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Ordinary, but not so ordinary Fish restaurant (Konoba)

We could divide Istrian tourist attractions into two basic chapters: spectacular seaviews and landscapes, such as coastline of Rovinj and magnificent hills and hillocks, such as the one on which the town of Motovun nests. Brtonigla does not come into any of the two categories. It is not located on the sea, and, well, it is not really located in the hills. Restaurant Astarea in Brtonigla will not attract your eye with anything outwardly special. Even the way it is advertised in different guide books is really curt and general: grilled fish, lamb under čripnja... "So what" as the English would say. But it is all, but "so what".

Those knowing what they want will leave Astarea extremly satisfied. There is, in fact, an extremly interesting combination of the above mentioned courses and dishes – it is not only lamb that is prepared under čripnja, but fish as well. Fish or lamb is put under an earthware or metal lid (our chef prefers the earthware one) and then placed on a hot, fire-clay slab, covered with cinders. The fish is surrounded with layers of sliced potatoes and onions, scallops and sometimes even shrimps. Luckily Anton is a friendly fellow, always in a good mood, so he'll be glad to explain his gastronomical credo. He honours traditional ways of cooking in his own special, deeply personal way.

The meal based around the fish from under peka or čripnja (as the Istrian say) should be started with grilled scallops. The moment when the shells become hot, Anton pours over them a special malvasia sauce, spiced with olive oil, garlic and cognac. The sauce, which immediatley starts sizzling in a hot shell, spreads exquisite aromas which make all guests real hungry. Thus scallops have taken over the primacy from istrian prosciutto, which here in Astarea is not a starter any longer, but is served at the end of the meal together with apple pie. And it is real Istrian prosciutto made only from pigs with controlled and honourable origins. And the apple pie? Is it an ordinary every-day one? No, it is all but ordinary: it is baked under čripnja, in earthenware dishes, discretely flavoured with smoke from cinders.

Anton works seven days a week from brunch to midnight, throughout the tourist season. When and if he rests we cannot say.

written by:                            
Rene Bakalović         
taken from magazine:          
GLOBUS, 30.8.2002.


    All directions lead to us...

    Everyone works here

    Michela is with us too

    Globus, 30.8.2002.