Stari Podrum

Stari Podrum: When dinner becomes an event

when I plan a trip to Istria, the very first thing I do is make a reservation at Konoba Stari Podrum. Dinner at this lovely family-run restaurant is the centerpiece of any visit to Istria, around which everything else revolves. Only, it’s not so much a dinner as an event of gluttonous proportions.

Every Istrian star of the show is there. Fuži. Pršut. Scrambled eggs. Boškarin. Depending on the time of year, you might also get a good dose of wild asparagus, Istrian chestnuts or forest mushrooms.

And of course, never to be forgotten, there are the truffles. So many truffles, both white and black. Like they are cluttering up the kitchen and they are desperately trying to get rid of them.

Like most restaurants in Croatia, this one is owned by a family. At Stari Podrum, the mother runs the kitchen, and the rest of the family tends to the tables. It is easy to slip into the fantasy that you are in someone’s home, enjoying a family meal.

The konoba is attached to the family house and is surrounded by gardens, where much of the produce used in the dishes comes from including figs, tomatoes, mushrooms and herbs.

The property itself is sandwiched between a vineyard and a winery. If you order the house white wine, it will most likely be a Malvazija from the winery next door.

The atmosphere is amazing, but let’s get back to that gluttony I spoke of earlier.

This is the meal that should inspire you to fast all day in preparation. Hell, maybe two days. You can order off the menu, but in my opinion, that’s an amateur move. It’s best to try everything. Let the family take the wheel as you coast into culinary bliss.

Just tell them to bring you food until you say “uncle”. While the dishes vary a bit depending on the season, there are some regulars.

First, you’ll start off with toast coated in local cream cheese and grated black truffles. It would be real easy to eat 50 of these.

Next, you’ll nibble on antipasti including a variety of cured meats, cheeses, and marinated vegetables (which of course vary by season). If you’re lucky enough to be there when they include the sautéed mushrooms, jump on them before anyone else at your table does.

There is always some kind of soup, depending on the season. I’ve warmed my soul with Istrian minestrone with potatoes and corn, slurped bright green wild asparagus soup and devoured one filled with wild mushrooms.

Then there is the omelet, which is my favorite Istrian dish of all time. It’s made up of soft scrambled eggs, shaved black truffle and a drizzle of excellent olive oil. This dish is super luxurious and every bite is pure bliss.

Next comes the fuži, a pasta shape only made in Istria. It’s a tube pasta that is thick in the middle and open at the ends, typically served with a cream and…truffle sauce.

Just when you thought there couldn’t be more, a boškarin steak is delivered. Boškarin is a breed of cattle that is raised in Istria, which is extremely flavorful. I’ve had the steak with truffle sauce, naturally, but also sliced and tossed with arugula and shaved hard cheese.

Don’t have two stomachs? Never fear! Everything is served family style. Order one serving of each to share for the table to ensure that you get to taste every morsel before reaching capacity.

Make sure Stari Podrum is a part of any Istrian itinerary. This is one meal you won’t regret.

Written by Guest Blogger Sara Dyson of Expat in Croatia

Check our Sara’s other blog on Slow Food restaurant Draga di Lovrana