Updated: Feb 19, 2019
After a hard day's work in the olive groves, the best thing is to relax and try some very old recipes on the island of Ugljan. Just, we didn't really pick the olives this time. We were roaming throughout the island, visiting the beautiful St. Jerome's monastery and learning about the folklore tradition in the place of Ugljan. Despite its name, this place is not the centre of the island (it is Preko), but it is the biggest and quite different from all the other places on Ugljan. First of all, it is flat part of the island, while all the other towns are squeezed beneath some hill. Consequently, Ugljan is widely spread and enjoys most sunny hours annually in the whole Zadar aquatorium! In its valleys and bays are nine neighborhoods and villages: Čeprljanda, Lučino Selo, Batalaža, Sušica, Gornje Selo, Muline, Guduće, Fortoština, and Varoš. We understood the importance of these places, as everyone was counting them without a trouble. Since we didn't ask if there are some competition among them, we concluded they must act together against all the other places on the island. A healthy competition, of course, as the traditional hospitality of the island is seen the first moment you enter someone's house or greet a granny on the street.
We experienced this hospitality in Konoba Ugljan, a tavern in the centre of the place, and a centrepiece of Ugljan's life in a colder time of the year. It is the only restaurant working throughout the year here and thus very special to the locals and visitors alike. We liked this place so much, we decided to stay and sleep in one of their apartments with a splendid view of the town and sea. Well, to be honest, we were there because the Tourist Board of Ugljan was so kind to support our story by providing us with accommodation. Nevertheless, the family Ivanac is proud to offer the very best of the island's culinary tradition in the interior of the old oil mill.
Indeed, the interior of this tavern is just enchanting, hospitable and with lots of family atmosphere. Mrs. Edita, her husband Nikša, and son Dario have refurbished the old place with an internal Dalmatian fireplace, pleasant dining room, and a terrace full of sunshine. The family is producing extra-virgin olive oil, like many other people on Ugljan. However, the family Ivanac is gaining awards for their efforts on regional, national, and international olive oil competitions. We tried this olive oil and were astonished by the mildness and yet with a specific stronger background. Dalmatian people are keen to use stronger oil for salads only, while fish and other meals are served with a milder one.
The whole family was working in the olive groves the day we came, but we had a nice chat with a local guy who works as a waiter in the tavern. We envy him. It is a beautiful setting, not too demanding job (we reckon that by the number of tables), on a peaceful and green island just half an hour away from the hustle and bustle of Zadar. Otherwise, the family runs everyday culinary operations and they do that in a very satisfactory way. For instance, it was the only tavern on the island broadcasted on a popular Croatian traditional and folk singing TV show. The TV presenter ate all they made, which is exactly what we did too! Just, he had five or more dishes, while we were happy with two very typical things: cuttlefish and squid brodetto for a starter, and Dalmatian pašticada.
It is futile to describe the tenderness of cuttlefish and squid in mild and sweet-sour brodetto sauce, substantiated by homemade vinegar; you should just try it and enjoy. The pieces of incredibly yellow polenta, full of real corn (you won't find such polenta in your local supermarket) blend with the seafood in a delicate story of agriculture and fishing traditions on Ugljan. While we were eating, the family and friends came to watch us and with loads of jokes we just had a beautiful and jolly evening. In the corner behind us, the firewood was cracking in the fireplace, while the southern wind gained strength outside. It is the winterish Dalmatia we all dream of.
Next, to us we see a net full of sponges. We heard about the sponge divers on a neighbouring island of Krapanj, but sponges are dived for also around Ugljan and its immediate surroundings. Mr. Nikša was diving for most of his life until he was challenged by the difficulties in the sea's depths. Still, the sponges are proudly presented and visible to anyone entering this charming tavern. The place offers also an excellent array of Croatian wines, among which Korlat and Kraljevski vinogradi are considered local, Zadar area wineries. Thus, Pošip is a great option for whites, and Crljenak for reds from the Kraljevski vinogradi winery, while Korlat will be a great idea for those who love Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Syrah.
Pašticada was an equally beautifully soft piece of stewed beef in a special sauce. The Dalmatian women have for generations marinated beef, piercing it and stuffing with garlic, cloves, carrot, and bacon. Salted and marinated in vinegar, it is roasted and cooked, together with onions, parsley root, nutmeg, prunes, tomato paste, etc. Cooking takes up to five hours, and this is why good pašticada is always very appreciated. The one we had in Konoba Ugljan had gnocchi as a sidedish, which is a very popular way to eat pašticada.
In the morning we were served with full breakfast, including the homemade dried sausages of top quality pork raised on the island, only lightly spiced. Those of you who care for more sweet breakfast, the family will serve you homemade jams. A breakfast for champions, done exclusively by the lady of the house, is enough for working in the orchards or olive groves. Luckily, we decided to walk a bit through the island, just to feel comfortable enough after this excellent start of the day.
Konoba Ugljan serves also other very local dishes, such as fresh grilled fish, and favourite specialties such as veal, pork, lamb or octopus baked under the iron lid bell (peka or čripnja), while on other occasions you might order the whole grilled lamb, a cornerstone of Dalmatian meat enjoyment. A quite special thing is the black pancakes. No, they are not burned as one might expect, they are just filled with cherries and Nutella, but a special addition to many desserts is olive oil (such as the ice cream with olive oil and pine nuts). On the olive island, one cannot go without it!
Put Tabele 2, 23275 Ugljan
tel:+ 385 (0)99 702 6619