If you like fresh fish and seafood, you’re going to love eating out on the Dalmatian Coast. Classic dishes here include octopus salad, black risotto (made from cuttlefish ink), seafood risotto, fried squid, barbecued fresh fish and hearty fish stews. If you prefer meat to seafood, you’ll find excellent pršut (cured ham, similar to Italian prosciutto), janjetina (roast lamb) and pašticada (beef stewed in sweet wine and prunes, served with gnocchi).
Side dishes include blitva sa krupirom (Swiss chard and potato with lots of olive oil and garlic) and fresh seasonal salads - totally flavoursome tomatoes and cucumbers in summer, or finely sliced raw white cabbage and grated carrot in winter.
Unique to the region are meals prepared under a peka, an ancient method of slow cooking food (particularly lamb, veal or octopus) over white embers, covered by a metal dome. These meals normally need to be ordered at least one day in advance.
Eateries fall into two main categories: In a restoran, which will generally be open for lunch and dinner at set hours, you can expect formal service and a menu featuring a range of international dishes; in a konoba, which will generally stay open all day from morning till night, you’ll find a more informal atmosphere, rustic décor, hearty Dalmatian specialities, and locally-produced wine served by the carafe. In fact, by definition konoba means wine cellar.
Prices are similar to those you would expect in other European countries – fish is priced according to its weight, and you’ll pay almost what you would in Italy or France. If you’re looking for a bargain meal, go for a set price merenda (fisherman’s brunch) served in some traditional konobe.
If you want something cheap and cheerful, remember that Dalmatia has some excellent pizzerias, comparable to the best in Italy. Some also do a limited choice of pasta dishes and salads.
Last but not least, note that the most authentic local food is to be found at agritourism centres in rural villages on the islands, where almost all the ingredients are home-produced. You’ll probably need private transport to get to them, but the journey will be more than worthwhile.