Istria is not only interesting for its rich natural and cultural heritage and mixture of cultures, there is also its cuisine, which is equally interesting and rich as well. Olive oil, wine, fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, air-dried ham and sea salt from the salt pans are the typical local products that form the basis for the excellent traditional dishes both in local trattorias and fancy restaurants, and in the traditional Osmicas. As we also enjoy discovering the exciting culinary scene and characteristics of different places, below we provide some recommendations for which we believe will not disappoint you. As small olive oil producers we can, upon our customers’ request, offer the possibility of olive oil tasting and provide you with basic information on their organoleptic properties. First, however, you should visit the Koper Fish Market on a Saturday morning, where you will be able to find an excellent offer of seasonal products sold by friendly local vendors, and test the quality of Istrian products yourself.
During the Habsburg Empire, a law was passed that allowed farmers eight days to offer wine and sell their products at the farm without being taxed. In the Karst and Istria, where the culture of visiting such farms is still very much alive, such event came to be known as an “Osmica” (the Eight) due to the selling period which lasts for 8 days. The same tradition – with different local food of course – has been preserved also in some other regions of the former Empire (e.g. the Austrian Styria and Upper Austria with their numerous Heurigen or Bushenschank).
Osmicas can be recognized by the wooden signpost with a branch of ivy placed beside the road. They can only offer wine and food produced on the farm. In the Trieste Karst, these would usually be white and red house wine and air-dried ham, sausages, bacon, eggs and pickled vegetables, whereas in Istria and the Karst in Slovenia you would also find cooked dishes, such as the Yota, a traditional Istrian stew, or sausages and sauerkraut. As each individual Osmica can usually be opened only twice a year, it is worth checking which of them are opened during the time of your visit. The osmize website offers information on the opening hours of the osmicas in the Trieste Karst, while information on the ones in the Istrian and Karst region in Slovenia is available on the osmice website. We recommend making a reservation for larger groups.
There are no osmicas in Gabrovica, Osp or Črni Kal, yet we can recommend several just across the border, such as Pri Slavcu in Caresana (Mačkovlje), Žerjal in San Giuseppe della Chiusa (Ricmanje) and the Osmica Merlak in Trieste. A little further away, but still close enough to facilitate comfortable access, there are several osmicas we would recommend visiting in the Trieste Karst: Fabec in Malchina (Mavhinje), Sardo in Samatorza (Samatorca), Štubelj in San Pelaggio (Šempolaj), Pertot in Aurisina (Nabrežina), Žigon and Furlan in Sgonico (Zgonik), Tavčar in Repen, and Starc, Zidarich and Gabrovec in Prepotto (Praprot). In the Karst and Istria area, we would especially recommend Barut in Izola, Krmac in Bertoki, Markežič at Grintovec and Abram-Žerjal in Sveto, a village northwest of Komen. This selection is not solely based on quality, but also on the atmosphere and genuine environment you can experience while visiting one of the recommended osmicas.
Restaurants and trattorias
As it appears, Slovenia is becoming an important culinary destination. The now famous Hiša Franko (Franko House) with the chef Ana Roš is only 150 km away from Gabrovica, whereas the equally renowned trattoria Pri Lojzetu with Tomaž Kavčič is located only 60 km away. Quality is not measured only by the number of stars and references on online evaluation sites, and we can confirm that the quality of some local suppliers is definitely on a par with the Michelin Star winners. As there is no disputing about tastes, below you will find a list of recommended choices which is, of course, completely subjective and based on our own taste
The production of wine in Istria reaches back to the Roman period, so it is no wonder that autochthonous varieties, such as Refošk, Malvazija or Rumeni Muškat and other varieties as well achieve high recognition at wine evaluations. The Istrian Malvazija is a traditional straw-coloured and a usually young or maximum 2- to 3-year old wine. Its scent reminds of a ripe apple, sometimes even a pear, and leaves a fine, elegant, sometimes slightly bitter taste in your mouth, which might remind you of that of acacia flowers.
The Refošk is a traditional red wine, of a ruby colour with violet shades, very intense and deep-hued, which is why it is also referred to as “black” wine in Istria. With its freshness, it is very pleasant to drink and its aroma is reminiscent of raspberries and different berries. In the recent years, there have been many successful attempts to also include in the offer older vintages of the Refošk, even though this wine – similarly to Malvazija – is best when young. The yellow muscat, as an aromatic wine with a typical muscadine scent and low acidity, is suitable especially at the end of the meal or, in its sweet version, can also be served with desserts.
Most information on the wines of the Slovenian Istria can be found at any of the traditional wine events in the Slovenian Istria: the Festival of Malvazija, Refuscus Mundi, Orange wine Festival and the Festival of Refošk. The same way as in gastronomy, the following saying can also be applied here: there is no disputing about tastes, so the following list of recommendations is, of course, completely subjective and based on our own taste.
We also recommend visiting small wine and olive oil producers in the hinterland of Koper, who are members of the Vinol Society, and other wine producers in the Municipality of Koper.
Since ancient times, Istria has been known as one of the most prestigious areas for the production of olive oil thanks to its excellent climate and soil composition, its favourable geographical location, tradition, experience and skilled growers. This is where numerous local cultivars were developed and adapted to cold winters and occasional frost. Located in the near proximity of Gabrovica is San Dorligo Della Valle (Dolina), where the main native cultivar of Istrska Belica has its origin. Known for its resistance and durability, it produces a rather spicy, fresh and bitter oil.
During the restoration of olive groves in Istria, different Italian cultivars were planted as well, such as the Leccino, Maurino, Frantoio, etc., which produce a more delicate oil compared to that of the Istrska Belica. As small olive oil producers, we produce oil from Leccino and Istrska Belica cultivars, which are cultivated with a minimum use of plant protection products in our olive grove, located in the old part of Gabrovica. The oil we offer is obtained by cold pressing the mixture of the two cultivars to better maintain a more balanced flavour and aroma.