Those who find themselves in the dawn in one of the small ports of Rijeka are likely to find fishermen carrying night catches from their ships in the Kvarner Bay. City fishermen have no problem with placement; Croatia's largest port always consumes fish, and inevitably catches are sent from the wholesale fish market to continental parts of Croatia. The citizens of Rijeka prefer to buy their fish at Placa, which opened at the end of the 19th century along the seashore, not far from the wooden pier where local fishermen unloaded their catch and took it for sale in baskets. Since 1880, there has been a pavilion here for the sale of fish, crabs, octopus and shellfish, all the best the Adriatic can give.
Not far from that historic market, the Cantina food bar has been running for just over a year. It was opened by Vladimir Čuljat, a friendly owner and chef who, along with chef Nikola, and Barbara and Dalibor who serve guests, offers delicious seafood. Of course, we visited this gastronomic team on Verdi Street to try their own offer. It started better than ever at a fish restaurant; they offered us a wonderful pear brandy that the owner procures from Sveti Ivan Začretje. The wonderful blend of sea and continent in this place only overrides the taste and aroma of pear in a glass.
Vladimir has a long career in the hospitality industry. For many years he worked as a waiter in Tarsa, the legendary and respected restaurant on Trsat. Moving to Zagreb, he opened the Strogir Tavern. Located in the heart of the city, on Gundulićeva Street, Strogir delighted with its fish and continental specialties. After that, Vladimir, originally from the vicinity of Jablanac, returned to the northern Adriatic. In Baška, he opened a La Botta fish restaurant and a beach bar Cantina, and gave the same name to this place on the Rijeka’s Placa, after a short stay on Zamet.
Enjoying the Malvazija Novacco, which comes from the Istrian Brtonigla, we tried the sea bass cooked in a pot covered with olive oil, along with potatoes in bark and vegetables. Bass, this predatory and smart fish, which can most often be caught near the shore where it waits on its prey, is also one of the most famous fish on the Adriatic table. Its solid body makes it great for filleting. The sea bass we tried in Cantina was juicy, fragrant, mild, which is why Malvasia fits so well. There is also a dentex served here, and the recipe for its preparation is quite easy: "You catch the fish, clean it, cook it, put it on the plate, arrange it, pour a glass or two of red wine and eat it, brother." The sweet finish to the Cantina visit was chocolate mousse and yogurt mousse with forest fruits.
In the city of brunches and taverns, Cantina found its place on the Rijeka’s Placa with a shift towards greater enjoyment during working lunches. The people of Rijeka love warm places that smell of brodetto and fresh fish, where a glass of wine is drunk between people and a pleasant talk emerges. This is exactly this kind of place, marked by fishing nets, pots, and bottles, as well as a homey atmosphere, where one can easily imagine the spontaneous Klapa group singing beneath the voice in the corner of the tavern, which is surprising with its colourfulness. As Mark Twain’s words in the menu say: "The only way to keep yourself healthy is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do things you would rather not." In Cantina, though, you can stay healthy without eating and drinking whatever you like!
Cantina Food Bar
Verdieva street 10, 51000 Rijeka
+385 91 739 8061