Proto Restaurant has been serving fresh seafood from the Adriatic to monarchs and movie stars since 1886.
With an errant bura – a crisp, northerly wind – whooshing into the covered alleyway, diners can sit back and enjoy the quaint, romantic atmosphere of Proto, a Dubrovnik institution since 1886. What could appeal to tourists more than the chance to chug back a couple of native oysters from Ston on the canopied terrace amid the most beautiful town on the Mediterranean?
Encircled by imposing fortifications, battlements and towers stacked on top of each other, Dubrovnik, adrift on the Adriatic, is a majestic storybook city and one of the most affordable Mediterranean getaways. They also have food which rivals that of Italy and France.
Nestled in the heart of the Old Town, on the corner of Siroka Street and Vara, Proto’s universal appeal lies largely in the opportunity to eat well, simply and conveniently. No wonder Edward VIII, King of England used to entertain guests here. A deep reverence for heritage, combined with unsurpassed culinary credentials, has meant that Executive Chef Boško Lonac’s simple but succulent dishes have been an indisputable success. Traditionally renowned for Dalmatian seafood concocted according to the long-standing recipes of Dubrovnik fishermen, Proto is a favorite for celebrities like Bono and Richard Gere. The seafood is guaranteed fresh each day, not least because the restaurant is just a few blocks away from Dubrovnik’s lively covered fish market.
The menu offers such a tempting range of enticingly simple dishes – from škampi na buzaru (shrimp in garlic, white wine and parsley) to fresh fish served filleted – that it’s almost impossible not to over-indulge. Specials of stuffed gratinated lobster “Ponta OŠtra” (risotto with wild rice, truffles and mushrooms), and plump, freshly caught shrimps in saffron sauce on mounds of saffron rice, were two outstanding seafood plates, the skillfully balanced flavors and textures indicating world-class talent in the kitchen. The cheese from the Island of Pag literally just melts in your mouth. Vegans can delight in luscious freshly grown dishes also. A great wine list elevates the experience as well.
It’s the freshness of the fish and the prudently selected ingredients that really stand out, though the sheltered breezy terrace as well as the quiet, sophisticated interior add a memorable ambiance to the food. Proto serves some of the most creative cooking in the region. Definitely not only for tourists, Proto has a strong local following who love eating here as well, so reservations are recommended, especially for dinner.
Wood paneling and muted tablecloths make for a restrained elegance in the 1930s-influenced traditional dining room, where well-rendered versions of homegrown classics (Clear Fish Soup en Tasse) and the fairly priced, extensive wine list let you in on a local secret: you’ve stumbled across a real jewel.