On our way out of Rovinj, we meandered along the country roads of Istria, in to the village of Zminj. Here, we were going to take part in a traditional lunch at a konoba, or tavern called Puli Pineta. When we pulled up, I wasn’t quite sure if we were at someone’s house, or a public dining establishment, but as it turns out, it was a bit of each.
Much like the small restaurants throughout western Europe, there was no menu, we just ate what we were served. It was a chilly, drizzly day, and I was happy to duck inside and sit down next to the fire at Konoba Puli Pineta. The owner and master chef, Josip Pino Kihar, is well known in Croatia and comes from a rich cultural history of cooking. His name, the name of his village, and everything leads to the word “cook”. As you can see from Liza’s pictures, he can cook!
First up, as we dried off in front of the hearth, was a Rakija tasting. Yes, more rakija! This nectar of the gods is Croatia’s version of Grappa, the distilled spirit usually made from grapes. Here in Istria, it is also called Grappa, so you might see those terms interchanged. Pineta‘s offerings were fig, cherry, and regular, and it was just the thing to wake up the Wine Premacy!
The first course was a simple dish of local cheese, grilled (well, fried). This local cow cheese is fried up in local olive oil and was pure YUM! And what meal in this part of Europe would be complete with out the prosciutto? Platters of delicious cured meats were presented, again with the local olive oil, as well as the simple, delicious red and wine wines of the Konoba.
As we sat stuffing ourselves, two types of hand rolled pasta, one with an Italian style tomato sauce, and one with pure heaven, were served family style. I was bursting at the seams, but I couldn’t let that delicious pasta go to waste! As we ate the pasta, a beautiful piece of steak was busily sizzling in a grill on the fire, smelling divine. As the buttery, amazingly simply meat was served, teh final course was prepared. The Istrian tradition of Supa, soup of red wine, olive oil, bread and other amazing things, was set to simmer on the fire as well.
The Supa is to be drunk from the earthen crock, sharing around the table, and so we did – drinking warm wine souop, sipping rakija, and remarking on the stunningly fresh, and delicious food.
If you are ever in Istria, make it a point to stop by this amazing, tiny, wonderful, stunning dining experience!