Split, Croatia: At Villa Spiza we had our best dinner in Split. This tiny, owner operated restaurant in one of the small alleys of the old town, is easy to pass by. It has seating for about a dozen, most of it along the counter, giving it the feel of watching mom cook in the kitchen. In this case “mom” was the daughter of one of Croatia’s best chefs. She told us how her daily menu is inspired by a morning trip to the city’s open-air fish and vegetable markets, where she gets the ingredients for the day’s menu… This means dishes can sell out fast.
On the day of our visit the chef was excited to have found forest mushrooms for the polenta, rooster stew dish (and so were we!). The interaction between the kitchen and the dining on different sides of the room was lively, as queries were shouted to our table.
When I wondered what to make of the shark dish, rather than explaining, our server just brought out the big metal baking pan to demonstrate his enthusiasm for this dish: shark meat which he had soaked in lemon and capers. He suggested adding it to a bed of arugula and cherry tomatoes to make a salad – that was our appetizer.
Next was the fried shrimp: they tasted like nothing I’ve had before, perfectly seasoned and super crunchy!
As a foursome we split five dishes, which means that I also got to taste the calamari with roasted vegetables (my dad’s favorite) and risotto with mussels and clams (my favorite). All the dishes were well seasoned by Villa Spiza’s authentic atmosphere, which made our evening special.
I have a hard time finding the right descriptive words but I’d say: the fresh and hearty dinner felt and tasted like it was made especially for you. I felt transplanted into a chefs experimental kitchen for a healthy, warming and delicious meal.