A visit to a good neighbourhood

A wide range of distinctive shops, restaurants and cafés has opened up in recent years under the tops of the lime trees and the Baroque towers of the Servite church. Whether it's chocolate or crochet hooks: this is where craftsmanship still counts.

Between gastronomy and crafts

Suddenly it’s quiet. Entering the narrow Servitengasse from Jörg-Mauthe-Platz, where the D tram clangs its bell and a constant stream of traffic fills the street, it is the peace and quiet at this place which first surprises you. Trees line the street and the fragrance of lime blossom wafts through the air. Mothers with prams have made themselves comfortable and chat away on park benches; students and business people use their lunch or coffee breaks to relax in the shade of large trees. Two older men discuss the latest political developments. The atmosphere is all but reminiscent of village life – neighbours greet each other across the street, a young woman sits on a stool on the pavement in front of a shop and speaks into her mobile phone. Restaurant and café owners have also already recognised the value of their residential street. At least one or two tables can be found in front of almost each and every café and restaurant: most of the latter also spill out onto the pavement. The chairs and tables jostling for space at the gate-like start of the Servitengasse belong to different restaurants. “DIE SERVIETTE” is one; the other two comprise the exquisite “PORZELLAN” and Ristorante SCALA, where you can get the best pizza in the district, if not in all Vienna, according to the unanimous opinion of passers-by.

The Servitengasse is named after the Italian Servite order, whose members also wanted to settle in Austria during the 17th century. Initially, the brothers of the mendicant order only moved into a house with a barn, but after obtaining permission from the Emperor, they bought a further house and began building the Servite monastery. Some of the monastic tranquillity and meditative mood has remained even in today’s hectic times: only rarely is the almost idyllically rural area disrupted by an approaching car, so it’s not uncommon to see children at play and mothers with prams. This also makes it the ideal location for “MÄDCHEN UND BUBEN” (“Boys and Girls”). The kind of toys sold here are a world away from Barbie and Co. “We started small and grew little by little,” says Melinda-Christine Schuller. Since then, loyal customers from all over Vienna and some of them even from Lower Austria have been flocking here to marvel at the treasures of the now not so little shop. It stocks all kinds of wooden toys, cuddly giraffes, colourful cubes of fabric, spinning mobiles and cranes as well as Melinda-Christine’s favourite, the little mole puppet. In fact it stocks just about everything a child could wish for. “We don’t have the classic product range, but we do have many things you can’t find anywhere else,” is how Melinda-Christine explains the general idea. She describes the Servitengasse as being “just like a little village”. Everyone knows each other, so it truly is a “real” neighbourhood.” As a result, rambles and strolls are extremely pleasurable, and the façades of the houses built at the turn of the century often entice walkers to gaze upwards.

Nor should walkers avert their gaze from the display windows of the many café and restaurants lining the street. In recent years the Servitengasse has become an insider’s tip for fine food and crafts, or frequently a blend of both. A spirit of enthusiasm and passion pervades each business and every restaurant here. For example, “eBOSCO – BLUMEN WECKEN SINNE” (“eBosco – Flowers stimulate the senses”) is a florist’s which can even transform the pavement into a shop window on nice days. A Black-eyed Susan vine flowers next to elaborate floral arrangements and large clay vases stand among large red flowers. Instead of being a simple flower shop, the florists here view plants as a part of nature rather than some saleable commodity. Suddenly, one of the sales assistants rushes out of the shop, adjusts a stray leaf, says hello to someone just across the street, pats a passing dog and chats briefly with its owner. Quite simply, most of the local shops, restaurants and cafés depend on their regular customers, something quickly noticed by those who have recently pitched their tents here such as the “CAFFÈ A CASA”, for example, which has been providing residents with freshly brewed coffee specialities ever since 2010. Here you can buy Arabica beans from all over the world, from Brazil and Costa Rica to Indonesia; and each select blend is freshly ground and prepared. Even the grinder is adjusted to the specific type of coffee. A large roasting machine serves as virtually the only decoration in the modern, white restaurant. “We focus on coffee and little else. OK, obstinate refusers might just get a cup of tea,” smiles the barista. Coffee is supplied from 8 am and the regular clientele knows how to express its appreciation: for example, with an ice-cream they spontaneously offer the coffee server. The odd chair is also set out at the front door of the premises so that customers can enjoy their coffee in the sunshine. After all, since the pavement is understood here as public space, it is also extensively used. And the commitment to distinctive culinary art is also evident just a few buildings further on: At “CURRY ME HOME” you can revel in the unexpected diversity of global spices. This is probably one of the few places in Vienna where you can buy Tasmanian mountain pepper, mace or Bengali long-tailed pepper. The range is finished off by select oils and vinegars. Those already hungry are well catered for in the youthful “SUPPENWIRTSCHAFT” (“Soup Saloon”) lunchtime restaurant. The philosophy of freshness, seasonality and regional flair in combination with rapid service particularly attracts young students.

