PROTO a restaurant with a unique history

(Dobra hrana, Mateja Domitrović)

Long ago in 1886, the premises of today's Proto Restaurant were home to the only Dubrovnik-area restaurant that served fish and seafood.

The restaurant was recently renovated. The dominant earth and sea-blue tone is emphasised by details and art in the Mediterranean tradition. Siniša Lasan, one of Croatia's greatest sommeliers, looks after the restaurant's enviable wine collection. Chef Boško Lonac and manager Kosta Vukota welcome Proto's guests at the entrance. 

Every morning fishers supply Proto's kitchen with their fresh catch: from first-class fish to crabs, shellfish, octopus. 

Proto is known for its terraces - both the one on Široka street and the one on the first floor, where one can enjoy lunch under sails or dinner under the stars. 

There are few who have never heard of Dubrovnik. Its beauty is renowned throughout the world and people from all over that same world come to visit one of the most beautiful Croatian cities on the Adriatic coast. All those who come to see its attractions and hear the stories of its past have the opportunity to learn about the gourmet history and tradition of the Dubrovnik area. What's on offer is anything but meagre - it is as diverse and interesting as the story behind it. One of its crown jewels is Proto. Visiting Dubrovnik without having lunch or dinner at Proto would truly be a pity - and the opportunity should be taken as soon as possible. What makes this restaurant so different from all of the others? 

First of all, Proto has a history richer than that of any other restaurant in Dubrovnik. At this very same spot on Široka street delicious meals began to be served back in 1886, when Riblji restoran (literally: "Fish Restaurant") opened its doors as the only fish and seafood restaurant in Dubrovnik at the time. The gentry and their guests came here to enjoy lunch. Things have changed since, but the philosophy and concept have remained the same. Proto remains a fish and seafood restaurant and offers the finest ingredients from the sea- the Adriatic. Only freshly caught fish, crabs, shellfish, octopus, calamari, cuttlefish. are delivered to Proto on a daily basis, depending on the season. Luckily, Proto sticks to its guiding principle of standing apart from the others with its enviable menu and top-flight service. Since its very foundation, Proto has maintained this level, deserving the praise and honours it has garnered. A single plate unworthy of one's palate can forever drive a guest (and all of his friends) from a restaurant - and Proto's staff is well aware of this fact. 

Proto is led by a team of young experts - Boško Lonac is its excellent chef, Siniša Lasan is one of Croatia's best sommeliers and Kosta Vukota is the restaurant's manager. They lead a hardworking team and as a result Proto functions flawlessly. 

"Everyone does their part, investing maximum effort; there are no breaks during the summer but we always have will and desire for success, because we always want our guests to be happy and satisfied. "Only the finest fish gets into our kitchen. When we get an ingredient that is not top quality, we won't serve it - we know what we want and we'll always demand that from our fishers," said chef Boško Lonac. Indeed, whatever you order from the menu, you can't go wrong. And the wonderful food must be accompanied by the finest wines. Siniša Lasan is there to recommend wine that best suits the food a guest orders and to tell the story behind the wine. "Croatian wines are our priority, we accord special attention to them and they are the first ones we recommend to our guests. We have wines from throughout Croatia, but also all varieties - both domestic and international. Although guests are not very familiar with our wines, they gladly accept them and are mostly willing to taste something authentic. Our wine list also includes foreign wines, yet they are not as prominent and serve as an option only for hesitant guests," Lasan explained. 

In 2002, the restaurant's name Riblji restoran was expanded with the word Proto, the nickname of the owner's uncle, renowned as one of Dubrovnik's finest craftsman. The entire restaurant was recently renovated with considerable effort. When entering Proto one can immediately see how luxurious it is. It was decorated with care, special attention was paid to each detail. A stone staircase leads to the upper terrace, which is the restaurant's main feature. Enjoying meals on the terrace feels special - under sails during the day and under the stars at night. 

The most important things are the feeling of being welcome and the feelings that will inevitably be stirred here. One can truly eat well here, and the food is the main reason for visiting Proto. But it is not the only reason, because what is important is the feeling that can only be conveyed from the people who prepare and serve the food and who can give a little bit of the energy and passion that drives them to every guest. Furthermore, they are the only people who can tell the story of Proto in the best, most lively way. Without it Proto would not be what it is - literally a restaurant where they serve plates filled with love: 

Monkfish with Vegetables Monkfish meat and seasonal vegetables (carrots, zucchini, shallots) boiled in fish stock make a perfectly light and hearty lunch to be enjoyed with a spoon 

Seafood Risotto This risotto cooks for a long time - the rice, scampi and prawns, and whatever seafood is freshly caught that morning, are cooked by adding small amounts of fish stock and spiced with white wine and Mediterranean herbs 

Fish Soup This hearty soup is made with an abundance of seafood and vegetables. It can either be served as a starter or as a filling main course enjoyed with a spoon 

Fish Stock Chef Boško Lonac fillets a fish. The unused parts of fish and other seafood are used to prepare stock for various risottos and sauces. The quality of the ingredients comes first, so all vegetables are procured from local producers 

Lobster Spaghetti There are various lobster dishes prepared at Proto - one being Lobster Spaghetti in white sauce, capers and Mediterranean herbs (see photo) 

** Breakfast on Orlando's beautiful terrace ** 

The Orlando Bistro is located on Stradun, in the very heart of the Old City. The view from its terrace is priceless. It is no ordinary café, as it offers so much more than other places, including great sandwiches, salads, cakes and pastries, excellent coffee, freshly squeezed juices and cocktails. One should definitely come to Orlando for breakfast or brunch and in the evening, after having had dinner at Proto, enjoy the night in Dubrovnik with one of the excellent cocktails, a piece of the outstanding Orlando cake or chilled paradižot custard. The atmosphere is always great,becauseOrlando is visited by localsand tourists, by the young and old, and there is never a lack of stories or positive energy. The team that welcomes and attends to the guests deserves every commendation - they are always in a good mood and devoted to each guest, which is another reason for starting and finishing each day on Orlando's beautiful terrace. 

Dobra Hrana - Jutarnji list (August 2016) By Mateja Domitrović