Once ruled by the Romans – as the giant amphitheatre attests – Pula, in Croatia, has retained its Italian heritage. Nowhere is this felt more than in its cuisine, with a bright community of chefs serving up cutting-edge delights from land and sea. Here’s our pick of the best.
This informal eatery near the farmers’ market is family-owned and has been a locals’ favourite, particularly at lunchtimes, for years. What it lacks in choice – diners choose between a meat- and a fish-focussed set menu – is amply compensated by quality no-nonsense cooking rooted in traditional Istrian simplicity. The menu changes according to the availability of produce. Its popularity means you’d be wise to book in advance, and do note it’s cash-only.
Situated around 5km (3mi) south of the city in Banjole village, Batelina has attracted a cult-like following since chef Anthony Bourdain rolled up in 2012 for his No Reservations TV show. You’ll need a reservation, though, to get anywhere near this modest-looking taverna-like restaurant. Owned by the Skoko family, it specialises in all things fish. They simply cook what they catch with creativity and flair. There’s no formal menu; punters are briefed on what’s offered and go with the flow.
This long-established, fairly smart restaurant lies in a small, pretty inlet just beyond Pula’s southern fringes. Like most of the city’s eateries, the focus is on seafood – fish soup, tagliatelle with scorpion crab meat, lobster, octopus and squid for example – but there are plenty of meaty dishes too. You might want to pay attention to their aromatic truffles, another Istrian gastronomic joy often overlooked by more timid establishments.
Tucked away on the peninsula that helps protect Pula’s harbour, Gina’s third-generation establishment dates back to the 1930s. The premises may have moved (the current one’s been here 40 years) but the owners have maintained the feel of a rustic local tavern. Two tasting menus, along with a comprehensive à la carte, embrace many Istrian specialities including truffles. Even the ice cream is home-made and, in one dessert, it’s served with black truffles. The menu whimsically reminds diners that “a calm sea does not make a sailor”; this might be the place to push the boat out.