Hvar is the type of place that pops up on every “must visit” list in Croatia. It’s beautiful, accessible and Instagram ready. On a Saturday in June, we meandered through the old fort on the hill, walked past the mega yachts nestled on the harbor and ended up at the weekend market in the town square. By chance, we stumbled into a local wine and cheese shop where a stout, grey haired wino named Ivan quickly began pouring little cups of wine, slicing razor thin pieces of local cured ham and chunking off hard sheep’s milk cheese. Yes, he was a well oiled salesman who knew exactly what to do when a couple tourists strolled into his shop but it was flat out endearing. I mentioned to him that I was on the hunt for “Peka” a local dish of whole cooked octopus, braised for hours over wood fire. Immediately, Ivan popped up and grabbed his phone with the enthusiasm of an 80’s stockbroker who just got a hot tip on soy bean futures. After a bit of Croatian (a language unrecognizable to the foreign ear) he explained that his friend could have it ready by 6 pm (it was 11 am) but we couldn’t bail on the plan as his reputation was on the line. It was the easiest decision of the trip.
After an hour walk straight up from the water we arrived at “Restaurant Panorama” which indeed had 360 degree views of the bay. Moments later at 6 pm sharp, the Octopus came out bathed in a a rich broth of wine and potatoes.
I don’t know if Ivan does that for every tourist but sometimes putting the phone or the guidebook in your pocket and asking the butcher, the cook, the baker or the boisterous Croatian with wine stained teeth where to eat pays delicious dividends.
-Reggie Milligan, Co-Founder of Mantry
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