I am finally now, on Hvar, regaining my confidence in ordering dinner. I was almost about to abandon that meal altogether, after my first 3 nights. I’m not sure if you remember, but on the first night I ate all fried food – which is great but not as a whole meal. One other thing I forgot to mention is that if you don’t like smoke – don’t come to Croatia. They smoke everywhere. A man in Zagreb was grabbing his luggage from baggage claim in the airport with a cigarette hanging from his lips. So imagine the restaurants – all smoky.
Friday night, before Stacy arrived I consulted my Lonely Planet guide book and went to a restaurant they recommended. The waiter spoke some English and handed me an English menu. Off to a good start. I ordered a wine and then risotto. He asked me if I wanted a starter and I asked what do you recommend? He said the fresh catch of the day, so I agreed to it.
Then he brought me a small fish – maybe a sardine and it tasted pickled. I figured that it was the starter and happily nawed around the head and bones. Next, he came out with a huge platter of mussels and oysters and such. I thought, maybe risotto is different in Croatia – and figured I was eating my main meal. I filled up and then he came out with the seafood risotto! So I took a deep breath and kept eating. I only ate half and he asked me if I didn’t like it. It was delicious, but come on, how much can one person eat? I said no, just full and smiled brightly. He brought me the bill and the starter was more than my meal – about 20 bucks! Oh well, I then waddled back to the hotel.
The next night, the girl at the hotel in Split told us to go to the old part of town to eat because it was better food – and less tourists. Great idea – eat with the locals! We wandered through the dark and to the pier to find the restaurant. The waiter happily brought us to our table and spoke broken English. Okay, so less tourists = less English.
We first ordered wine, we thought a glass of wine, but no it was a bottle. The waiter was a graying, skinny man right out of a slapstick comedy. He kept trying to speak to us and we to him, but we were not communicating. Fine, whatever, we can deal with this. So I ordered a shrimp cocktail, I know what this is! I pointed at the English menu and he shook his head. This is where it gets fuzzy – did I have my pointer finger and pinky pointing at 2 different things? I’m still not sure. In between our ummms he left for the kitchen. He later came out with a goopy, pink mayonaise (sp?) glass dish with little shrimps in it – okay, not the scampi cocktail I know, but fine. But he also had a dish with meats and olives on it. I looked at the guy and said no, we don’t want that. He said something and pointed at the scampi dish and said something about 5 minutes. I just looked at him and he walked away. Stacy sat calmly, smiling. Remember, she’d been traveling for a couple of weeks before me so she had traveler’s euphoria. She didn’t really care what happened.
We devoured the scampi with some bread and then he came back in 5 minutes with another scampi cocktail. I said no, we just want our risottos (I had ordered seafood risotto, again). I was very flustered then, so I can’t put the whole blame on the waiter. He bounced around the dining room trying to please us and I was just confusing the poor guy!
He bounded away from us, probably just wishing that we would leave. I felt terrible, I couldn’t relax. Stacy then told me that she had ordered the scampi dinner and not the risotto. Oh no! What would he bring out?? Yes, later he brought out 2 risottos, 1 scampi and 1 seafood. Once he set it down, Stacy just sat there and stared at it. Then she started laughing so hard that she cried. This looks good, she exclaimed. Okay, so it was very good and I laughed my ass off about it, too. At least the dining room was fairly empty and other Croatians weren’t pointing and laughing at the stupid Americans!
Lately, I’ve had delicious meals – fish and pizza. The one thing that I’ve taken to heart is to remain calm while I order dinner. And be very clear . . .