Žminj is famous for its handmade pasta. In this small town in the heart of Istria, you can taste macaroni, fuži, gnocchi, and all this love for traditional pasta culminates in early autumn when Pasta Week (Šetemana od pašte) is held in Žminj. We are sitting on the terrace of the Pod Ladonjon restaurant and we are talking about all this with the director of the Tourist Board of the Municipality of Žminj, Lenka Šajina.
"The Week has been organized for the seventh year in a row. Ever since the Pasta Festival began to be organized, there has also been work on the Pasta Week; the idea was to get our caterers involved in promoting pasta. As they have their own facilities and do not have that much time to dedicate to the Pasta Festival, the idea came to include them in a special event "Pasta Week", which preceded the Pasta Festival. The caterers got involved with the promotional prices of pasta plates", says Lenka Šajina.
This year, the Pasta Festival was not held due to the pandemic, which means that up to eight thousand visitors to Žminj were absent in those two days, but the Tourist Board decided to hold the Pasta Week. The fact that Žminj brought the bronze charter of the Sunflower of Rural Tourism of Croatia for the Istrian Pasta Festival also contributes to this. It was a sufficient incentive to do something for the Day of the Municipality when St. Michael is celebrated. Pasta with different sauces is offered in five restaurants. The tavern Puli Jurića, known for its hand-made pasta and its own wine awarded at Vinistra and the festival in Gračišće, offered macaroni and porcini mushrooms with sour cabbage and ombolo. Tavern Puli Pineta, founded by the bard of Istrian gastronomy Josip Pino Kuhar and recommended by the international gastro-guide Gault & Millau, offered macaroni with rucola and prosciutto with veal stew.
The Žminjka restaurant, which is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary next year, offered fuži with chicken sauce and sour cabbage with sausages. Bistro and bar Giardino, the youngest restaurant in the Žminj region, opened this year and is already known for its combination of international and traditional cuisine and a large selection of beers, prepared pljukanci with octopus broth and grilled sea bass fillet with chard and potatoes. Everywhere this year, the menu is enriched with sausages, ombolo, sauerkraut or sea bass fillet with chard. All these restaurants make handmade pasta, and Žminj is famous for that.
"I don't know of such a small municipality that has so many catering facilities as Žminj, from taverns and restaurants to agritourism. In addition, these restaurants are traditionally owned by local families for 30 to 50 years. Restaurant Žminjka will celebrate half a century of work next year. All of them work all year round, and they also offer brunches at promotional prices", says Lenka Šajina, and reminds us that these brunches are also based on local traditional flavours.
Restaurant Pod Ladonjon, a cult Žminj tavern where people regularly come for tripe during the regular Žminj fair, prepared gnocchi with beef stew and sour cabbage with sausages. We enjoyed these flavours of Istria as well as the huge portions offered by Pod Ladonjon. Otherwise, on Bartulja, or St Bartholomew Day, guests would be greeted by tidy homes and necessarily sauerkraut. The fair at the end of the place, the fun and dancing in one of the dozen inns for many years was the main feature of this very popular folk festival. It is generally known that on Wednesdays, on the fair day (samanj), tripe, jota and maneštra can be eaten in Žminjka and Pod Ladonjon, which is why people from all over Istria come to Žminj. The location is extremely attractive, next to the Žminj tower and next to the church of St. Michael.
Marija Krajcar and Anica Pucić have been the owners of the Pod Ladonjon restaurant for thirty years, and they have become recognizable gastronomic icons of Žminj and Istria. Guests are happy to return for tripe on Wednesdays, and for Bartulja there is a long tradition of coming to Pod Ladonjon for cabbage with mutton, tripe, suckling pig, fuži, gnocchi… The tables are permanently full from nine in the morning, and the whole of Istria is then in Žminj!