Specialties based on ingredients from the sea and dishes prepared following old recipes with strong presence of local aromatic herbs are the main features of this cuisine consisting of a number of gastronomic subregions. Istrian prosciutto, sausages with truffles (Buretić), sausages with rosemary (Buretić), Grobnik cheese, truffle cheese, salted sardines, marinades, cod fish spread (Milena), snails, Istrian pesto (made with bacon and garlic) and seafood salad are just some of the cold starters that must be tried. Warm appetizers usually include various risottos and pastas with seafood, minestrone with corn from the cob (“bobići”), “jota” (traditional dish made with dried beans and sour cabbage) or frittata with truffles, rocket salad or wild asparagus. Fresh sea fish, Kvarner scampi prepared in many ways and mussels from Limski kanal are some of the specialties that attract tourists from Italy during the weekends. Specialties in Istria hinterland and Kvarner islands include smoked pork sirloin and sausages with sour cabbage, “fuži” (pasta) and gnocchi with venison stew, hare made in the pot and lamb prepared under the iron cover (“peka”). Lamb from the island of Cres is particularly praised because the animals graze in perfect ecological circumstances. For dessert, there are “kroštule” and “fritule” (both prepared with different types of dough and fried in deep oil), dried figs and chestnut cakes. Chestnuts from Lovran (“maruni”), wild asparagus and truffles from Motovun forest (Karlić truffles) are the ingredients to which special gastro days are dedicated in their season. Local salads include lamb’s lettuce, rocket salad and radicchio. Fresh marjoram, basil, sage, lemon balm, thyme, rosemary and laurel are added to the dishes. Fish is always accompanied by olive oil originated usually from Istria or island of Krk.
For aperitif, we recommend sparkling wine Cattunar made of malvasia and Momjan moscato following the charmat method, sparkling wine 1288 of Winery Pavlomir or traditional Istrian brandy “biska” (Rossi). Dishes prepared with white fish and white meats are usually accompanied by Malvasia (Degrassi, Damjanić, Deklić, Cattunar, Sirotić, Matić, Rossi), Malvasia Reserve matured in wood in Winery Visintin, Sauvignon (Legovina), Vrbnik Žlahtina, especially with lamb (PZ Gospoja, Pavlomir), Chardonnay (Degrassi, Legovina, Pavlomir) and Istrian rosé Ruža (Cattunar). With dark meats and oily fish the most popular are Teran (Terre Rosse – Degrassi, Coslovich, Sirotić, Rossi, Franc Arman, Cattunar), Borgona (Damjanić), Refosco (Degrassi), Merlot (Franc Arman, Cattunar, Damjanić), Cabernet Franc (Legovina, Franc Arman) and Cabernet Sauvignon (Visintin, Cattunar, Degrassi, Pavlomir). Desserts are accompanied by Dolce nota (Legovina) and Dolcceto (Franc Arman). Good digestives are some of Darna liqueurs which were awarded some world awards or D-faktor fruity schnapps.
Exclusive restaurants with top quality offer are Milan (fish) in Pula, San Rocco in Brtonigla, Zigante in Livade (truffles), Bevanda (fish) in Opatija and Plavi podrum (fish, creative cooking) in Volosko. Top creative specialties are also offered in restaurant Bodulka in Šišan. Navigare in Novigrad, Sv. Nikola in Poreč, Draga di Lovrana in Lovranska Draga, Villa Ariston in Opatija, Pepenero in Umag, and Kukuriku in Kastav. Local ingredients used in creative way are an inspiration in restaurant Oasi in Pula, Dream in Rovinj, Bianco & Nero in Opatija, Mulino in Malinska, Nada in Vrbnik and Marina in Krk. Mostly fish specialties are at home in Badi in Lovrečica, Giannino and Puntulina in Rovinj, Johnson in Mošćenička Draga, Rivica in Njivice, Domino in Dramalj, Santa Lucia in Cres and Barbat in Barbat on the island of Rab, Veli žal and Za kantuni in Mali Lošinj. Homelike ambience and local specialties are offered in Vodnjanka in Vodnjan, Roko in Opatija, Oštarija Fortica in Kastav, Tarsa and Trsatica in Rijeka and Artatore in Mali Lošinj. Aerosteak in Soboli is well known for its steaks, and forest specialties are served in Ronjgi and Bitoraj in Fužine.