Although there are plenty of good restaurants and taverns in south Istria, like Konoba Batelina, Alla Beccaccia, Konoba Vodnjanka, Restaurant Milan and Restaurant Bodulka, the sad fact is that the center of Pula, with its tourist trap and fast food eateries, is a gourmet’s nightmare. Fortunately, a short walk from the fish and farmers market will take you to Buffet Vodnjanka, a family-run tavern offering a truly local experience and the flavors of good old times.
The best time to eat there is between 11 am and 1 pm when the clientele is very mixed and atmosphere very relaxed, so don't be surprised to see businessmen in tie and suit and construction workers wearing blue coveralls occupying neighboring tables. It's the charm of "marenda", local name for a quick lunch/brunch, a respectable tradition that still thrives here despite the threats of unification of flavors and dietary habits.
Gina Civitico, the cook, explains the winning formula of Vodnjanka: "We serve only traditional dishes, in a sense very modest and accessible to everyone but always prepared with great care." Her tripes in tomato sauce are literally melting in the mouth, leaving a delicious flavor. Then, her gnocchi with žgvacet or mouth-watering game stew, fuži and inevitable polpette in the most delicious sauce prepared following Gina's secret recipe... A must is also Gina's sardines in savor that can be served as a cold starter or with warm palenta.
A few years ago, Moris, Gina's grandson and former roller skate champion, took the role of innkeeper. Although he is currently more involved in taking orders and serving guests (very efficiently and always with a smile!), there is no fear, Gina assures us, the secret recipes she inherited from her mother will be forgotten. No doubt, there is another generation who will passionately carry on the tradition of family Civitico. The full story of Buffet Vodnjanka.