The Motovun forest is packed with truffles, early each morning in season the men and their dogs go searching. The black variety is found in Spring, whilst the even more highly-prized white is Autumnal. Local restaurants are one of the best, and most affordable, ways of getting your truffle fix. Konoba Dolina is a great locals’ place whereas Zigante is white-glove formal – both are at the bottom of Motovun hill in Livade. In the hilltop town Pod Voltom does great meat.
Where to eat in Motovun...
‘Under the Arch’, by the old city gate, serves a selection of honest, regional fare, including truffles, and can always be relied upon to have a fire blazing in winter and terrace seating in summer. Pod Voltom serves some of the best meat in Istria with dishes that have made many a visitor sigh with contentment.
This is a great little spot. Across the turnabout from the better-known Zigante, it has a perfectly homely dining room with somewhat of a French feel – dainty wallpaper, wooden ceiling, black-and-white photographs and a refinished bar made of stone. Run by Dorijana Basanese and family, it serves traditional food with unique touches: turkey stuffed with truffles; pasta with wild mushrooms; seasonal asparagus soup; snails with polenta.
A short drive from Motovun, this renowned and formal restaurant is the base for an entire industry centred around a world-record event ten years ago. It was then that Giancarlo Zigante (and his dog Diana) were said to have discovered the biggest white truffle in history, weighing 1.31kg. Fame spread, this restaurant was opened in 2002 and extended three years later. Zigante also runs numerous truffle factories and shops. And the restaurant? Set in a beautiful house with outdoor seating, it offers very expensive if impressive dishes (some truffle-free) to an exclusive clientele.
A short drive from Motovun (head into Livade and take a right at the only roundabout) Dolina is a perfect example of fantastic, simple local food in a simple, local place. It’s slightly off the beaten track, not touristy or flash – and all the better for it. It’s also incredibly good value. The secret is the quality of the fresh ingredients: huge plates of meaty porcini mushrooms (in Autumn) served with olive oil; heavenly fuži with truffles, either in a cream sauce or without; and squid with chips, cabbage salad, beans. Dolina gets busy with locals sat around wooden tables, repeat guests and chattering eldery Italian ladies from the nearby spa.
Mondo divides opinion. Praise by the New York Times led to a local media frenzy, driven partly by a translation that turned positivity into ‘one of the world’s best small restaurants’. Soon after, it was slated by a Croatian critic. A recent visit revealed that it was an acceptable, friendly konoba with a pleasant little terrace in summer.