Mondo Konoba may be the best little restaurant that you may never reach. It is what eating in the Old World should feel like. Just be warned that you’ll have to work for it.
Istria, the part of Croatia that’s closest to Italy, was under its neighbor’s rule until the end of World War II and was previously occupied by the mighty Venetians. It’s beautiful, cheap and largely free of the hordes of tourists that spoil so many postcard-worthy views in Italy. Think of it as Tuscany 50 years ago.
Mondo Konoba sits on a slope just outside the large gate to the beautiful medieval village of Motovun, which is on a hilltop deep in the Croatian countryside almost an hour from the nearest train station. Visitors can drive up the narrow winding road almost to the top, though they must leave their cars and make their way along the final stretch of narrow cobbled streets with misshapen and brightly colored houses on foot. Otherwise, it’s a stunning, but tiring, half-hour trek to Motovun.
Where does a weary traveler rest? In a tavern, which is the translation of konoba. The vibe is as relaxed as the word suggests, with an airy dining room and a few simple wooden tables outside. The menu relies heavily on local ingredients particular to the surrounding area.
Among the highlights are beef carpaccio with shavings of black truffle, a rich and creamy polenta with truffles and a delicious dish of tagliatelle — in a truffle sauce, of course. Truffles are abundant there, and are dug up by hunters and their dogs (or more traditionally with pigs) fresh in the mornings.
Nikola, the friendly and multilingual waiter, is great with helping to choose a glass of one of the crisp local white wines to pair with the food. Main courses range from 65 to 140 kuna (about $11 to $25 at 5.8 kuna to the dollar), a tremendous bargain when compared with the expensive dishes on tourist menus in Italy.
Before the sun sets, there should be enough time to enter the gate to the village, built in the 1400s, and soak in the breathtaking views. No surprise, then, that many Italians say the best place for a dream holiday is Croatia.
Mondo Konoba, 1 Barbacan, Motovun, Croatia; (385-52) 681-791.
By KABIR CHIBBER
Published: February 1, 2009
Article Source: http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/02/01/travel/01bites.html?ref=travel