Istria is known for its many delicacies and gastronomic events, and it is generally recognized as a fantastic destination for true gourmets, so it does not come as much of a surprise that it is difficult to enumerate all the elements that have made her famous in the gastronomic world. The richness of taste does not end with the extravagant truffles, the locally produced prosciutto and the seasonal dishes such as the asparagus. I present to you my pick of Istrian desserts. Yummy!
Authentic Istrian sweets
If you have ever wondered what authentic dessert to end a meal with in one of the towns of Northwest Istria, then keep reading and consider the recommendations of a foodie with a real sweet tooth. What is great about Northwest Istria is that throughout the year there are a host of lovely gastronomic gatherings and dessert making competitions. My favorites are the Ottava in Fiorini, Kestenijada (Chestnut Festival) in Oprtalj, and the unique Choco & Wine Fest in Brtonigla. If you have the chance, definitely stop by and visit!
Another thing that amazes me whenever I visit one of the agricultural producers in Istria is that I can be sure that fritule or kroštule will be waiting for me for dessert, as well as a few seasonal fruits from the orchards.
The famous faces of Istrian desserts
Fritule are a common pastry on the Adriatic coast, and their recipe varies from region to region, even from town to town! Egg yolks, raisins, grated lemon rinds and even rakija (grappa) can all go into the mixture. My absolute favorite are those without raisins and with a bit of lemon rind. Kroštule, the thinly rolled dough shaped into strips or wedges always delight me with their taste.
Another recognizable Istrian dessert is pandišpanj. This cake is also made from common ingredients such as butter, egg yolks, flour and vanilla sugar. It is usually served in cake form, and it can be decorated any way that you want. It must have been quite a sight to see in traditional Istrian weddings, when it was customary for the guests to bring the cake to the wedding, as you could see numerous cakes of the same type that would look completely different because of the different decorations!
Istrian sweets are often served with colorful home-made types of rakija and liqueur; from the traditional biska (liqueur made from mistletoe, brandy and herbs) and ruda (herb liqueur, made from rue), all the way to medenica (honey liqueur), višnja (sour cherry liqueur), etc. My biggest discovery on my first visit to Northwest Istria, or to be more exact, the Konoba Nono, was definitely teranino. It is an aromatic liqueur made from the Teran wine with a base of a rakija made from fruit. Do not be surprised if you sense in it also a tinge of cinnamon, which I enjoyed immensely. Ever since I’ve first tried it, I always come back home from Istria with at least one bottle of this fantastic sweet drink.
The sweetest places in Northwest Istria
It is time I took you on a tour of my favorite patisseries in Northwest Istria! Villa Soši, located on the Umag market, is my first stop in this town if I am looking for creamy cakes, different strudels and biscuits. Right behind it on my list is the Centar Caffé where you can’t possibly miss out on at least one slice of the Ferrero cake! You will be sorry if you do. There are also a number of bakeries in Umag that offer different Istrian pastries, so pay attention to the shelves with the sweets when you go inside. If you happen to be passing through Buje, there are two local patisseries that will not fail to intrigue you with their selection of cakes and biscuits.
When I am in Novigrad, my legs seem to take on a will of their own and take me to the pastry shop Ošo. No big surprise there, considering the offer of excellent kroštule, fritule, biscuits, pies and other cakes. These are often my choice of sweets to bring back home with me to surprise my friends! I needn’t mention that they look forward to my returns very impatiently. The newly-opened Gustolato in Umag and Novigrad is to be my first stop on my next visit to Northwest Istria, and I will be delighted to try their desserts as well.
The sweets of Croatia
Croatian cuisine in general, and more specifically its desserts, can boast a diversity of traditions and recipes in different regions and towns. While in Dalmatia you will find some desserts that resemble those of Istria, just prepared in a slightly different manner, the desserts of north Croatia are a whole different story. The famous creamy kremšnite are the symbol of the small town of Samobor, but also a specialty of patisseries in Zagreb. The recognizable zagorski štrukli, although made of cheese, often come in sweet varieties. The decorated gingerbread cookie known as licitar is a famous souvenir in north Croatia, while in the east of the country you are most likely to be invited to a slice of orahnjača (walnut roll). Travelling throughout the rest of Croatia you will also discover doughnuts, paprenjaci (traditional bicuits), rafioli (traditional pastry), rožata (custard pudding), and countless other sweets.