What People Say

Our Croatia trip could not have started any better, as we had our first meal in Marija and Zlata’s back yard. Hamo met us on the street nearby to guide us to the place we were about to spend a very enjoyable evening at. Marija first served us rakia while we waited for the remainder of our group to arrive (delayed flight in). Marija infuses her own walnut, cherry, rose and herbal rakia and pours your first serving along with the explanation to feel at home and pour the rest on your own and as much as you’d like. Along side the rakia were candied nuts, dried figs, and my favorite- amazing candied bitter orange rinds. Zlata explained the peka process while we gathered around with wine in hand. The process requires 3 flips of the peka pan, which leaves bountiful time for unwinding and chatting. Fresh homemade bread, still warm, was torn from the loaf and paired with carved off-the-leg, home smoked prosciutto. Next, we sat at the table and picked away at/devoured 3 types of cheeses, olives, prosciutto and more. The wine flowed as we chatted with Marija, Zlata and Hamo. We got to know one another and they taught us about Dubrovnik and Croatia. The peka was amazing- fall off the bone veal, lamb and crispy herb infused potatoes. A true labor of love and tasted so. There was more rakia, more wine, and more laughs. Marija’s very friendly daughter joined us for a late bite when she got home from a traditional dance class. While my friend and I were discussing that we should get going in order to give them some of their night, Marija said, “We haven’t had dessert yet”. Not thinking we could eat a bite more, we were served an amazingly light and fluffy custard/meringue type dish. We all found room for it ? We gave our hugs and thanks and knew the rest of the trip had a lot to live up to after night one. Although the food was spectacular, the ability to feel so comfortable and like family in a brand new-to-us country was so amazing. It was wonderful to have them all drink and eat alongside us at the picnic table decorated with red checkered print and aromatic rosemary sprigs, under a fresh greenery canopy and right next to the garden. All were so helpful with answering our questions and giving us recommendations on restaurants that served fresh/quality/local ingredients. Marija even ordered and infused local olive oil and salt for us to purchase later on in the trip! It was the best!!! We were so honored to be the first guests outside of family, friends and National Geographic. I have no doubt they will soon have more requests than they can handle. I hope some day I can go back to Dubrovnik and do it all over again!

Liz S

My three young adults (ages 21, 19 and 17) joined me at an evening dinner at Maria’s home, and it was absolutely superb! We so enjoyed the food — cooked with love, with care and with tremendous concern for teaching about the many traditional foods that can be found in the villages and the farms of this country. We were also joined by a couple who were travelling from the U.K,, so in addition to meeting Maria’s husband and family, we had a lively conversation under the grape vines in her back yard. It was excellent, worth every penny that it costs, and I would not hesitate to inform readers that if you skip this, you are skipping the gem of our trip. Delicious, social, entertaining and appropriate for any and all!


Toronto, Ontario, Canada

On my recent trip to Croatia, I and my friend wanted to eat peka. We intended to have it in a restaurant, but my Airbnb host recommended that we have the dish in a setting where we could experience the food in a domestic context, have other traditional food and drinks alongside the meal, and get the chance to talk about Croatian culture and cuisine with our hosts. Dubrovnik Food tours owner, Hamo Ovcina, efficiently and cheerfully made this cultural immersion possible the next day after I reached out to him by email, and thus enabled me to have one of the highlights of my trip. When we arrived at the meeting point at 8, we were promptly greeted by Marija Papak, who warmly welcomed us to her home and introduced us to her husband Zlatco, and later, her children. Marija has been gaining international attention, having been featured in National Geographic Traveler and the Wall Street Journal, and the experience we had shows how deserving she is of this exposure. We began the meal with local wines and liqueurs, one of the most memorable of which was rakija, a brandy made and infused by Marija herself with cherries. Zlatko showed us jars in production on the terrace, carefully marked by date of production. Alongside the wine were nuts, figs, and candied orange peel, also prepared by Marija. While Zlatco finished the peka over the hot coals (roasting takes a few hours) Marija served cheeses of different ages, thinly sliced Dalmatian prosciutto (Pršut ), begetables both fresh and picked and her own home-made bread, accompanied by infused olive oil. This was all delicious, and it was difficult not stop eating it, but I had to remember to leave room for the main dish and dessert to follow! The peka came next, and it was amazing—veal and lamb perfectly seasoned and roasted over a bed of potatoes, which absorbed the juices of the meal and were flavorful. This was definitely worth the wait. And finally, the dessert came, a cheese or cream pastry from around Zagreb, I believe; probably the best Croatian dessert I ate over my ten days visit. I must here say that the excellent food was only made better by the very excellent company of the Papak family, who were all friendly, conversational and kind, answering all the questions we asked of them and also curious about our lives and experiences. This is the kind of cultural exchange that the best of tourism is based on, and a very memorable 3 – 4 hours. It is definitely worth the money we paid, and I say that as someone who regularly goes on food tours when I travel.

Peter B

I was so excited to book this tour as many tours do not take or overcharge solo travelers. Dining at Marija and Zltako’s home was the highlight of my trip. I would not have remembered Croatia the same was if it wasn’t for this amazing family. They are comfortable, hospitable and fun! I was joined by another travelling couple and we ate until we couldn’t eat anymore. Everything was super fresh and home made, for example the one day old cheese we had. It was also my first time trying the cherry liquor which was also made by Marija. We watched the Croatia soccer match was sipped on wine until about 11PM when we headed out. Marija and Zlatko really enjoy company and there was no feeling of rush or “restaurant feel”. Seems like just a nice dinner with a few friends.

Mahsa S

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

This was the highlight of our trip to Dubrovnik. We loved every minute of it! It was such a unique experience and Marija and Zlatco are so genuinely kind and so happy to have you at their home. We started with trying their homemade cherry and walnut liquors – and grappa, of course! Then we had candied orange peels and figs – then a large charcuterie board with prosciutto and many local cheeses and salami – and grapes from right over our heads – they grow them! Marija also makes homemade bread which is probably the best bread I’ve ever had. I couldn’t stop eating it! We also had bacon wrapped plums which were definitely a highlight. And then came the pica which was absolutely phenomenal- they roasted lamb and potatoes and spices over coals in their backyard for three hours! I am still thinking about that dish weeks later. We thought we were done and we were so full – and then Marija gave us homemade pastries with apples and raisins in them and they were to die for! On top of the phenomenal food, the homemade red wine was flowing all night – we never had empty glasses! In addition to the unbelievable food and drinks – we also had so many fascinating conversations about Croatia and the war and their beliefs. Marija shared many things about her family – and we even got to meet her kids! We stayed very late and they continued to have so many conversations and fun things to say. We also did some dancing and laughed more than I thought possible! It was amazing – every single second of this. I can’t recommend it enough!!

Kerry Leary