Posted by: viewfromtheriva | December 10, 2012

Gravce na Tavce at Figa, Macedonian soul food for the cold

With heavy snow closing Zagreb Airport and howling Bura winds turning Split into a frigid ghost town I was thrilled to see one of my favorite local bistros, Figa, dishing out down home food that’s perfect for this kind of weather.

A traditional Macedonian dish, gravce na tavce is made with several kinds of beans, onions, spices and small tender cut up pieces of pork–smoked or fresh.

I looks like and tastes like the Balkan equivalent of chili con carne, but not as hot and with pork, not finely cut pieces of beef.

it looks simple, but wow, what great taste!

it looks simple, but wow, what great taste!

Figa has been doing some creative things during the off season, with some terrific live music and wonderful special dishes every Friday night–last Friday was gypsy swing music served up with beans and octopus!

Tucked into the West Wall, inside Diocletian’s Palace, Figa is located across from the Slavija Hotel, behind Jupiter’s Temple.  For decades, Toni and his family ran Cafe Puls at the same location, one of Splitcani’s favorite musical haunts. Closing it down to re-invent the space as a bistro took a lot of courage.

This year was their first and despite being overwhelmed at times, the feedback was excellent.  With some more attention to service and continued dedication to serving up what few other restaurants offer (like black risotto with tuna instead of cuttlefish), Figas is well poised to become as beloved an institution as their Cafe Puls was.

gone but not forgotten

I think it took about a minute to wolf this down, helped with some bevanda (half white wine, half water) and the always hilarious company of Toni, Figa’s owner, sometimes cook, waiter, deck hand, plumber, and all around very entertaining character.

“I love Macedonia,” he told me, “and this is a very traditional dish there.  But it’s also Serbian and when Croatians like something they simply make it their own, so this is actually a three country dish!”

After sauteing the beans, onions, spices and pork, the mixture is put into an iron pot and covered to slow-cook in the over for an hour or so until all those flavors combine into one continuous yumminess.

And oh yes, the gravce na tavce, with toast, was a whopping 25 kunas!

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