Mediterranean cuisine is known to be very healthy and with the abundance of fresh vegetables, herbs, and fish, there is no wonder why. “Love goes through the stomach” they say, and indulging in local cuisine on a vacation abroad gets you more connected and up close with the people and its culture. The versatility of Dalmatia’s geography results in plentiful of top quality raw ingredients, resulting in delicious bites and dishes with freshness and simplicity being its catchphrase. The pršut (prosciutto) from Drniš in Dalmatia’s hinterland, the prized oysters from Ston on the Pelješac Peninsula, Plavac Mali red wines from the sunny island of Hvar, the sheep cheese from Pag island, blitva (Swiss chard) from Benkovac by Zadar are all but of a few of Croatia’s mouth watering produce. Dalmatia has a bunch of konoba (taverns), which knock out Dalmatian specialties, but there are more and more getting more innovative with the cuisine. In order to avoid getting caught in a tourist traps, we have sought out the best places to eat and drink in Dalmatia, from low-key to high-end.
Konoba Pece, Vinjerac near Zadar
Just a 20-minute drive from Zadar is the little seaside village of Vinjerac and here hides a culinary surprise, Konoba Pece, who is turning traditional fare into slow food. As you nibble on concoctions such as fresh prawns with mustard and whiskey, the charming Vinjerac harbour and the imposing Velebit Mountains set the picturesque scene. Although the tavern’s décor is rustic, the cuisine is what they call “fancified peasant food” and the freshest Adriatic catch is toyed with things like honey, horseradish, bacon, Pag cheese and more.
Bibich Winery, Plastovo above Skradin
The Bibich Winery certainly provides one of the most original culinary experiences in Croatia. Winemaker Alen Bibić is quite the experimentalist and his family vineyards are his playgrounds for cultivating most varieties found under the sun, with a focus on indigenous grapes from the micro-region. Nestled in Plastovo, Bibich Winery is strategically positioned between the coast and hinterland, near the freshwaters of the Krka River and St. Anthony’s Channel by Šibenik meaning they have quite the diversity of ingredients available to them at arms reach. The abundance of such rich ingredients makes molecular cuisine the playground of wife, Vesna. Here you can book an exclusive 13-course dinner paired with Bibich’s smashing wines, which is simply spectacular. To get onto the waiting list, Select Croatia will sort you out.
Konoba Antunović, Pelješac Peninsula
Driving along the winding streets to the hidden villge of Kuna in Pelješac’s hinterland, you will surely stop at a pasture where dozens of donkeys graze before passing the rather large church. You will be welcomed into the most authentic konoba there is, the Antunović family’s pršut room, and as you dine under their drying hams as you will indulge in comfort food at its best. Everything here is cultivated and farmed by the Antunović family themselves, eco of course, and they knock out a killer Peka. Peka is a Dalmatian blend of all that’s good; lamb, octopus, or chicken, vegetables, herbs, and olive oil, baked under a bell covered in coal for two hours. Before and after this juicy dish, you’ll get a platter of their pršut and homemade young cheese. Delish!
Paradox Wine & Cheese Bar, Split
Paradox Wine & Cheese Bar were the first to open a wine bar in Split, quite a paradox for such a wine rich country right? Paradox is located directly behind the Croatian National Theater in Split and is the finest haven for wine geeks and foodies offering an impressive selection of Croatian, mostly Dalmatian, wines and a unique variety of local cheeses and cold cuts. The bar is a nice little retreat from the nearby city buzz with elm and oak furniture set against exposed old stonewalls, and service to match. So if you aren’t so Croatian wine savvy, the crew here will guide you through your Paradox Trilogy of cheeses paired with local wines.
Once again, Konoba-Vinoteka Pelegrini in Šibenik took first prize as the Best Restaurant in Dalmatia. Owner and chef Rudi’s innovative menu at Pelegrini redefines Dalmatian cuisine, and simultaneously stays true to tradition; this place is more like a fine-dining tavern. Located adjacent to the iconic St. James Cathedral, it offers intimate rustic interiors within 700-year-old exposed stonewalls, and charming outdoor seating on cobbled steps where you can flavour signature bites such as eggplant and yoghurt dip, St. Anthony’s channel mussels combined with leeks, cider, and horseradish or the favourite slow-braised beef cheeks. To end of a culinary extravaganza, try the Country Glass dessert; a layered piece of heaven with vanilla panna cotta, mandarin jam, olive oil mousse, and almond biscuits.
After a delicious dining experience at Pelegrini, take a meander through the streets of old town and reach Vino&Ino, a casual wine and concept store sporting only Croatian coastal wines and a rack of funky Croatian design items. A young duo run this joint so as you sip on the best local wine and flick through the design items, soothing house tunes set the scene on the ancient square.
Villa Spiza, Split
Every city dwellers favourite place to snatch lunch, this super low-key downtown joint put together a daily menu after a morning shopping trip through Split’s marketplace. The two sisters that run this countertop diner are the daughters of the legendary chef Nikica Gamulin Gama who wrote the bible on Croatian cuisine. They keep things simple and prepare food with love; the focus is purely on making the most authentic Dalmatian dishes, served with eclectic cutlery, kitchen roll paper, an industrial cheese grater and a smile.
Other than being a proud wine country, Croatia also knock out almost every conceivable flavour of rakija (grappa). As you explore Dalmatia through your palate, you will surely come across a shot or two of rakije pre- or post dinner but why not mingle with local bohos and misfits in the name of rakija? Galerija doesn’t have a sign, nor will most people even know its official name, is tucked into the backstreets of the charming fishing village of Komiža. Nestled in an old well under vaulted ceilings, in this extended living room you’ll share a seat with a local on a refurbished couch as you sip on various flavours of homemade rakija. This is underground mingling at its best.
This upscale eatery in the backstreets of Hvar’s old town Giaxa stays off the radar to many but foodies managed to find this gem, housed in a late-Gothic palace. Giaxa serves up innovative Dalmatian gastronomy. These guys are serious and some of the staff here have even trained in Michelin-starred restaurants abroad. Try their fabulous lamb pašticada stew before attempting a mouth-watering chocolate sphere.
Welcome to a world of flavors in Dalmatia. Which place will you be visit for a bite and sip of the best Dalmatian?