The Wood-Fired Blog

Wood-Fired Croatia (or more accurately, Istria)

We just returned from a very nice trip to Croatia. I have wanted to explore the Dalmatian coast for years, and the timing was right this summer. Our older daughter spent the summer working on campus in Boston (a very cool research project on pre-fab building using 3D modeling software and CNC laser equipment) and she had two weeks off before the start of school. And we put it to good use. Fly to London (see family), fly to Venice, boat to Istria (in Croatia), drive to Dubrovnik (bottom of Croatia), drive to Zagreb (the capital), fly to London (see more family) and fly home. It sounds hectic, but it was really very nice.

Istria pizza oven

I thought I would have share a couple of the cooking and food highlights — particularly the ovens. I have written before that the pizza in Venice isn’t very special. I don’t know if it’s an urban legend or actually true, but the story I’ve heard is that Venice had real problems with fires in medieval times, which is why they moved all of the glass manufacturing furnaces out to the island of Murano and banned wood-fired pizza ovens. Even if it isn’t true, it’s a good story. Either way, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wood-fired pizza oven in Venice, or had a particularly good pizza (but I had some really good fish).

Then we took the ferry to Istria.

Istria pizza oven

Istria was different; it’s been called Croatia’s Tuscany for good reason. The region was part of Italy until the second world war, and it still looks and feels Italian. The road signs are all written in both Serbo-Croatian and Italian, most restaurants serve antipasti, primi, secondi e dolce, and Italian is spoken widely. Olive trees, vineyards, olive oil, pasta, truffles, hilltop towns, and pizza ovens. We came, we saw, we ate.

I asked a number of restaurant owners where they got their oven, and most said that they bought an Italian-made kit locally, and installed it themselves. I even recognized a few of the ovens by brand. The pizza oven tools also came from Italy.

Istria pizza oven

Istria pizza oven

Istria pizza


IstriaIstria is highlighted in red.

We knew it was coming, but you could feel the difference after we drove across the peninsula and turned south, down the coast. The Italian road signs, the pizza ovens and pasta served at every restaurant was gone. Along with our ability to easily communicate. The family can speak Italian, French and Spanish, and none of it did us any good. haha.

The good news was that we had entered the land of the wood-fired grill. Which was equally great. But more on that next.


2 thoughts on “Wood-Fired Croatia (or more accurately, Istria)

  1. I built my oven after a trip to Croatia. I have friends that live in Zagreb and have a Villa on the island of Brac just a short Ferry ride from Split.
    I have very fond memories, I must say. Thank you for bringing me back there.

    David Thull
    Maple Grove, MN

  2. James,

    It was good to read your write-up. We visited Istria about 5 years ago (and Slovenia the year before that) and yes, the pizza is wonderful – even from an electric oven! We stayed in a place called Porec, and in fact visited most of the region by bus. Took the ferry over to Venice for one day, sampled a pizza at a place just behind St. Mark’s Square, and like yourself, wasn’t that impressed. (The smell of sewage didn’t help, either!)

    If you enjoyed Croatia, try Slovenia. The best pizza I’ve ever had was at Ljublanski Dvor in Ljubljana (check it out), closely followed by one in Piran – a beautiful coastal town wedged between Italy and Croatia.

    Could surely use some of that right now!

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