I was recently in Pula, Croatia for a conference on Roman provincial art. The site was chosen for its extensive Roman history, founded in the Republican period and for the numerous archaeological sites that are preserved, including the amphitheater that dominates the skyline. After I finished tweaking my paper, I set out into the city for a celebratory meal. I discovered the Forum Cafe, located in the heart of Pula on the original Roman forum. The menu was posted in several different languages (Croatian, German, English, French, Italian, and Russian) accompanied by pictures. The waitress greeted me, assessing what kind of food I was interested and what language I spoke. She wasn’t pushy like most restaurant shills, so I allowed myself to be escorted to a peony-bedecked table and immersed myself in the extensive menu.
There are several specialties in Istria: seafood including fresh fish, squid, and octopus because of the proximity of the Adriatic; fried cutlets inspired by their Austro-Hungarian history, and truffles. I was torn between the fresh asparagus omelet and the fried squid (I love the tentacles!) but the waitress persuaded me to try fuži with truffle cream sauce. In addition I ordered a mixed salad and a Croatian white wine then sat back to enjoy the bustle of the forum.
|Temple of Augustus, Pula|
The function of the Forum hasn’t changed much in 2000 years. It is still a center of commerce and law. Every provincial center had a forum, harking back to the original forum in Rome. In addition to the reconstructed first century temple to Augustus, there was originally a temple to the Capitoline Triad (Jupiter, Juno and Minerva). City hall has replaced this monument, but the outline of the (presumed) Diana temple can be seen at the back of this building. The Pula tourist bureau is also here, as are several other restaurants and souvenir shops around the wide central square.
Fuži are thin squares of pasta which have been folded over into tubes. The sauce was pure cream and butter, with a dollop of truffle tapenade on top. The salad was a mixture of tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage and cucumber, and could be adapted to taste with oil and vinegar (you have to ask if you want olive oil). The house white wine was the perfect complement. My only complaint was that the pasta was undersalted, but that may be because my tastebuds are not sophisticated enough for truffle. The price for my meal was reasonable by American standards: about $12 for the pasta, $4 for the salad, $3 for a glass of wine and $3 for a bottle of mineral water.
The dinner was exactly what I needed to relax, and my paper the next day went well. Thanks to the friendly staff at the Forum Cafe for taking good care of me!