food in Croatia

Split, Spritz and Spagetti. Eating in Croatia

In this post I continue telling the story of my “eat pray love” project that I did in Croatia last summer. This is the “eat” part and the rest of the story you can find under the tag eatpraylove on this blog. I know, I have promised my report of the yoga retreat, and it is going to be that last part, just to make sure you are intrigued and waiting 🙂

The week of  salsa festival was over after the Sunday night party. We didn’t sleep that night because my friend was catching a bus to the airport at 7.30 in the morning. So we decided to dance that night away, but no one was really dancing, not us at least. We were wandering from hall to hall, tired after the week of partying, observing how empty the space was getting. After I walked my friend to the bus station, I slept 4 hours, got up and hurried to the last event: the party boat with Cuban music. That was a great end to the week, such an exclamation mark instead of a full stop.

The dancers have left the city, there was no spontaneous dancing on the beach or street corners. After I stayed alone, I was left to eating and rambling the streets with my camera. As a proper writer I found my sweet spot: hotel “Adriatic” which had wonderful shady terrace with soft sofas and a view of the marina. Every morning I would sink in the sofa, my phone would automatically sink into the local wi-fi, and I did catching up with my blog activity over fresh orange juice and a tasty salad or chicken ciabatta. Isn’t it what the great writers of the past did? Sitting in their favorite hotel or café and writing?

The place felt strange without dancer crowds and salsa music playing from every window, but Rovinj did not get empty. Not at all. The streets were lively. The restaurant terraces were busy. The waiter of the restaurant on our street was waving to me every day and shouting in Russian: “Marina, how are you?” I also met a local guy, whom we befriended a week before, and asked him for the best tiramisu in town. So he took me to the place called “Tiramisu” (this is logical, right?), and I plunged into tasting different deserts.

My neighbor (of the rented flat) was the owner of that flat, Peter, an older Croatian who spoke German, but no English. During salsa festival he was taking care of the flats that 5 of us were renting and inviting us for the drink of slivovica (local sweet liqueur). Luckily I speak German, and sometimes I would sit on his couch, drinking slivovica and talking about family and life in general. He was also kind to drive me to the airport (50 min from Rovinj) though it turned out to be the wrong place for me. Maybe, I will tell about it in another post 😉

Though I was alone the whole week, these tiny interactions kept me from feeling lonely. I divided my time between eating long brunches in hotel “Adriatic”, walking the streets and taking photos, going to the beach on the rocks, and eating dinners – every time in the new location. I felt like having romance with my favorite town and full of emotions. Or maybe, it was a daily Aperol Spritz doing its job.

As the theme of this post is food, it must include some eating tips, or what? Usually I am not into sharing my food locations. Not because I am greedy and want to keep them to myself, but because I myself never search or read that kind of report. But I just have to share three great places. More because of the experience they give than just the food.

I came to “Maestral” at the twilight hour before sunset and it happened to be just the perfect moment to eat dinner. The terrace is placed just by the sea, I took the table closest to the edge, and was listening to the sound of waves splashing at my feet. With the view of the town and sky at sunset even my simple seafood spaghetti seemed to be a food of gods. As the sky was getting dark and the stars slowly appeared, all I wanted to do is linger in that perfect place. What do you do then? Right, order the desert.

The second spot was found by my friend on Tripadvisor (she is that type of person who does the research) and it was a wonderful find. The restaurant “Balbi” is located on the narrow piazza which gives you all the feeling of an Italian movie and they serve excellent food. It is a well-known fact so the place tends to be busy any time, but the waiters promise you a vacant table just in 10 minutes. The best part? The bar “Piassa Granda” which is overlooking the restaurant with its pretty pink walls and sweet chairs, as it also serves you a great aperitif while you are waiting for your table. And you better be quick choosing the drink, as the waiters don’t lie here when they say “just 10 minutes”. It is worth waiting, especially while the ice cubes in your moist-covered glass tinkle softly.

