Gourmet cuisine today is unthinkable without his Majesty, the truffle. The underground mushroom with potato-like body called tuber lives in the Istrian soil and is considered the highlight of the regional cuisine. Istria has become known for the highest quality truffles - especially the white truffle that can rival those of Italian regions of Alba and Piedmont.
The truffle as an aphrodisiac
Truffles were appreciated by the Romans - they were believed to have grown as the result of God Jupiter throwing a lightning to an oak tree. Since Jupiter was known for its access sexual activities, truffle has been regarded as an aphrodisiac ever since. The Savoi family introduced it to the European courts during the Middle Ages. It was Giacomo Morra, a restaurant owner from Alba in the northern Italian province of Piedmont who popularized the truffle and truffle dishes in the 1930s. The white truffle of Alba is highly valued but Istrian varieties are equally if not even more prized by the experts for their exquisite quality.
Istria has its own truffle king - Giancarlo Zigante, the owner of the Guinness World Record. He found 1.310 kilogram heavy white truffle s in the forest of Motovun located in the northern central part of Istria around the medieval city of Motovun sitting charmingly on a hill top overlooking the the stretching Mirna river valley below. The soil here is damp and the forest vegetated with different types of oak - a tree that the truffle lives symbiotically with. It’s found in wet grounds, usually near the rivers and dug by specially trained dogs.
White and black truffles
The fine white truffle called Tuber Magnatum Pico the priciest among truffle. It grows from September till January and is eaten fresh usually shaved over hot steaming pasta, meat or fish. For this couture gastronomy treat get ready to pay a heavier price tag - it all depends on the weight, the quality, the season.
Tuber Melanosporum is the fine black truffle that grows from January till spring and is regarded as the best among the black varieties, quite popular in Istria. This truffle is the priciest among the black varieties.
Tuber Aestivium is also a variety of the black truffle that grows throughout the year with the price lower than the Tuber Melanosporum's. The Tuber brumale variety is also black and grows in the winter time and also less expensive than the Tuber Melanosporum.
Truffle Days in Livade
The most popular truffle place in Istria is Giancarlo Zigante’s restaurant in Livade below Motovun. Fall is a very special time of the year since the white truffle is hunted from September till December and this is the best time to taste it. In October there is a The Truffle Days event organized in Livade to celebrate the truffle in the Istrian cuisine.
A delicacy worth trying
To celebrate the valued truffle and its importance in the gourmet cuisine, Istrian government established the Real truffle - Tartufo vero label of excellence that is awarded to the selected restaurants in Istria for preparing the truffle according to the highest gourmet standards. Suggested truffle dishes to taste: traditional Istrian pasta fuži or pljukanci with black or white truffle, fish or shrimps with white truffle, steak with grated truffle, truffle ice-cream, chocolate cake with olive oil and truffles…