Destinations / TKTKTKTK
“Zivjeli (cheers)!” We clink glasses.
Vineyards, plump with Vugava and Plavac Mali grapes,
ribbon the valley, while olive trees shimmer silver in the
sun. It’s along this road you’ll also find several family-
run taverns, called konobas, that serve authentic local
and regional cuisine. For peka, a Dalmatian specialty and
method of preparing meat and fish under a metal dome in
hot coals, Roki’s is unparalleled. Mario Fras welcomes me
onto a tree-shaded terrace and leads me to the open fire-
place where he oversees a half dozen pekas in smoldering
ash cooking octopus, vegetables and lamb. Within a few
minutes, a server approaches us with a tray lined with shot
glasses of rakija, the most popular spirit in Croatia, almost
always homemade, in a variety of flavors — grape, plum,
honey, mistletoe — and a guaranteed catalyst for late nights
and hazy mornings.
Like many young people from the island, Fras left to
study and work in larger European cities. When it came time
to raise a family, however, the pull of Vis was too much.
“I am from Vis. I was born here, took my first steps here,
and will die here. Vis is in my blood and I am in its soil and I
will do what I need to stay here.”
Fish and seafood are staples, as you’d expect on an
island rich in seafaring tradition. Fresh sardines are
hauled in to Vis Town and Komiža, where local kitchens
pick up the daily supply. Seasoned with salt and pepper and
grilled on long metal spears is a common way to eat them
at beachfront restaurants such as Konoba Stončica, located
on a bay of the same name and reachable via a short hike
or swim. At Restaurant Val in Vis Town, chef Luce Vasa
prepares a paštafažol na brujet, a hearty fish and bean stew
with pasta, which I enjoy with a local white Vugava wine
from Antonio Lipanović, whose barrels are stored in old
military tunnels. Viška pogača, a local specialty made with
savory dough similar to focaccia and stuffed with onion
and anchovies, is a must, especially in Komiža, where
tomatoes are added to the recipe.
On my last day, I plan to meet a friend of a friend, Leah
Tolno, at her mother’s gourmet shop, Pjan. After only a week
on Vis, I walk along the quay and notice my steps fall into
a relaxed pace measured by lapping blue waves against the
seawall. Even traffic feels leisurely and the only klaxon I
hear comes from the handlebar bells of bikes that ting-ting
a hello as they roll by. As I nibble on thin slices of hib, a traditional cake made from figs, aromatic herbal brandy and
fennel, I ask Tolno about her idea of pomalo.
She has a generous smile and unruly brown curls that
spring when she tilts her head to reflect on my question.
“It’s about life not measured in minutes,” she finally
“What’s it measured in?” I ask her.
The thought entrances me and I cling to it as I board the
ferry back to the frenzy of the real world. I’d been in search
of the Mediterranean as it once was, but what I found on Vis
is the Mediterranean the way it should be. M