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Where to Eat in Rovinj by Jeffrey J Vella
Maltese chef Jeffrey J Vella comes from a family of hoteliers, so hospitality has always been part of his DNA. He used to love watching the chefs working at the hotel, prepping and creating fantastic dishes, and by the age of ten he started preparing food for his family and whoever else came along. During his career as a professional chef, Vella has worked with some of the greatest names in the industry, such as Gordon Ramsay, Alain Ducasse, and Jean Christophe Novelli. He has managed some of the most prestigious properties around the globe, and for the last two years he has been working in Rovinj, Croatia, at the Cap Aureo restaurant, with a dedicated team of chefs and sommeliers.
“My forte is Mediterranean cuisine based on locally-grown ingredients. I prepare menus exclusively from fresh ingredients, which I procure almost entirely in Istria. I have green and poor cuisine, which means that I use in the preparation of meals lots of vegetables, fish and meat types that are 'forgotten' and from which I can prepare amazing dishes.”
His approach towards food was always based primarily on defining locality, how to use more local, seasonal and territorial significant products and create a story about them. That is why, since opening the Cap Aureo, he has worked closely with fantastic local producers and fishermen, who are dedicated to what they deliver and produce. We could say locality is now his lifestyle, as after living for years in big cities around the world, Vella is now enjoying his life in Maružini, a small Istrian village only 20km from Rovinj. It has just a few inhabitants, most of whom have their own farms, so there is no lack of local cheese, prosciutto, vegetables and Istria's 'liquid golds' – Malvazija wine and extra virgin olive oil.
During the last couple of years, Rovinj has become the must-visit destination on the Mediterranean, not just because of its picture-perfect scenery, sun and the sea, but also for its diverse and high-quality gourmet offer. We asked Vella to list a few of his favourite places that combine the perfect setting, view, locality and great atmosphere.
Cap Aureo Signature Restaurant
A Vegetable-Loving Space
Being located on the 5th floor of the five-star Grand Park Hotel Rovinj, the restaurant features a glass-wall terrace overlooking the marina and the old town of Rovinj providing the most beautiful sunsets.
Cap Aureo is mostly inclined towards vegetables, and this is the reason why they call themselves a vegetable loving space. The menu compromises 20 courses, based on seasonality, locality and a love of the area.
The menu changes monthly, and with the current microclimate adaptations became the new norm, therefore a few items from the menu do change every third week. The wine list has been carefully created to include a number of bubbles and wine labels, vintage champagnes, and sparkling wines, while still wines are mostly the product of Croatian wineries.
The Scarello Family’s Home in Istria
In the middle of June, the two-Michelin-star Agli Amici restaurant from Udine opened its restaurant in Rovinj on the Lungomare Plaza promenade right between the Grand Park and the marina. The new place can be described as a unique, sophisticated and elegant place with a picturesque terrace that offers a direct panorama of the sea. This cuisine speaks the languages of Istria and Friuli Venezia Giulia, which can be heard through three tasting-menus created by chef Emanuele Scarello: Godia, Istria and Rovinj. The three pathways convey Agli Amici restaurant’s single gastronomic concept of sustainability, passion and exploration.
Here Tradition Speaks for Itself
This is one of those places in Rovinj popular with all gourmets and history lovers, whether locals or tourists, in search of local dishes and atmosphere. The tavern draws its guests with its quality and menu, whose originality lies in the traditional dishes that cannot be seen or ordered anywhere else in town. The best way to describe its cuisine is as an old-fashioned fisherman’s food, offering almost forgotten old recipes. The seating area on the outside terrace has views of Rovinj’s most notable landmark, St Euphemia Church, as well as the quaint fishing harbour awash with sailing and fishing boats.
Local with a French Twist
While exploring the town centre, not to be missed is the chic French brasserie located on the piazza in the heart of Rovinj’s hustle and bustle. From 7am to noon you can enjoy a delicious and freshly prepared à la carte breakfast, followed by a light lunch. Dinner is served with an affluent French-inspired tone, using locally foraged flavours and ingredients. Here you can also find one of the widest choices of whiskies in Croatia. The locals call this place the town’s living room because of the local vibe, taste of the terroir and the beautiful vista over the town’s main square and the small harbour.
Tekka by Lone
Where Eastern Meets Western Cuisine on the Coast of Istria
This is another novelty in the gourmet offering of the town. After being for the last 20 years one of the most visited Asian restaurants with a Michelin recommendation in the capital, Zagreb, Tekka brought eastern flavours to the west coast of Croatia. Here you can really taste the high-quality sushi, sashimi, nigiri, tempura, and spring rolls, all made with the freshest ingredients and traditional techniques. The attractive location, offering both a designer interior and an alluring organic garden terrace surrounded with lovely lawns and pines, completes the experience.
The Tradition of the Sea
The restaurant is not located on the well-known touristic paths. One who comes to this part of the town is either lost or is coming to Giannino to eat good fish. This restaurant is known as the capital of freshly prepared fish since 1972. The menu depends on the fresh catch brought in each day by local fishermen and the food is prepared in a way that honours local tradition and quality.
A Place Where Friends Meet
After a long day spent at sea, in a vineyard or an olive grove, the locals used to spend their evenings in a spacious, ground-floor cellar at one of their homes, with a glass of homemade wine and some fish. One of the last places like this in Rovinj is Grota, located next to the farmers’ market in the very heart of the town. There are two batanas, Rovinj’s traditional wooden fishing boats, hanging from the walls of this deep-red house. Underneath the batanas there are large wooden wine barrels serving as tables, and the menu features only locally-grown products. Here you can taste Istrian wines, various homemade cheeses, extra virgin olive oil, prosciutto and salamis that are locally sourced from small producers.
Street Food with Taste of the Sea
Whether you are stopping here for lunch or dinner 'on foot' you will always have a meal with fresh fish (fish burgers, fritto misto, salads…), which is both tasty and comforting, while at the same time creative and full of different flavours. The small and excellently decorated catering facility is located in one of the narrow streets of the old part of the town. Expect a casual atmosphere and great service.