A guide to food and drink in Croatia
Encompassing the cuisine of both central Europe and the Mediterranean, even the fussiest of eaters will find something delightful amid the menu’s of folksy decorated tavernas and more contemporary restaurants across the country. Along the coast you’ll find plenty of seafood offerings, while no Croatian town is without at least one pizzeria, serving up freshly made, thin crust, Italian-style pizzas.
Exploring Croatia's delicacies
The traditional food you’ll find on Croatia holidays varies largely depending on the region. Go mainland, and you’ll find dishes heavily influenced by the country’s nearby neighbours Hungary and Turkey, with meat and freshwater fish. Go more toward the coast and you’ll find Mediterranean flavours from Greece and Italy, including seafood, pasta and fresh vegetables cooked with olive oil.
No matter where you are, Manistra na pome — a simple pasta dish with tomato sauce — can be found countrywide, alongside a number of traditional soups and stews served with polenta-fried dumplings. Pair your dinner with an excellent red or white Croatian wine.
Just across from Italy, over the Adriatic Sea, the Istrian coastline of Croatia is dotted with excellent restaurants serving a range of local recipes. For a local ingredient that really defines this area, look for truffles – these extraordinarily luxurious fungi grow in abundance in Istria.
For a combination of Italian and local cuisine, look no further than fuzi with tartufi, or pasta shapes with a creamy truffle sauce. The homemade pasta is served with a warm, creamy sauce and finished by grating truffles and parmesan cheese over the dish.
Truffles grow so prolifically in this region that you may end up finding shaved truffles on top of many of your dishes. Both Pula and Porec have countless restaurants serving this local delicacy.
Uncomplicated goodness at Otto Taverna, Dubrovnik
With a stone interior like a tiny wine cellar and a charming outdoor porch, Otto Taverna is simple and uncomplicated place to eat during your holiday to Croatia. The same goes for the food, which dabbles in the Mediterranean side of cuisine.
From a relatively small menu, you can choose tuna steaks or seabass fillets, a choice of meats and a short but sweet wine list. It’s a good idea to book well in advance here, as the venue’s limited seating means many unprepared holidaymakers are left disappointed.
River views at Konoba Vinica Monkovic, Cavtat
Konoba Vinica Monkovic doesn’t just have unrivalled river views – it’s quite literally on the river, with walkways that are planks extending over the water.
The restaurant is known for dishing up classic Croatian eats that are heavy on seafood and grilled meats. But vegetarians need not be afraid as there are plenty of veggie options like salad and stuffed peppers to sink your teeth into. But it’s carnivores that really come out on top here, with succulent plates of veal, melt-in-your-mouth mixed grills and even an octopus souffle.
Rainbows of sushi at Oyster & Sushi Bar Bota, Dubrovnik
This gorgeous seafood hotspot is tucked away in the stone buildings paving Dubrovnik’s old town. Its cuisine turns Croatia’s love for seafood on its head with fresh catches turned into Japanese favourites using Asian flavours and cooking styles. On offer here are oysters served on ice, eye-catching sushi and sashimi, plus a healthy selection of steak and fish in dishes like tuna tartar and prawn carpaccio.
Seafood settings at Konoba Feral, Brela
Combining surf with turf, Konoba Feral has a seafood-heavy menu plus a selection of meats and is nestled right alongside the waterfront. It looks unassuming at first, but don’t let its humble appearance fool you, as the food is top notch.
The menu highlights all the delights of the ocean with fresh carpaccio and orso, tuna tartare, seafood pasta and octopus salad, but meat-eaters find solace here too with dishes like pork medallions in a cheesy mushroom sauce and plates of ham. You’d be wise to leave room for dessert, especially when homemade pancakes doused in a hot cherry sauce are on offer.
Casual elegance at Don Antonio, Makarska, Makarska Riviera
This restaurant may be family-owned and operated, but it has the feeling of a well-oiled, elegant machine. More often than not, you’ll be served by the owner himself.
The menu is small compared to other restaurants in the area, but the dishes on offer are customised and of the freshest quality. Here, you can expect mains like ravioli, steak and tuna, along with fried cheese and honey for pudding. And the dishes are so beautifully presented, they’re as much a feast for your eyes as they are for your taste buds.
Peppers and paprika
Fiery dishes are popular in Croatia, and throughout this country you’ll encounter many variations of this particular theme. Punjene paprike, as they’re called in Croatian, are peppers stuffed with a combination of meat, rice and spices, and served with a rich tomato sauce. Orca restaurant in Rovinj is recommended by food writers as it’s said to serve some of the best stuffed peppers around.
Let there be sweetness
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, then medenjaci, or honey spiced cookies, are wonderfully tasty snacks. They’re simply made to a traditional biscuit recipe with the addition of honey in the preparation process.
Another pudding to look out for is sour cherry strudel – strudlu sa visnjama. This dish tips its hat to Croatia’s central European heritage and is a wonderful confection of strudel pastry filled with sour cherries, lemon zest and walnuts and then icing sugar is sprinkled over the top.