Story: Novak Djokovic, the tennis superstar, is a fascinating player. He has strong, clean shots. His build is ideal for the sport. He plays with an intensity that very few rival. He was good for several years, but then something happened. He raised his level of performance in multiple areas to become one of the top players in the world during the golden age of tennis. Key areas of improvement for him include: focus, confidence, and physical fitness. A visit to his cafe in Belgrade provides insight into him as a player and his improvement.
When you first walk up to his cafe you see a statue of Novak as a terra cotta warrior with a tennis racket as a weapon. OK, so it’s made out of concrete, but the similarities remain. The terra cotta warrior thing made sense to me as I began to think about Novak out on the court waging a war of sorts instead of just competing in an athletic competition. More than a tennis player, he is a tennis warrior. In addition to fighting for his place at the top of the sport, he also was struggling for his mother country to be recognized and revered on an international stage. A huge weight for him to carry, he soldiered on in an effort to make himself, his family, and his countrymen proud. He succeeded. One of their biggest national heroes, he is now a Serbian living legend. As a legend, he is memorialized in statue form.
The food and menu were another key to understanding Novak. He has made significant changes in his diet with a gluten-free, warm food diet. On the food note, their creations are AMAZING! Excellent. Delicious. Ready to eat there again tomorrow kind of good. His signature cafe has a whole page of the menu dedicated to a gluten-free diet. That’s roughly a third of the menu which fits his dietary regime. The only dessert on the whole menu, a biscuit cake with apples, was a gluten free dessert. He is serious about his diet and making his new-found commitment viable for others in a quality dining experience.
Vibe: The atmosphere was much more casual than I had expected. It was a warm, open environment with gracious wait staff. There is some restraint on the tennis motif except for the terra cotta soldier and the tennis ball collection at the entrance. In the basement it becomes more of a tennis free-for-all where you can see pictures of championships through the years. Lots of championships. For me, the room alluded back to the terra cotta warrior. Though too much to take in every victory, it was nice to see the enormous success Novak and, by extension, the Serbian people have realized over the past years.
Recommendation: Everything we tried was good. But, the big winner at our table was the beef steak with green peppercorn sauce. The meat was good and very tender. The green peppercorn sauce was perfect. And there were grilled vegetables on a bed of mashed potatoes. Not a common thing in this part of the world, it was a treat to have veggies with the steak especially since they were grilled.
Notes: Dress is fairly casual. Prices range from 10 to 35 USD. For the amount and quality of food, it felt very reasonable. Actually, I would even call this a good value.
Place: There are a couple of Novak’s cafes in town now. We ate at the one just west of the Sava Center.