Meneghetti: Mediterranean cuisine in the heart of Istria

Neapolitan Fabio Vitale is the new chef at the Croatian Relais & Chateux. He brought the flavours of his homeland to Bale

13-05-2019
Meneghetti Wine hotel & Winery is in Bale, Croati

Meneghetti Wine hotel & Winery is in Bale, Croatia, surrounded by the vineyards and olive groves of Istria 

We’re in Valle (Bale in Croatian), a Medieval village in Croatian Istria, an hour and fifteen minutes’ drive from Trieste, in Italy; from this point, after a few kilometres in the local flora and shrubs, you arrive at Meneghetti. The building, a typical stone-house, is surrounded by vineyards and olive groves (Meneghetti indeed was born as a winery making wines like Malvasia, Chardonnay, Merlot, and white and red blends, and Leccino olive oil). 

Inside there’s a restaurant and 24 luxury rooms (15 residences and 9 rooms and suites) that make it a Relais & Châteaux. A paradise surrounded by nature, thanks to a luxurious park with two outdoor swimming pools, a restaurant, and – soon – a new part of the residence with a total of 39 rooms. But there’s more. If the weather is still not right to swim outdoors, you can swim inside.

Of course, there’s also a kitchen whose offer is in line with the rest of the setting, a cuisine that enhances the flavours of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s prepared by Italian Executive Chef Fabio Vitale, who a few months ago took the helm of the kitchen and works as food & beverage manager too.

Fabio Vitale

Fabio Vitale

Born in Naples in 1975, Fabio, like most chefs of this standard has travelled a lot to refine his techniques and acquire new experience: in Italy, France, Russia, Germany, Saudi Arabia and, finally, Croatia. 

What’s his cuisine like? «The flavours surely enclose the essence of traditional cuisine», he says. Indeed, in his dishes you can trace a perfect balance between classic and contemporary, fully enhancing the Mediterranean flavours.

To approach the challenge of cooking at Meneghetti in the best possible way, Vitale, always in search for natural products and fresh vegetables, has looked for and promoted a collaboration with a local farm: with such raw materials, the success is guaranteed. The simple yet elegant mise en place is perfectly matched by the setting; white linen place mats, cotton napkins and colourful flowers. 

Meneghetti started off as a winery, that’s why every course is matched with a wine they make themselves. The show begins with bubbles, Metodo Classico 2016 from Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio anticipating the first course, a Crispy egg with a soft heart, with cream of Grana, wild asparagus and black truffle form Istria.

Crispy egg with a soft heart, with cream of Grana, wild asparagus and black truffle from Istria

Crispy egg with a soft heart, with cream of Grana, wild asparagus and black truffle from Istria

After that, it’s the turn of an autochthonous grape variety, Malvasia 2017 Black Label, 50% of which ages in wood barrels for six months; a serious yet elegant wine. The Malvasia wine is paired with the first course, a “raviolo inside a raviolo”. The fresh pasta, home-made, encloses a filling made with Istrian smoked ricotta, basil, San Marzano tomatoes and foam of basil. A dish that enfolds the deepest essence of the Mediterranean Sea.

Home-made ravioli filled with Istrian smoked ricotta, basil, San Marzano tomatoes and basil foam 

Home-made ravioli filled with Istrian smoked ricotta, basil, San Marzano tomatoes and basil foam 

Meneghetti Red 2013 (Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, aged 2 years in barriques and refined 3 years in bottle) announces the arrival of a structured and rich dish:Mangalica suckling pig with black lentils, spring onion and sweet and sour sauce. Under the crispy rind the meat is soft and tasty and even the fat part, if you eat it while hot, will melt in your palate.

Mangalica suckling pig with black lentils, spring onion and sweet and sour sauce 

Mangalica suckling pig with black lentils, spring onion and sweet and sour sauce 

After a short break, it’s the turn of Dragana Kovačević, the pastry chef at Meneghetti. Passito 2017 made with Pinot Bianco aged six months in old barriques is paired with two of her creations: Almond mousse with compote of pears cooked in Malvasia wine and tartare of pears in wine infusion and Dark chocolate mousse, wild fennel ice cream, crispy fennel and mint gelatine.

Almond mousse with compote of pears cooked in Malvasia wine and tartare of pears in wine infusion 

Almond mousse with compote of pears cooked in Malvasia wine and tartare of pears in wine infusion 

Dark chocolate mousse, wild fennel ice cream, crispy fennel and mint gelatine 

Dark chocolate mousse, wild fennel ice cream, crispy fennel and mint gelatine 

What with the wine, the good olive oil, and the Mediterranean flavours, the experience at Meneghetti represents a side of Istria that is worth discovering and enjoying.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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