I kept hearing 3 things before my trip to Croatia: Go to Dubrovnik, eat the food, and be surprised by a history that’s richer than what one might expect. And so, I hopped on a boat from Split to Dubrovnik, eager to explore the cuisine and culture.
In the heart of Dubrovnik is the old city, the famous, gorgeous enclave featuring centuries-old structures and walkways – if it reminds you of Venice, you’re on the right track. After serving both as rival and crown jewel for the Venetian empire, the city kept many of their shared traits, even in culinary terms.
With this in mind, I ventured to Kamenice, found near the main square in the old city, and steps from the market. Sitting on the patio outside, I enjoyed the view of the bustle while skipping past most of the ‘traditional’ items on the menu and settling on the black risotto. Traditional is a loose term in this case – the squid ink which colours the risotto comes from the catch of fishermen plying their trade near the city; in fact, the dish is considered a local speciality. And it doesn’t disappoint – even if the risotto may be a little firmer than I expected, the freshness of the ingredients is evident.
Early the next morning, I wandered out of the walled city to explore the rest of Dubrovnik. Tempted by the smell of fresh-baked bread, I found myself in Lapad Patisserie, where the operation was in full swing by dawn. I asked for something local, and was handed a burek, a thin, stuffed pastry. It’s a remnant of the Ottoman Empire, a leftover that eventually became a local staple. The Croatian verison, baked with mincemeat and potatoes and cheese, is a great breakfast (or anytime) snack, and isn’t quite a heavy as it sounds, if only because of the flaky dough.
And I suppose that’s what ‘history richer than one might expect’ means; you hear of Dubrovnik and think of the old city, the panoramas on Mount Srd and the ethereal partying at the old Revelin fortress . But there’s a history and culture outside of that, where Venetian and Ottoman influences combine with a unique Dubrovnik identity. And there’s no better way to experience than sitting on a patio with a plate of risotto, or walking through the streets with a burek in hand.
By: AA Joseph