Updated: Jan 7
At the top of a hill overlooking the mighty Mount Učka, in a picturesque landscape, Boljun is like a fairytale. Walking on its main street, with some ancient lodges, we admire its imposing citadel, which has been developing a settlement here since the 13th century.
Right next to the castle, on the exterior walls of the city, the Boljunska konoba invites to feed the spirit and the body since it is founded in 1973. Small doors lead into the magical world of old utensil and into a cozy Istrian tavern, where Mrs Ružica Zrinšćak holds all four corners of the house. She is the owner, cook and waitress, and we are greeted by a wide smile and with an interesting menu of honey dishes in Central Istria.
Acacia honey, for its neutral taste, is widely used in Istrian cuisine, and the imagination of using honey has no end, as we have convinced ourselves. Boljunska konoba is a well-known destination for lovers of local Istrian food, with strong bura wind from Učka, but also with breathtaking views of this majestic mountain. The tavern is open all year long, mostly in the afternoon, and stands as a heritage of family tradition. Ružica's father was a sailor, and since 1985 she has taken over the job from her mother. Today, she is helped by a son who is a chef but is working in a nearby farm.
We learn all this while we sip an excellent homemade brandy and warm ourselves next to the beautiful old fireplace. In Boljunska konoba, the homemade bread is baked on Sundays under the lid (čripnja) and on other days in the oven. Such fresh and homemade bread is great companion to the prosciutto coming from Tinjan, from the proud family Dujmović! We tried it with a special appetizer: fresh donut with gorgonzola and mascarpone, stuffed with honey, and followed by dried sausages. The combination that really needs to be remembered offers great flavours, because strong gorgonzola is softened with honey, and mascarpone gives a creamy aroma to the dough. All this is then blended with excellent Istrian dry sausage, made from a homemade pork recipe, the fruit of ages-long Istrian cattle breeding.
Once every house in Boljun had a few cows or pigs, and chickens. Today, some 35 residents live in Boljun, owners of old houses in the small town near the river Boljunčica. Boljun is mentioned for the first time in 1064, when his master became the Istrian mark-count Ulrich I. The main street leads from the entrance to the village next to the church of SS Cosmas and Damian (13-17th century), and with the Roman altar from the first century to the main square, which contains a village loggia and kašća (a warehouse for grain) from the 16th century.
Nearby is the parish church of St George from the 16th century, on whose walls there is a string of Glagolitic inscriptions from the time of the church's construction. Boljunska konoba is the only food and beverage facility in the place, so many domestic and foreign guests visit the tavern. Interestingly, Ružica tells us that there has been more work in winter in Boljunska konoba, and today, along with regular dinner, she tries to increase traffic and during the summer tourist season. Still, the most trusted are domestic guests coming from Istria but also across Učka, from Kvarner. These connections have never ceased since the time when people from Boljunšćina went to Kvarner to sell eggs.
The pork fillet with honey and balsamico sauce, with bread and mushroom dumplings was our main dish in Boljunska konoba. The sour-sweet combination of honey and balsamico is a brilliant new flavour that blends great with dumplings and carrots softened with butter. Carefully made recipes with honey are proof of the effort and love in this business that constantly calls for the ongoing fight with trends and flavours. It is best to win it with famous local specialties, and Boljunska konoba stands out for its own homemade pasta, from which the guests are particularly delighted with traditional ravioli of white and green homemade pasta filled with homemade curd in cream sauce and roasted prosciutto. There are also fuži, gnocchi, macaroni or lasagne with homemade chicken meat. Certainly, the pasta is excellent for its eggs from domestic chickens. Otherwise you will find products from different Istrian households in Boljunska konoba.
As the bura wind hits the window, we wonder how Ružica managed to take all that culinary heritage. The secret lies in her grandma who served as a chef in Belgrade and Rome, where she learned to cook non-Istrian food like sarma, but in Boljun she cooked splendid chicken, bread, and cakes. Grandpa also had oxen and donkeys, and as a postman he visited the neighbouring villages of Paz, Belaj and Vranje. Their legacy can be seen on the walls of the tavern, which is adorned with inventory of rural households and old paintings. The scenic landscapes were also the scene of several films, including "Shortest Way to China" and "Storm Riders". On one old postcard, Ružica shows us the Italian name Bogliuno, translated from the older name "Finale", whatever it really meant.
For dessert, Ružica prepared a semifreddo of almonds with a honey overflow. Beautiful almonds are best tasted after the semifreddo is slightly dissolved and all the beauty of this desert develops on the palate. Along with all this, we enjoyed the Teranj Borgonja, the usual red wine blend of the Istrian terroirs. The hospitality and homely atmosphere of Boljun's taverns are immense. The abundance of Istrian people and the tendency to improve for their guests are already widely known, but parts of Istria require more publicity and more guests. Boljun and its tavern are just such places where you do not feel the excessive tourist noise, but the calmness and enjoyment of a typical Istrian lifestyle!
Kontakt: Ružica Zrinšćak
Adresa: Boljun 30A
Tel: 052/ 631 100