If you’re not familiar with the cuisine of the Dalmatian Coast, you’re in for a fabulous surprise. Forget notions of Eastern Europe’s heavy meat and potatoes, and think instead of fresh seafood from the Adriatic, risotto and antipasto from neighboring Italy, Mediterranean-influenced dishes made with locally produced olive oil, and unique wines that feel like Southern France but are produced within a 30-mile radius. Come hungry; Dubrovnik is a feast for foodies.
This creamy rice entrée highlights the areas proximity to the risotto-loving peninsula of Istria, Croatia and is a staple on most Dubrovnik menus. The most popular version is dyed black with squid ink, but you can also get lighter varieties, such as shrimp with white risotto, mixed seafood or fresh asparagus.
Where to find it: Restaurant Orhan (Od Tabakarije 1), located right on the water just outside of the hustle of Old Town, serves classic black risotto and has views as delicious as the food.
With the azure waters of the Adriatic spilling over its doorstep, seafood is king in Dubrovnik. Mussels are often steamed in garlic-and-saffron-infused broths and served in overflowing pots. Prized for their silky texture and saline pop, oysters from the nearby seafaring town of Ston are served with just a twist of lemon. And John Dory (also known as St. Peter’s fish) can be found lightly pan-seared on many seafood menus.
Where to find it: Head to Proto Fish Restaurant on the Stradun in the heart of Old Town (Siroka 1), which prepares fresh fish to order. For the fritto misto of Dubrovnik, platters of fried squid and girice (small fish similar to smelt or whitebait), stop at Kamenice (Gundulićeva Poljana 8), an outdoor-dining spot on a charming cobblestone street.
Sour cherry, orange blossom, walnut … the range of locally crafted grappa (or rakija, as the fruit brandy is called in Croatia) is as varied as your ship’s breakfast buffet.
Where to find it: Sip some at an outdoor café before or after your meal.
If you ask a Dubrovnik native what their favorite dessert is, there’s a good chance they’ll mention rozata, a classic in Croatian cuisine. It’s a baked custard similar to flan or crème caramel, creamy and decadent and topped with a burnt-sugar caramel sauce.
Where to find it: One of the best places to sample rozata is at the outdoor courtyard of Restaurant Kopun (Poljana Rudera Boskovica 7, adjacent to St. Ignatius Church), which specializes in Croatian classics.
The perfect on-the-go snack, burek is a flaky pastry dough that has its origins in Turkey. Its numerous pastry layers are usually filled with either ground meat flavored with minced onions and spices or a mixture of spinach and cheese.
Where to find it: Look for them in bakery windows throughout Dubrovnik.
The local wines of Dubrovnik are as sophisticated as anything you’ll find in Italy or France, produced from grapes that were grown nearly in isolation until after Croatia’s War of Independence in 1995. And for being indigenous grapes they’re getting international attention for their depth of flavor and indigenous grapes that are unique to Croatia. Plavac Mali is a rich red with Zinfandel roots. Posip is a golden white similar to un-oaked Chardonnay.
Where to find it: Sip these and 60 other varietals at D’vino Wine Bar (Palmoticeva ul 4A).
Made in the Mediterranean tradition, cured meats and handcrafted cheeses are the stars of any Dubrovnik restaurant’s appetizer menu. Look for locally produced prsut (prosciutto) and paski sir (a sheep’s milk cheese) to build your perfect platter.
Where to find it: D’vino Wine Bar, mentioned above, offers a large selection to complement their wines.
Rich, creamy gelato-style ice cream is called sladoled in Croatia, and it is the perfect way to reward yourself for completing a loop of the Old City’s walls. Dolce Vita offers flavors ranging from berry swirl to caramel to deep, dark chocolate served in multi-scooped cones, in whipped-cream-topped sundaes, or even atop fresh-griddled crepes (called pancakes in Dubrovnik).
Where to find it: Dolce Vita, on a small alleyway off the Stradun (Naljeskoviceva 1a).
For this confection, layers of smooth milk chocolate are combined with a thick layer of hazelnut and almond nougat to form a rich, chewy treat. This bonbon isn’t just delicious (and addictive), it’s also the first candy to receive a certificate of authenticity from the Croatian government.
Where to find it: You can find it in its distinctive gold and brown starburst packaging in gourmet shops and candy stores throughout Dubrovnik. They’re pretty enough to take home, but probably too tasty to make it farther than your stateroom.