Stirring her magical boiled dish of squid, octopus and cuttlefish in black ink, the aromatic sensation that transports her patrons to gastronomic heaven, chef Marija Hell smiles delightedly.
Clearly excited by the alchemy she is performing in her Pašike restaurant, Hell gushes, “We want our guests to taste a part of Dalmatia and our traditions. To enjoy dishes that caress the palate—the happiest of moments.”
Reputed for such “taste explosions” as pasticada, and the delectable almond cake Trogirski rafiol,” she is well worth a visit to Trogir, an inviting town with a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation only 17 miles from Split on the Croatian coast.
Surrounded by 14th Century walls, the “Stone Beauty,” or the Little Venice of Dalmatia” merited that UNESCO tribute because of its well-preserved Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance architecture—a veritable city-museum of enchanting stone buildings and maze of streets that evoke Medieval life.
But a visit here means more than celebrating an illustrious past; cobbled streets promising mystery and romance, a vaunted cathedral, a fairy tale-like Cipiko Palace, and a third century BC relief.
One of Dalmatia’s greatest “secrets,” Trogir also flaunts a visual, very playful version of Marija Hell’s “spicy, extra explosion of flavors.” Combining historical streets and vistas with an intensely modernist vibe, the town offers, along with the neighboring waterfront at Ciovo, all sorts of indulgent hedonism.
Choose your pleasure.
Charter a sightseeing boat and venture out to a diverse array of bewitching, palm tree-lined islands.
Down glasses of locally-produced grappa together with grilled fish at either Restaurant Capo, Restaurant Riva or Restaurant Kamerlengo. These and other seaside places epitomize taking Life Very Easy while feasting on wines and seafood.
Of course there are more “energetic” pursuits at hand.
Stroll in the Old Town among the enchanting stone houses. Then walk on the Riva embankment, dine at any of the numerous restaurants, or go to Caffe Bar Smokvica, Caffe Bar Trogir or Corte Bar for innovative cocktails, high-decibel music and great people watching.
If more adventurous, and ready for an all-out binge, hop in a taxi and go to Laganini, a Labadusa beach club-cocktail bar that sways to a lulling seaside beat.
Here there’s a beach with lounges, massages for every ache and part of your body, and very devilish cocktails, most notably the elderflowers and crushed raspberries’ burst of wickedness. Yum! The perfect way to greet the night—and AM hours.
Split and other Croatian getaways also pulsate at night. So why go to Trogir?
Get away from the crowds. Trogir offers countless courtyards and terraces for less jarring, more intimate experiences than in nearby Split and the always jammed (but beautiful) Dubrovnik. It is stately, subdued, and waiting to be explored—a homage to history and to the new inventiveness in its’ kitchens
“There is not much philosophy in Dalmatian cuisine, everything is cooked in olive oil, onion, parsley, garlic and wine,” says Hell, who also owns a four star Trogir hotel by the same name. Still intent on extending “love” in every dish, as her very popular almond cake, she adds, “So all the rafiola pieces are there, but several completely different. In this way we respect the traditional cake but give it a modernist look, an extra explosion of flavors.”
Or in keeping with the holiday atmosphere in Trogir, a boundless burst of “happy moments.”
So discover this little gem by the sea, its’ secrets, and sensations.
And be ready to be charmed by “Little Venice’s” magic.