I recently traveled to Croatia. It had been on my list of places to visit for over 10 years. I was dying to see their beaches, but quite honestly, I knew nothing about their culinary culture. I assumed (correctly) that the Dalmatian coast would be dominated by seafood. This was right. It was also dominated by really bad Italian food. Turns out Croatia was often taken over by Italians. This resulted in plenty of “Bolognese” (think Chef Boyardee) and “Pizza Cuts” (as a New Yorker, these were nightmarish).
I say skip the Italian-Croatian food and go with simple dishes made with simple ingredients. Their fish and produce are really high quality, so if you find a place that does grilled fish you will be in for a treat. The grilled lamb (usually found in the mountains off the Dalmatian coast is quite delicious as well). Oh, and Croatian tomatoes are simply gorgeous. Buy some, pick up some Croatian olive oil (nectar of the gods) and you will have a delicious snack.
**I’ve added some basic phrases to the bottom of the post. These will make sure you do not starve
In the mean time, here are a few tips for you for your culinary travels to beautiful Croatia:
1. Couvert: In Croatia, when your server brings you bread, a small fee will be added to your check. It is minimal and it is considered payment for the bread. If you don’t want to pay extra for bread, you must let them know before they put it on the table. Then again, what will you use as a vehicle to finish delicious sauces?
2. Wine: In the time I spent in Croatia, I had a very hard time finding wines I liked. Most whites were flaccid and uninteresting. The best white to be had was Posip by Korta Katarina. Stick to reds (Plavac is a nice choice – if you like Rioja style wines), but until they get their wines right, I suggest sticking to foreign wines. They are hard to find, so when you do, make sure to stock up.
3. Tipping: People in Croatia don’t tip. They usually just round up and tip on this. Of course, if you have phenomenal service, it can’t hurt to add a little extra as a tip. I also find that if you plan on returning to a restaurant, the locals will not be upset at the returning tourist who tips. It can result in a shot of a local moonshine, dessert, or just a little special attention.
4. Beer: Croatian beer is GOOD! I mean really, really good. Buy yourself a big plastic bottle of beer (they sell huge ones at the supermarket), throw it in the fridge and drink midday while sitting in the sun. My favorites were Ožujsko and Karlovačko.
5. Language: Croatian is not an easy language to learn. At least it was not for me. I learned some very basic phrases. Luckily almost everyone in the touristy areas speaks English. The issue with this is that these areas have (usually) the worst food. Learn these few phrases and you’ll be able to explore and find some really great food places. ***There may be some atrocious mistakes here. I don’t speak Croatian…but I was able to get tables and eat everywhere I went. I got a few snickers from restaurant staff…but I never went hungry.
Do you speak English - Govorite li Engleski?
Yes - Da
No - Ne
I don’t understand - Ne razumijem
A table for two, please - Stol za dva osobe, molimI
Non smoking table - Imate li prostor za nepusace
A beer please - Pivo, molim vas
Another beer, please - Jos jedno pivo, molim vas
A bottle of mineral water - Bocu gazirane mineralne vode
A bottle of regular mineral water - Bocu ne gazirane mineralne vodne
A glass of water - Casa vode
A bottle of white wine - Bocu bijelo vina
A bottle of red wine - Bocu crnog vina
Another bottle please - Molim vas, donesite jos jednu bocu
The menu please - Jelovnik, molim
I will have this - Ja bih ovo
I will have the fish - Ja cu ribu
I will have the chicken – Ja cu piletina
I will have the pork - Ja cu svinjetinu
Where is the bathroom - Cje je toalet?
Coffee please - Kavu, molim
Tea please - Caj, molim
May I have the check - Molim vas, donesite racun