„Šesir moj“ is one of the four famous taverns in Skadarlija. However, most of the guests do not know that the “Šesir moj” is relatively new tavern, opened in 1990. So, how has just for the quarter of a century “Šesir moj” gained such a powerful reputation? Even today it is considered to be one of the traditional taverns in Skadarlija. The answer lies in the unusual way in which the tavern was founded and the way it worked from its early days, and that untypical way influenced very quickly to become a main place of Belgrade’s bohemians and public life personalities.
Mister Vlada Ilic, who led the tavern from its opening until retirement in 2017, worked as a waiter in this famous tavern. He was proud of working in the most famous tavern in the whole Yugoslavia, where even Tito came regulary, but he dreamed of running his business, having his own tavern. In time, he became a manager at tavern „Tri šesira“ and when he found out that the next door pastry shop is for rent in 1990, he did not hesitate – he opened „Šesir moj“.
Ilic’s desire was to apply all the knowledge gained during the two decades of work in Skadarlija, but in comparison with other taverns, „Šesir moj“ from the first days was featured by one characteristic – the openness of the new tavern towards art. While Mr. Vlada was a young waiter at “Tri Šesira”, famous painters still worked in Skadarlija, who created their work in front of the passers-by. Despite the boss’s remark, he liked to observe how the paintings were made and gradually became a lover of art, and he also gained many friends among the painters. When he opened his tavern, Ilic continued to help artists and began to buy from them paintings or to accept paintings instead of money at the tavern. Very quickly, the tavern became full of the works of the most famous Belgrade painters, who naturally came here, and with them came the rest of the first bohemian posture of Belgrade.
Dragan Malesevic Tapi, Olja Ivanjicki, Janos Mesaros, Cile Marinkovic and other famous painters gave to “Šešir moj” their paintings, but also their best days, and we freely say – a part of their souls. A lot of other artists came after – Momo Kapor, Milorad Pavic, Mira Aleckovic, Biljana Vilimon and Dragana del Monaco were everyday guests in the first decade of the existence of “Šešir moj”, as well as numerous intellectuals, politicians, journalists. So “Šešir moj” has became the favorite place for the cultural elite of Belgrade, almost imediately after the opening, and it has remained until today. The paintings that artists left were donated to guests who came from far away, then those who celebrated birthday parties in the tavern or were highlighted for something else, and so far as many as 10,000 paintings have been donated. Without giving away pictures, there would be no room for new ones, and Šesir’s philosophy has always been to retrieve paintings every week, in order to support the work of painters. The same goes for musicians who performed at the tavern. Several musician families for three decades lived exclusively from working at “Šešir moj”, retaining the entire income for themselves.
After the end of the international isolation of Serbia in 2000, “Šešir moj” took the place on the list of obligatory locations that guests from abroad must visit while staying in Belgrade, especially if they want to feel the spirit of the capital directly. Among the famous guests were opera singer Hoze Kareras, writer Orhan Pamuk, actress Katrin Denev, Ana Karina and Hana Sigula, human rights fighter Aleida Guevara (daughter of the legendary Che), as well as a large number of musicians who visited Belgrade during their tour. Many artists on tour did not have time to go to Skadarlija, but they ordered from “Šešir moj” in order to taste the specialties of Serbian cuisine. Luciano Pavarotti ordered a 1000 ćevapi for his team, while Santana also ordered ćevapi, but the manager did not allow him to taste them because they are not considered easily digestible food. Šesir’s photographs made records during the years of the visits from the Prime minister, Princess and academics. The tavern is not only popular among the elderly, but with many of the celebrities of the younger generation, from Stefan Milenkovic to Novak Djokovic, who enjoyed in its charm.
Good reviews for “Šesir moj” tavern also came from a flower wall above the door of a tavern, a few feet tall, which is always maintained with so much attention that the flowers bloom on it even in the winter months, which is why the tavern has been rewarded repeatedly. The tavern is famous for its traditional selection for the most beautiful hat, which is organized every summer, then for the organization of painting colonies, especially for humanitarian activities and advocacy in culture. During the course of a quarter of a century, “Šešir moj” helped tens of poor families across Serbia solve their existential problems, young artists, sporting societies and cultural events were financed, and good works brought a good voice. Ultimately, the answer to the question of how the “Šešir moj” tavern in a relatively short time became one of the symbols of Belgrade lies within these facts.
A new chapter in the history of the “Šešir moj” tavern started in 2017, when Vlada Ilic retired after half of a century of working in Skadarlija, and the family Todorovic, who owns some of the best hotels in Serbia, became interested in tavern, knowing that only one with a lot of experience can take over in caring of a pearl such as “Šešir moj”. Family members Todorovic personally run a tavern like mister Vlada did, so the tavern changed its head, but still remains the old hat of ours.