Restaurant Puli Pineta is one of the well kept secrets on Istrian food scene. I had some friends visiting from Zagreb, and they wanted to taste something authentic, yet different. Somebody suggested restaurant Puli Pineta, a small family-run restaurant near village of Zminj.
It is a small place, with maybe 5 tables, huge open fireplace and small terrace. The owner Josip Pino Kuhar is the head chef at restaurant.
Pino is a well-known chef in Istria and Croatia. He is a high school culinary professor in nearby town of Rovinj, and he has been working as a private chef at many manifestations. Three years ago, Pino the Cook has opened his own restaurant.
Curiosity of this great chef is within his name. His family name is Kuhar, which literary means “The Cook” in Croatian. He comes from village Kuhari, which means Cooks in Croatia. Thus Pino the Cook, is not his nick name, it is his real name translated in English.
When one enters the place, first thing you notice is the large fireplace. The tables are large with lots of space. We had a table just aside of a fireplace. We decided not to go by the menu, but instead, we asked the chef to suggest and prepare for us whatever he feels will be the best.
We started with some cold cuts, homemade prosciutto and sausages, green olives and marinated wild mushrooms. Along with that Pino prepared homemade grilled cheese.
This cheese if firm, it doesn’t melt at all, and the secret is in production. Apple vinegar is used to produce this cheese instead of rennet. Everything was delicious, but cheese was the best of all.
After that, we were served homemade pasta bigule with three different sauces: wild asparagus, curd, and penny bun mushrooms. One was better than other, and at the end we couldn’t picked the favorite one. They were all extremely tasty.
After warming up, we were ready for some serious staff. Pino prepared a traditional Istrian meal – “spaleta”. It is half-cured pork shoulder, dried with skin covered with pepper.
Preparation is simple, fry few minutes in the pan, without oil, and sprinkled with white wine. Add olive oil just before serving. This traditional Istrian dish is really delicious.
Pork shoulder was served along with grilled baby beef rib-eye steak. Meat is vacuumed, and kept in fridge. It is grilled without any oil or seasoning. Olive oil and salt are added at the very end of preparation. Meat was extremely tender.
Dessert was delicious. Curd with honey, semifreddo (semi-cold cream), lemon skin and almonds.
Excellent lunch. Great service. Interesting chef.