Jewellery designer CARLA SCHNEIDER has set up her business behind a discreet glass door with a bell. Usually, she sits in the back room where her studio is also located and works on her latest creations. She has served her regular customers here for eleven years. Others indulge in their passion for craftwork on the other side of the road. In this case, however, they set about their work with needle and thread, not wire and precious stones. The people at “VERSTRICKT & ZUGENÄHT (“Entangled & Sewn”) have recognised the current trend towards handwork and offer a wide range of wool, buttons, ribbons, yarns and zippers. What’s more, they completely reject the notion of knitting at home or behind closed doors. For them, working together means stitching, crocheting and knitting together with the added opportunity to have a cup of coffee, talk shop and gossip with each other. No prior training is required. Everyone is welcome, from the novice needleworker right through to the professional scarf designer. “It's just a very pleasant area,” says jewellery designer Carla Schneider. “People know each other at least by sight and people regularly say hello to each other after a while,” she adds.

Ingrid Bürger’s PASTRY shop is a good place to meet. The patisserie with its small café house area and sidewalk café has long been an institution in the Servitengasse. Here, people drink coffee and eat cake; this is where a newspaper reader prefers to wait for his train rather than at the Franz-Josephs-Bahnhof. Antje Zauner has treated herself to an ice cream on this hot day. She’s lived in the neighbourhood for fifteen years. “I’m absolutely delighted to be here,” she says between two spoonfuls of ice cream while turning over the page of a newspaper. More than anything else she appreciates the peace and quiet, the charming atmosphere and the fragrance of lime trees on the pavements. “You have all this here and can still be in the city within five minutes.” She thinks the Servitengasse has only got better and better in recent years: “The area here has become even more beautiful. I’m so pleased to be able to live here.” Just opposite, another institution awaits hungry walkers: the legendary secluded guest garden overlooking the SERVITE CHURCH. It used to belong to the “Servitenstüberl” inn, where Erhard Eisenbock served up Viennese specialties for over 25 years. The restaurant has since metamorphosed into the “SERVITENWIRT”, although the Viennese cuisine and the outdoor restaurant on the pavement remain.

Over the road, the pavement tables in front of the LA PASTERIA restaurant are being laid and the outdoor furniture quickly hosed down, which is why a garden hose snakes its way from the kitchen through the entire interior. Even so, chef de cuisine Xerxes Panzenböck still has just about enough time for a cup of coffee. He has been running the culinary side of La Pasteria for eleven years and took over the entire restaurant three months ago. Quite a few things have changed since then. Instead of relying on conventional trade outlets, Herr Panzenböck puts his faith today in product traceability and often opts for ingredients from unusual sources. “Rather than purely remaining a hub of trade, we want to bring more philosophy and ideology to the food,” he explains. So while homemade pasta is now out, taleggio cheese, buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto from Austria are now in. “In our case we have produce from Austria which has been prepared according to traditional Italian recipes”, is how the chef describes his idea. He always uses organic ingredients whenever this makes sense. For example, he fills his ravioli with black pudding and apple or smoked trout; the balsamic vinegar comes from the Wachau region and his Prosecco has been specially bottled for the restaurant. “Naturally, the Italian notion of lightness has remained,” grins the chef. He may have lost some customers as a result of his new policy, but he has gained all the more because of it. Herr Panzenböck reckons that his regular customers account for 80 to 90 percent of all his guests. “Everything is very authentic here”, says the restaurant owner, “Actually, there aren’t any chains.” Indeed, with the exception of one bakery and a local grocer’s, all the shops and restaurants in the Servitengasse are distinctive, independent businesses. Frequently, they’re family-owned companies. “Everyone has thought about what his or her strengths are. In place of conflict, there’s only cooperation here.” No matter who you ask in the Servitengasse, the answer is almost always the same as the one given by Herr Panzenböck: “It’s simply a good neighbourhood.”
More information on graetzlbericht.at

Neighbourhood back to overview
Newsletter Registration
Thank you for
your request
Bitte stimmen Sie der Nutzung von Cookies zu, um alle Funktionen dieser Website nutzen zu können. Mehr Information