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Linguini with baby shrimp and wild asparagus.

Linguini with baby shrimp and wild asparagus.

I had such high hopes for dining in Rovinj but so few restaurants are open! The vast majority close from January through Easter when the tourist season finally kicks off. This year visitors will be streaming in early when the prestigious Red Bull Air Race begins on April 12.

The prior evening I grabbed a respectable but unexceptional pizza at Fortuna and now I was ready for something with more panache. Wandering the Old Town, I stumbled upon Pane Vino e Non Solo (tel 052-818 214, De Amicis I) which bills itself as “The real Italian cuisine with the finest Istrian product”.

Rovinj is a popular destination for Italian tourists who enjoy a fast ferry connection from Venice.  One of the chief draws of Istria for Italians is the fish and seafood that are reasonably priced compared to Italy. Any Italian restaurant that intends to succeed with this finicky group had better be good.

As it is now asparagus season in Istria, I asked the manager buzzing around outside if he could suggest any dishes that incorporated this treat. He could! Linguini with baby shrimp and wild asparagus!

I seated myself in the trattoria-style cozy interior and chatted with the server while waiting for my dish. He was from Pula but the owner was born and bred Roman and was in the process of opening another restaurant in Rovinj.

The dish was a delight. The baby shrimp were fresh and tasty, the asparagus had a wild, rooty flavor and the sauce was a subtle and perfectly-balanced blend of fine olive oil, butter and herbs. Perfect.

The portion was not large however so I followed it with paper-thin slices of spring zucchini tossed with lemon and salt. I sprinkled on some top-quality Istrian olive oil and was good to go. I washed it all down with Malvazija, Istria’s flagship white wine.

With a total price of 170KN, I wouldn’t say it was a budget special but the price was good value considering the quality.

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