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Fish'n'Sheep - gastronomy tradition of Cres in Tavern Mareta

Martinšćica is a small fishing village turned into one of the most beloved tourist vacation places on the island of Cres, and Mareta is its prime gastronomy point. It is owned by the family Saganić, and the owner Alfred Saganić is professional fisherman. Of course, the question about the freshness of the menu is quite obsolete here.

Bright smiles of immaculately dressed waitresses and friendly owners welcomed us to the restaurant’s terrace, surrounded by lush olive groves and dry stone walls. It reminds us on several very important features of Cres, one of the most beautiful islands in the Adriatic: its people lived here since prehistory, using the stone to build forts and houses, while fish and olive oil were staples so important that Cres even today rests upon these ingredients for the basis of island’s culinary experiences. Quite literary, fish on plate here connects you through centuries with same tastes that once dominated on Cres.

After sipping mild homemade chestnut brandy, fish plates came on our table. Pleasing arrangement was intact for just few seconds before the desire for taste rushed us to seek aromas of octopus salad, marinated anchovies, marinated bonito (palamida), spider crab salad. One can indeed taste the freshness of sea. The octopus is soft and tender, and one cannot decide which part of this plate is more fresh and tasty. Another great addition is olive oil, made by the family itself, and it is just a short moment of time before people start dipping bread into the golden drops of Mediterranean heritage.

Some curious looking tools came afterwards, scaring us with possible existence of dentist nearby, but the fear vanishes instantly after Adriatic scampi arrived. Served with polenta and tremendously good sauce, tools come handy if you don’t want to have red dots all over your clothes. After few trials and errors, people mostly use fingers to extract those mouthful pieces of meat hiding beneath cooked and red scampi’s shell.

In meantime, owner’s father Vitomir Saganić calls us to walk behind the house and enjoy in the opening of peka or čripnja, a classic Adriatic iron baking lid. Beneath is octopus with potatoes and Mediterranean herbs, old-fashioned and traditional dish favourite among the gastronomads. The precision in making it is based on years of experiences, constant care for the fire, and the balance between octopus, potatoes, their weight and time. It is helpful if you’ve finished catering school in Mali Lošinj and culinary school in Opatija, and if you’re secretary of the sport fishermen association Crab, as in the case of Mr Vitomir.

Her majesty octopus came with a scent of rosemary and tender taste, rich and plentiful, even delicate. For generations was octopus feeding substance of the island’s life, as much as was the lamb. Cres is famous for its lamb, which is also present on the Mareta’s menu. Rich herbal diet makes Cres lamb aromatic and with less fat, and prime example we saw running through the restaurant’s terrace. It is the family’s darling, still suckling lamb who found refuge from photographs behind the owners who were playing cards. It was almost mythical and primordial sight of old men playing card games and a lamb hiding between them, everything surrounded by olives and dry stone walls. Indeed, a picture that tells thousands of words!

Lamb was also the basis for our dessert. Do not wonder, as we did more than you can imagine! It is tradition on Cres to use every bit of lamb and so it is with lamb’s stomach to make “olito nadenjeno” or filled stomach. The sheep stomach is dried for a few days and then filled with a mix of flour, water, orange peel, sugar, raisins, and dried fig juice. It contains the sheep fat, and is cooked for four hours to become jelly from inside. Before serving, it is sliced and slightly fried in a pan. It has a specific taste and specific scent, and for every lamb fan this is heavenly dessert. Very old dish has jelly structure and is not too sweet.

In Mareta you can also enjoy other old-style cuisine containing lamb. Almost every family had a sheep and people use to make sheep soup, dried sheep meat, and excellent tripe. Thus, Mareta is indeed a place where you can taste the fishermen’s and shepherd’s tradition of Cres at its finest.

Mareta Miholašćica 1c, Martinšćica Tel +385 51 574 325


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