Open sandwiches (Belegte Brote) are a common Viennese snack, made popular by the iconic company Trzesniewski. Small slabs of rye bread with a wide variety of toppings, and often accompanied by a Pfiff (small quantity) of beer, they are perfect for a mid-morning snack. Here’s a brief history of these iconic bite-sized nibbles.
Sandwiches have become a staple snack in almost every culture, from the spicy Vietnamese baguettes Bánh mì, to indulgent Philly Cheese Steak foot-longs and dainty cucumber sandwiches for English high tea. Every culture has its own style, and keeping with its refined look, the Viennese sandwiches are delicate and sophisticated.
Although the snack is now synonymous with Viennese cuisine, it actually started life in Poland, the native land of their creator, Franciszek Trzesniewski, who relocated to Vienna from Kraków to set up his business. The first store was set up in 1902, on the Tiefen Graben in Vienna, before moving around the corner to Dorotheergasse, where it remains today.
The joy of sandwiches lies primarily in being a practical yet filling snack, and the idea of ‘easy and quick consumption’ was important to Franciszek Trzesniewski. They are designed to be eaten in one or two bites, and even the accompanying drinks are the right size for a quick pit stop – many people enjoy a Pfiff of beer with theirs, or a shot of Polish vodka (although this is perhaps not advisable at lunchtime).
Trzesniewski sandwiches are simple: fresh, dark rye bread, cut into small rectangle shapes and smothered in various spreads, from tomato and paprika to egg mayonnaise, or salmon and cream cheese. Tradition is important to the company, and their recipes have remained largely unchanged over the years and they keep them close to their heart, although a particular kind of egg cooking technique is suspected to be their secret.
There are now nine Trzesniewski shops around Vienna, so be sure to sample this popular light lunchtime tradition if you are in the capital.
Trzesniewski, Dorotheergasse 1, 1010 Wien, Austria, +43 1 5123291