Restaurant Histria is one of the gastronomic legends of Funtana. With a respectable tradition since 1993 and owned by the Fabris family, this restaurant is an expression of the culinary tradition of Funtana as an old fishing and agricultural town. That these are real Istrian snacks can be seen already in the exterior itself, where you can find small Istrian kažuns and a representation of a goat, and not far away is a small chapel dedicated to the Mother of God, all crowned with olive trees and carefully maintained grass. We are guided through the restaurant by Mario Fabris, a veteran of Istrian tourism, who on this occasion treated us to a menu as part of the Funtanjanski Gušti (Enjoyments of Funtana) event.
Mario Fabris started working in tourism in the Plava Laguna in 1968, and the very next year he started to work in the hospitality industry until 1981. For the next ten years, he ran a restaurant and entertainment center in Plava laguna. Then he opened the Histria restaurant with his family, who still work here: his wife runs the accounting department, and his two sons run the restaurant on a daily basis. Mr Mario tells us: "They are the bosses, and I am the director!" The story flows like biska brandy that we happily sip at the table in a very nicely decorated interior.
The first appetizer is coming soon, a tempting fish tartar of sea bass on a bed of avocado, mild cod battered in the restaurant itself, and marinated sardines. Imaginative fish menus in Histria are no accident, because Funtana has been known as a fishing village since ancient times. Nowadays, fish mostly come from the market in Pula, because there are fewer and fewer local fishermen in Funtana, but any connoisseur of seafood will clearly recognize the freshness on the table.
Recently, Histria has been recognized for weddings, various family and friendly gatherings. The restaurant is open all year round except for January and February, which contributes to a significantly long tourist season. Unlike the majority of hotels and large companies, these caterers really live the catchphrase about extending the season, which should be a year-round fact, at least in Istria. The painstaking work of such restaurateurs should be recognized by the entire tourism industry.
As a second appetizer, we were served well-known Istrian delicacies: Istrian prosciutto, sausages, ombolo, pancetta, and cheese. Everything except the cheese is made by the family itself, according to the old customs of Istrian families. We talk a lot about the (im)possibility of returning a large amount of wealth to Istria, which brings most of its meat from Slavonia and other parts of Croatia. It's not bad, there is still Croatian meat on the plate, but there are obviously differences in the climate and the diet of the livestock.
"In Funtana we have good wine, good fish, we are an agricultural and fishing place where you can eat well and drink well eight months of the year, not just three months, when the camps in the area are open", says Mario Fabris with pride. We saw this for ourselves, tasting the excellent Malvazija of the little-known Prekalj winery. Our eyes turn to the refrigerator where the aged meat is drying. At least four weeks is necessary, and it is best if it can be maintained for two to three months. Histria is thus one of the few restaurants that offer aged meat.
But fresh meat is also excellent in Histrija, and we tried pork fillet wrapped in pancetta and served with vegetables. The wealth of these flavors expresses all the catering skills of the family business, and most of all the kitchen manager Ankica Leko, who shows enormous dedication and love for gastronomy. This woman spends long hours in the kitchen every working day, she is seen as a member of the family, and delicious snacks come out of her hands that are enjoyed by local and foreign visitors.
The fish menu is also imaginatively presented. We tasted sea bream fillet on a bed of cuttlefish, with great polenta, and as an addition, they enriched this dish with squid. It is said that sea bream is the queen of all fish, generous and grateful for cooking, a favorite in the Adriatic, which the ancient Romans called Venus's saint. All the fullness of taste is also provided by the sea bass fillet in baking paper, prepared together with potatoes and vegetables. The gastronomic cousin sea bass is equally loved, which always reminds us of the old story of a man from Korčula who lamented on his deathbed that he was going to die without knowing whether sea bream or sea bass was better. We believe that the answer will not be found for a long time.
All this work requires faith, and the Fabris family does not hide it. Experiences with the divine led Mr Mario to build a beautiful little chapel next to the restaurant, and this dedication is then seen in all the other activities of the restaurant. The interior itself is decorated with beautiful saintly and biblical paintings that give it a special charm.
At the end of our stay, we tasted the chocolate semifreddo, which together with the coffee gives a rounded gastronomic experience of Funtana. For everything else, you should go to the center of this Istrian place and enjoy the hospitality of the Fabris family:
Istarska 23, Funtana