My last spot has no name. Or it has a name, which I never remember, and my search on google maps left me with no results. Which is kind of sad, I hope that the place has not closed. It is hidden in the tiny passage, and if you want to find it, its neighbor is residence Marco Polo. I’d say the restaurant has the most romantic terrace I have ever seen, the only thing missing is an Italian lover that will complete this movie scene. And the interior reminds of a cozy colorful living room of a cottage house, maybe owned by your grandmother. The food highlight is semifreddo, a frozen Italian cake. Also they make great steaks which is a popular dish in the town.

My eating part ends in Split where I travelled from Rovinj (via Pula). Split was a transfer point for my next destination: Hvar Island where I joined the yoga retreat. Split knocked me over by tourist crowds and I instantly started missing my cozy tiny Rovinj. In the hostel “Mikola” I was met by the young girl who sat with me in the patio, checked me in and gave me such a warm welcome – I felt like I came to visit my friend, not a receptionist )) She recommended to me a place to eat, and, oh my, so right she was. After I ate the dinner there, I came back for more – for breakfast (twice). And after the yoga retreat I brought my yoga friends there too.

“Corto Maltese” is the name, made in hipster style, with old radios and lamps around the house, and small but busy terrace. They had such a funny menu that I just had to read it to the very end.  For breakfast I had a sandwich with anchovies and tomatoes (very special choice, make sure you like anchovies), second time I had more classical own: with fresh cheese, fruit and nuts. They press juices with names like “Orange is the new black” and bring you coffee in the mug claiming “Mr. Right”. When you get it, you hold it tight, don’t you? The waiter who had served me dinner the night before, recognized me and had a seat with me at breakfast before his shift started. Talking about life in Croatia, Norway and dreams for travels. I love this! When you are alone, and a waiter in the city that is full of tourists, joins you for a small chat, curious and open. I don’t know about you, but I appreciate it so much!

I like to go to new places. But some old places are gold, and this year we are coming back to Rovinj for more salsa. Me and my friend already get our mouths watering when we talk about our plans for the stay. To go eat calamari at the restaurant on our street (and say hi to the waiter from the last year who was shouting welcomes every time we passed by), that orgasmic Italian gelato in “Gelateria Italia Artizianale” on the Carera street, drink Aperol Spritz as often as possible. Buy juicy peaches and dark shiny cherries on the local market. Order “borek” (local pastry) with cheese and “strudel” with berries or nuts in the bakery and pretend we are locals. And say yes whenever waiters come with the bill and question “Schnaps on the house?”

I hear sometimes from my friend “You talk so much about the food!”, and it makes me blush. Really? Do I? But why be ashamed, even George Bernard Shaw said: “There is no love sincerer than the love of food”.  And after all, there cannot be too much love. So let it be, let it multiply, and I will talk and share about this love even more. Cheers to that!

Do you have travel destinations where you would go just for the sake of food? Do you have culinary experiences that you remember for years? Share your love with me!

15 thoughts on “Split, Spritz and Spagetti. Eating in Croatia

  1. Everything sounds absolutely delicious! So is Italian food a very popular cuisine here? I feel like the food or atmosphere resembles my dear Italy so much. Can’t wait to visit this place and that salsa party sounded like so much fun! You sure know how to have a good time. I wish there were events like that while I was living in Italy. Maybe there was and I didn’t even know they existed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is really a lot of fun, and thank you for the compliment. I hope that this my ability can be useful to the world (isn’t it all of us are here for? To have a good time and share this energy with the world? :))
      That Northern part of Croatia, Istria, used to be a part of Italian Veneto until 1950s or 70s. Hence the Italian atmosphere, architecture and cuisine. The place feels definitely Italian, but you will love that Slavic twist 🙂 And during the festival it is a totally different planet. Croatia is so good in organizing them, there are festivals of all kinds across the country. Maybe, Italy doesn’t need festivals, since they celebrate life every day (and don’t need more festivals 😉 For Croatia festivals are a great promotion).


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