Saturday, April 7, 2018

Escape From Pasta Land

Plated Artistically 
We escape Pasta Land of the Veneto to visit Croatia at least 5 times a year.   The scenery is beautiful and the coastline is colorful.   You can tell you are near Croatian man-food by the smell from the pigs roasting on a spit at almost every restaurant into and out of each town.  If you are not in the mood for pork there is always fresh fish, or something with local truffles.  However, in the  past two years we made a major discovery and have always planned to visit a restaurant called Barba Danilo at least twice on every weekend visit.  Our first time resulted after reading  several reviews of restaurants in the area around Rovinj.   Now after becoming a quasi regular customer I want to write my own recommendation and urge you to make an effort to visit them if you are on the coast of Croatia.  (Rovinj is just over 3 hours from Venezia)

The sauces w the tuna Wow!
The restaurant is highly popular, usually you have to make a reservation ahead of time.  Located out of Rovinj and next to a campground, one would think that the menu would feature burgers and pizza.  Lose that kind of thinking!  Here they are famous for their tapas appetizers.  You won’t find burgers, or pizza here.   You will find a sign along the walkway to the restaurant warning No Pizza!   Instead you will taste appetizers so good that last year a Slovenian food editor tried to steal their recipe for their smoked white fish mousse.  BTW this item is our top pick, one to die for, and please don’t leave until you taste it!  One of those presentations that you are not sure it will taste as advertized, but then….it is so good that you begin to take smaller and smaller forkfulls to make it last.  Heaven!   

Steak Tartare
The owners have a good thing going with their completely irresistible food. Everything is farm fresh to order, and presented with an artistic flair.   This year they are taking a risk by cutting back on their dinner items while  enlarging their appetizer items into a full blown menu.  The owner explained to us that they will keep experimenting with recipes and then add them as time goes on.   It took them months to perfect the mousse recipe for instance.
They further explain that “we are transforming our tavern into a new, simpler and a more relaxed place where the emphasis will be on wines, top food ingredients and relaxation.”    

Danilo helps with a cooking class

The restaurant was started by the father, named Danilo, and many of the items on the menu has his signature.  These are innovative and cannot be found in other restaurants in the area.   Concept is not as important as creating food that is so good it is comfort food.   The ingredients are drawn from the local area, for instance we had food prepared with tiny baby-wild asparagus, not sold in shops, but hand picked that morning from  the forest area.   Their seasonal cooking has earned them a strong local and critical acclaim.  No wonder it is hard to find a table at the last minute.   All this makes Danilo the most popular of all Restaurants (189) in Rovinj, according to Trip Advisor.

2012 Teran

As far as wine goes, attention goes both to great wines of the area.  Their wine menu has some very expensive wines and wines that I can afford.  (Retired educator)  The wines we considered came with  stories about the makers, when they bottled, how long in oak cask,  and the condition of the grapes that year.  While talking with our waiter, Sandi, who is Danilo’s son, we found that in December he had taken a trip to California where he spent time sampling wine in Napa Valley and then drove south from Carmel along highway 101 to taste wine of the Central Coast. 

Cheesecake in a Jar
I mentioned to Sandi that Anthony Bourdain had made a food tour of the Croatian coast and many people now have Croatia on their bucket list.  He laughed and told me that he had  seen that program more than once and, yes there has been a large increase in tourists from the United States.   That  program has also been seen throughout Europe on the major channels. 


Lastly, let me suggest to you that on your first visit ask the waiter to use their judgement and bring you a varied selection of items.  This is how we fell in love with Danilo’s restaurant.  Now we have our own favorites, items we would never find in northern Italy where we live.  You will discover why it is our top pick of the area and the reason why we would drive three hours, stay for the weekend to enjoy innovative, irresistible food.  


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