Days of Squid in Tavern Rivica
Rivica is one of the oldest and best Croatian restaurants. The Lesica family has been preserving the gastronomic tradition of Kvarner here since 1934, when Mare Lesica opened a boarding house in the then newly formed Krk summer resort. In those thirties, the population slowly changed their previous occupations in fishing, olive growing and animal husbandry, and Njivice redirected towards tourism. In these unexpected and rather abrupt life changes, the 80-year tradition of this restaurant begins, which has won a number of national and international awards to this day.
A hungry traveller who enters Rivica in the autumn should not think about the menu. For many years, Rivica has been preparing squid at that time, a delicious bite of the autumn Adriatic. We came across this menu quite by accident, coming for "coffee" with an employee of the Tourist Board Omišalj-Njivice. We all know that the invitation to coffee includes both brandy and wine, but we did not expect that "coffee" will turn into a wonderful enjoyment of five courses of dishes based on squid.
It started almost innocently, with a squid salad with vegetables and chickpea cream, a nice appetizer with classically good Vrbnik žlahtina. One does not need to think much about such starters. The squid is well cleaned, cut into rings, spiced and combined with mild vegetables, along with Krk olive oil and the rich taste of chickpea cream. Squid should be cooked or baked for a very short or quite a long time, as any half-hearted treatment of this cephalopod will result in hard meat, accustomed to many pizzerias and tourist inns, where the squid becomes an inedible base of bread crumbs.
They know this procedure very well in Kvarner, where a great treat is hidden in the depths of the Adriatic waves. Squiders that penetrate deep into the Adriatic, locally known as peškafondi, precisely catch squid legs and pull them out of their dark depths. Not all fishermen are squid-oriented, which can be understood very easily if someone goes to sea with this idea. Squids resist hunting, stir the sea, hit the boat, spit our black ink, which is still less than a cuttlefish. It is easy to think about it during the midday summer, but when the cold autumn nights and dawn come, squid can cool the fisherman down well.
It is this autumn story that fits well into the squid broth with polenta, almost meaty in taste, with a sweet-bitter scab in the centre of which is a piece of golden polenta, the staple of the northern Adriatic. Such a tradition of squid in the pot has spread throughout the Adriatic, as well as the Mediterranean. The Greeks call squid calamari, so it became customary on the western side of the Adriatic, the Italian one, to call this dish calamari, although squid in Croatian (lignja) comes from the Latin name lolligne. Squid is not only known in our seas, but around the world, so it is an integral part of Asian woks and American fried fast food, Indian curries and our delicious fried squid with garlic, olive oil and Mediterranean aromatic herbs.
All these flavours are even better understood when compared to shrimps, another product of the Adriatic seabed. Shrimp fishing is also a traditional catch in Kvarner, and a box full of fresh shrimps we found in Rivica is proof of that. Along with the shrimp, we tasted fried squid meatballs with tartar sauce, and all this additionally shows Rivica's commitment to local and seasonal products, coupled with a lot of imagination. It is as if the waterfront in Njivice with every bora and every south wind brings inspiration to a kitchen true to its climate.
The squid platter, in port, fried and julienne, is an additional delight to this cephalopod whose natural habitat is at 40 to 150 meters of sea depth. With a drop of oil, a little chard, a small amount of tartar, and squid becomes a culinary delight. And for the end, there is nothing better than Krk figs as the basis for a wonderful dessert, complemented with a mild squid flavour. From year to year, Rivica shows all the imagination of squid preparation and, contrary to the boring usual, even "rubber" offer, it emphasizes the new recognizability of the old dish.
Ribarska obala 13, 51512 Njivice, Krk
+385 (0) 51 846 101