I do not remember when exactly the “switch” happened that made me stop seeing shellfish first and foremost as a sea treasure and as a source of the beautiful seashells I diligently collected in the shallows as a child. At some point, I stopped admiring them only for the intricate patterns on their shells and came to appreciate them for their interesting taste. But, it doesn’t matter really. What is important is that I did not miss the chance to get to know theme as the wonderful food they are, as every true lover of shellfish, crabs and squid would agree.
And every true gourmand should not miss a visit to Novigrad this time of year, where, due to the muddy sea bottom created by the Mirna river, the best shellfish can be found. And especially the scallops this region is famous for. When you get there, look for kapešante, as the locals call them. My favorite are roasted, with a just a sprinkle of olive oil, some spice, a drop of cognac and a bit of parmesan. Make sure you do not miss any of the other shellfish that can be tasted here: Venus clams, Noah’s Arks, Queen scallops and mussels. All of them are very tasty, whether prepared Buzara style or grilled, and will give new life to any kind of pasta.
The muddy bottom of the northwestern Adriatic, especially where the longest Istrian river runs into the sea, hides the delicious “švoj”, as they call the Dover sole fish on that part of the coast. Even though this fish is in season in late fall, you can find it on the menus of local restaurants and taverns almost year round. The best squid is also caught in the late fall, and those native to this part of the Adriatic are known as top-notch.
Tuna carpaccio is also something that one does not miss if traveling to Northwestern Istria: the bluefin tuna is a frequent guest here, both in the sea and on a plate. Although, here tuna steaks are usually grilled, do allow yourself a taste of other dishes made from tuna. Here, small blue fish is also very popular. Sardines have always played a significant role in the life and cuisine of local fishermen, and this has not changed: sardines have dedicated the culinary manifestations. So do not miss having some when visiting the Istrian empire of seafood.