time with ZAMA

Embracing the Taste of Transylvania

On street Napoca, nr. 16, close to the city center of Cluj-Napoca, there is a place where you can go back…back to your childhood, back to the flavors which spread around the house when your grandma was cooking, back to the days when you didn’t need to worry about tomorrow. Life was what it supposed to be, beautiful, quiet and simple. In the chaotic and active Cluj, on Napoca nr.16, ZAMA has its door open for all of you that need to escape, to disconnect and to enjoy the Taste of Transylvania.

ZAMA is an example of how to brand traditional Romanian dishes, how to bring the spirit and atmosphere of Transylvania into the present and make it reachable to anyone. I was lucky enough to have an inspiring conversation with Mr. Petre Serban, the owner of ZAMA. What is fascinating about my various talks with people owning a business or working in Hospitality, is that the discussion goes beyond general ideas about the place itself- it always transforms into a conversation about life and happenings, about those things that matter and make our life a little bit more sunnier and a little bit more simple.

The owner told me there are three elements that define ZAMA, the lights, the music and the air, not to mention the name itself, which is a powerful Romanian element, used in most of the homes from Transylvania, and which is untranslatable in other languages. The design follows the idea of traditional modern restaurant, and uses objects and pieces of furniture which have been picked from peasants’ homes. The interior design is modern with rustic influences, from wood, metal to burned ceramics and glass, a space of tranquility that brings back the interwar period where Romanian hospitality was thriving.

“I think that one element which differentiates us is the name, ZAMA, which cannot be translatable in other languages, therefore this element gives power to the brand. ZAMA can be the soup, can be the foam, can be up or can down. The logo was also truly important, it represents a Romanian traditional plate, and if one looks carefully it can see how the word ZAMA has some little chicken legs. These are trivial things which attract the client, make him feel god and he doesn’t know why.”

The owner decided not to change the menu and to give it authenticity by branding the Romanian dishes. There are two women chefs in the kitchen that brought to ZAMA their kitchen from home, this way keeping the flavors and tastes met in a Romanian traditional house. The owner believes the employees should be dedicated and passionate about their work that is way ZAMA is a big family where each one is proud to be part of.

“We are people that respect each other like a family or even more than in a family, I think that you have to create the pleasure of the workplace, and this pleasure should be equal or even higher than staying at home.”

Guided by the slogan Taste of Transylvania, ZAMA managed to change perceptions of foreigners about Romania and attracts many international tourists curious to discover the authenticity of our legacy. Mr. Serban said that one family from Munich has changed its opinion about Romania after dining at the restaurant. At ZAMA the idea is to bring back the dishes which Romanians used to have at home but now they do not longer have. The owner said that it is interesting how we, as customers, search in restaurants what we do not have at home, and now, in these times, when traditions are more and more faded apart by influences from abroad, people tend to come back to the origins, being attracted by the cuisine which brings back the tastes from their childhoods, from grandmother’s kitchens. The focus is on the simplicity of the taste, the same old dishes but served with a certain plating, in a different way. He said that ZAMA is seen as a continuity of what was formed during interwar times by eliminating the negative effects of Communism in Romania:

“I think that ZAMA should have been on the market for a long time, I see it as a concept which had been modernized across the times. When we conceived ZAMA we thought would be like a concept started in the Interwar period, like a continuity towards our times, but eliminating Communism. I believe this would have been the natural and well-development of the country.”

There are so many more things to be said about this place, but one should experience it by himself. Simply go and rediscover the Taste of Transylvania...and you can start by throwing a short look at the menu For sure you will smile and reminisce the old, golden days.