The lazy stretch of domestic cats, a few rattles in the tower of the rocks church and unreal peace and quiet surround the heart of the small Istrian town of Roč. Here, in the centre of Istrian Glagolitic tradition, there is a typical Istrian tavern under the simple name Ročka konoba (Roč Tavern). But the typical Istrian taverns mean that it is a unique, blended with its surroundings and a lot of homely atmosphere that the family Stefanovic has been providing for many years now.
Simplicity is linked to the traditional bond between stone and wood in Istrian taverns, as well as to the Central Istrian dishes. These are simple dishes full of flavour and reflect the climate and fresh foods of the Istrian landscape. The wealth of simple dishes reflects the life of an Istrian peasant who produced what he needed at home and ate what was available to him. Such famous food that gives power is the egg omelettes, with which Ročka konoba abounds. Ordinary, it comes with prosciutto, asparagus, mushrooms, truffles and mixtures of the same, all in their season and always with fresh eggs.
The gastronomic journey here can start with the classical Istrian cold plates, rich with the Istrian prosciutto, dried ombolo, cow and sheep cheese, and types of Istrian dried domestic sausages, amongst which sausage with truffles is a must-try. While truffles are present in probably every serious tavern of Istria (and beyond), Roč konoba is specifically truffle-friendly as Roč lies in the middle of the natural habitat of truffles. You can find it in homemade dried sausage and in the sheep cheese, as well as in a classic way atop homemade pasta.
There are regularly here ravioli – rolls of dough filled with cheese and gnocchi sliced with cheese, while fuži is already a legendary Istrian pasta, and every tavern may have a competition regarding the size, tenderness, and flavour of this beloved Istrian pasta. It is an influence of Venetian cuisine, which comes to our plates as the basis for goulash and various sauces – with cheese, asparagus, prosciutto, mushrooms, truffles, and finally in black truffle sauce that are quite realistic with its price, unlike other, much more nuanced Istrian "simplicity".
Čripnja (traditional oven) is an integral part of the Istrian household. In the past, people used to bake bread, made from the mixed corn and barley flour. Its scent reminds of grandma’s home and its taste is divinely soft! The same place is reserved for veal and pork with potatoes, baked under the baking lid (čripnja). There is, of course, the ombolo, the cornerstone of Istrian meat dishes, also known as zarebrnjak or žlomprt (try to pronounce that), a pork cutlet without bones, spiced with salt, pepper and tiny laurel leaves and died for two to three weeks.
In order to give a sense of the local area, Ročka konoba has visible Glagolitic specificities. Not only it has numerous writings on the stone walls, it gives the “Cyril and Methodius Plate”, a gastronomic praise of the holy brothers that gave Croats the Glagolitic script, as well as Cyrillic alphabet and its variation bosančica. There is also the “Roč Glagolitic writers plate”, and while you eat Istrian delicacies, you should remember that Roč housed one of the oldest Glagolitic press in Croatia.
The usual Istrian wine offer is further enriched with biska, rakija that is the spiritual heritage of the Celtic druids. No, Roč is not in Ireland or some other Celtic area, but Celts did live in Istria some two thousand years ago. They picked mistletoe and made a ritual drink from it. According to this legend, biska was used by druids to enter in a trance. Well, we also enter in trance gladly with biska!
Probably the true druids are still in Roč. None biska is the same, but you can try any or all of the 60-or-so biska makers just next door to the Ročka konoba. Here is the unique collection of Istrian biska on sale, in a beautifully arranged biskoteque. Don’t forget to check also wines, olive oils, honey, and various handicrafts that are being sold there as well.
Ready to try out if you have something druid-ish in yourself? Come to the old town Roč, park immediately right from the old gate, and round the corner, you can have tryouts:
Tel. +385 52 666 451