22 October 2007


As is the case with any tourist-orientated country, dining in Croatia can be hit and miss.

Score a hit and you’ll find yourself in a family-run “konoba” with a plate of fresh fish or a wood-fired pizza with a topping of local Dalmatian ham (above).

Score a miss however and you are more likely to be dipping into a risotto that is more like a soup with granules of rice floating in it or a pizza covered in little more than flavourless cheese and imported seafood mix.

During a recent three-week stint in Croatia I dined in Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik and many of the country’s islands. I had my share of misses but luckily they were outweighed by some pretty memorable hits.

Croatia hugs the Dalmatian coastline and is across the Adriatic Sea from Italy so the Italian influence - pizza, pasta and gelati - is everywhere.

For the majority the pizzas are cheap and tasty meal option, particularly in Zagreb and Split where the pizza-by-the-slice outlets are on many street corners with slices selling for about 8 kuna (AUD$2).

You have to be a little more discerning when choosing pasta however and I found a good rule of thumb was to avoid the main touristy areas and search for a restaurant a few streets back from the harbour. That’s what we did on the island of Hvar and the “frutti de mare” spaghetti and risotto were cheap, simple and up there with the best meals of our entire trip.

On the flip side, the worst was at Split where I decided to try the Croatian delicacy of black or squid-ink risotto. Unfortunately this dish fell into the soup-with-granules-of-rice category and I think I ate no more than two mouthfuls (a rarity for someone who a/loves her food and b/is such a tightarse can’t bear to leave anything on her plate, let alone 99 per cent of the dish)!

If you’re planning a visit to Croatia and really want to sample some local cuisine it’s worth jumping on a ferry and exploring the islands such as Hvar, Korcula, Vis or Brac. These picturesque holiday spots are full of fishing ports and the seafood selection is usually first class.

At Vela Luca (Tony Santic’s home town) on the island of Korcula I dined on sea bass, which was cooked before my eyes on an open flame and served with a drizzle of olive oil and a simple salad of salted potatoes and wilted spinach.

Put simply: superb. As I savoured every mouthful in the restaurant’s vine-covered courtyard with the sound of the ocean in the background I realised a restaurant doesn’t need a Michelin star (or three) to offer an amazing dining experience.



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