Usually, modern warfare and pizza are two things that aren’t commonly associated with each other. In Ukraine, they come together to not only provide some of the best pizza in Eastern Europe but also to provide rehabilitation for veterans of the current war in Ukraine. When I was last in Ukraine, I visited Veterano Pizza to try this Weird Ukrainian Food for myself.
Military themes are not hard to find in Ukraine, after all this is a country where I’ve seen a BTR 80 for sale. The branch of the restaurant I visited is situated in downtown Kyiv. This Veterano Pizza is not far from the Ukrainian capital’s hub of Maidan square. Ironically, this is where the current conflict in Ukraine erupted. So the pizza restaurant is fittingly located.
Once you enter Veterano Pizza, you’ll discover a restaurant unlike any other. There is one theme here: war. The tables feature spent rounds of various clibres collected from the frontline in Donbass, the walls feature burned military unit flags that have clearly seen heavy fighting, and most importantly, the staff are all veterans of the conflict themselves.
Veterano was started by a small group of veterans from the war in Ukraine with the aim of creating a restaurant staffed by veterans to support veterans. Whilst the first branch of the Veterano restaurant was opened in Kyiv, it has since expanded into other Ukrainian cities such as Odesa, Boryspil, Kryvyi Rih, and Mariupol. The latter of which is situated on the frontline of the conflict in Ukraine.
However, whilst you might expect to enter a boys club frequented by burly men fresh from war, you will be pleasantly surprised. The staff at Veterano are made up of both men and women who served on the frontline. They are often very friendly and some speak decent English, as Ukraine is increasingly recognizing it as the world’s language for business.
Aside from the very unique backstory to this restaurant and the weird Ukrainian food it serves, the burning question remains, how good is pizza cooked by Ukrainian war veterans? In summary, it’s pretty damn good and that’s coming from someone who is very choosy about this classic Italian dish!
Pizza in Eastern Europe can be very hit and miss, the methods of construction such as cheese as the final topping rather than the base can make eating them a chore. Also, knock off ingredients such as cheap pepperoni substitutes can ruin a pizza instantly. But at Veterano, they get it just right every time!
My favorites on the menu of weird Ukrainian food are the Calzone or the pizza with Ukrainian hunters sausage and pepperoni. The dishes are always fresh and full of flavor. Service isn’t the fastest, but this is Eastern Europe and that is something you really need to accept when traveling here. In the meantime, you can relax in their outdoor area with a few ice-cold Ukrainian beers or war-themed cocktails, which brings me onto my next point: the drinks menu!
When I said this is a war-themed restaurant, I meant it. The restaurant’s theme extends to the drinks menu. Where you can find cocktails such as the Donetsk Sour, the Crimea Special, or drinks named after fallen comrades of the veterans who work in the restaurant.
Personally, I enjoy themed restaurants that are done right and Veterano is just that. It’s not tacky, it has a positive objective, and it’s overall theme and mission doesn’t detract from the key mission which is serving great pizza! So it’s a foodie experience I highly recommend.
The conflict in Ukraine is a controversial one. All politics aside, having worked in warzones around the world, I have witnessed the effects of PTSD and the struggle to reintegrate conflict veterans and survivors back into normality. Thus I find the overall mission of Veterano of giving war veterans a chance of employment and a route back into civilian life, an admirable one.
If you wish to visit Veterano Pizza whilst traveling to Ukraine, you can find the locations of their various restaurants on their website which is available here. I highly recommend booking a table, especially on weekends, as good pizza is naturally popular and I wouldn’t want you to be disappointed and not be able to find a spot. Enjoy!