On a recent visit to Dubrovnik, Jill and I chanced upon a fish restaurant in the Old Port area – Riblji Restoran Proto. It was a serendipitous experience.
Established in 1886, it is now owned by Mato Durovic, who has been a major influence in the hospitality business in Dubrovnik for fifty years.
I have always admired well-run businesses. There is something exciting and satisfying about people working together to achieve the best they can.
Proto was a fine example of this, an excellently run restaurant. The attention to detail showed. The staff were well-trained and courteous; the napkins matched the table cloth; and the food was to die for. I had a fettuccine with prawns and truffles that I will remember forever.
Mato Durovic owns two other restaurants. Proto was such a delightful experience that we sampled the others too. Orlando is a café-bistro, in the main street, where we had a light lunch of open sandwiches and iced coffee. Konavoski Dvori sits beside a mill stream, in Ljuta, a village a few miles south-east of Dubrovnik. In a bush setting, with the Ljuta River tumbling over rocks beside us, we ate a traditional Croatian dish - lamb and potatoes that had been slow-roasted under an iron bell - and drank Plavac Mali, an excellent Croatian red.
After our dinner at Proto we chatted to the manager, Kosto Vukota, expressing our delight and praising him on the quality of his establishment. He presented us with a souvenir book on Mato Durovic and the three restaurants. In it Mato explains what he is now trying to achieve.
I want to pass on my business expertise to the next generation, so that the continuity of a high-quality and clearly defined hospitality product can be maintained even after I’m no longer active; a product worthy of Dubrovnik’s cultural and historical reputation and its tourism charisma, for it is one of the most beautiful Mediterranean cities with a bright future and great potential for further development.
I guess I had found not only gourmet food but a kindred spirit.