“ Address: Gorica Sv. Vlaha 77 / 20000 Dubrovnik / Croatia „
We headed down the steep stone stairs after an afternoon of walking the walls. Dad had M&M on his shoulders, Little Brother had the guide book in hand and I lagged behind, taking a final few photos of the magnificent sunset over the Old Town.
"Found it", Little Brother announced, directing us along the shiny marble paving of the Stradum. Mea Culpa was apparently the best pizzeria in the whole of Dubrovnik according to Time Out and at six, we were all ready for an early dinner. There are five Mea Culpa restaurants in Dubrovnik in varying degrees between a café and full on restaurant and this was the Pizzeria, serving (obviously) pizza, pasta, risotto and salads. Turning down an alley, we came to the back of the restaurant and a narrow street full of seating. The tables belonging to Mea Culpa were mixed in with those for another restaurant and it took a minute to establish that the less comfortable and solid tables and chairs were unfortunately the ones we needed.
M&M flopped down into the seat, dislodging the thin hard cushion which fell to the floor. She was hungry. 'Really hungry' and 'very hungry', because every sentence is currently filled with superlatives and it had been a very long time since lunch. The four of us sat and waited, occasionally catching the eye of the waiter until I got up and rescued some menus from a nearby table. This somehow stirred him into action and he came and took our drinks order.
The drinks arrived a bit on the warm side and without ice, the restaurant wasn't busy and we had time to appreciate the surroundings before the order was taken. There was no view other than the cramped tables and it wasn't the cleanest area, with litter on the street between the tables. This in itself was surprising given that the rest of Dubrovnik is immaculate. The kitchen door opened out right next to our table and at one point during our meal, one of the metal bars from this door came loose, narrowly missing the man at the next table.
Eventually cornering the waiter, we ordered pizzas (the house speciality after all) which came huge and hot. They were nice enough, but nothing special, with the toppings whole in the centre, continental style, rather than chopped and scattered. Mine was a vegetarian one, with asparagus, the pale Croatian peppers and sweet corn and M&M and I, though hungry, only finished about half. Dad and Little Brother had a more meaty one each, which they said were ok. A plus point was that the cheese was on top of the toppings, sealing them in and keeping them warm (I hate it when they put the cheese on first in that lazy Dominos way).
M&M and Dad began to squabble cheerfully, their ongoing game of the day was for each of them to declare ownership of everything. For example 'My chair' would be countered with 'No, it's MY chair'. At this point they'd moved onto Dad saying 'It's MY fault' and M&M insisting sincerely that it was hers amid a fit of giggles. Funnily enough, I said I thought Mea Culpa was in fact the Latin phrase for 'My Fault'. I was later to find out via Google that it can also be used to mean (even more appropriately) 'My Mistake'.
It was all an ok-ish kind of meal, but of all the meals we had in Dubrovnik, this was the most hyped and least special. If this was the best pizza available, I felt sorry for the local inhabitants. In fact, the pizzas at the restaurant next door looked suspiciously better. Prices were around 80 -90 Kuna for a pizza, which compared to other restaurants was on the expensive side. For far less than we paid here for three pizzas, two lemonades and a beer, we enjoyed a sumptuous and more central three course meal the following night at a much nicer and cleaner restaurant.
M&M and I went to the toilets, only to find the one cubicle so cramped and disgusting that I opted to hold on and she preferred to change her nappy in the street. The toilet was utterly smeared and the sanitary bin overflowing. The waiter seemed irritated to be dragged away from his sycophantic photo shoot with a large group of diners opposite. Obviously he was hoping for a tip that reflected their numbers. He bought the bill without offering any coffees or desserts and we had no desire to soak up the atmosphere.
The company was delightful and the pizza adequate, yes. But based on the unspeakably awful toilets and very poor service, I wouldn't recommend it in the slightest. There are a great many cheaper and better meals available within a minute's walk.
We left, into a warm comfortable twilight, feeling full at least.
Walking along Siroka Street in the old city of Dubrovnik, we came along a terrace that was absolutely full of tables and people tucking away at pizzas as large as flying saucers. There was a slight breeze in the air and I couldn't decide whether to sit on the terrace or go inside the restaurant. An amber glow from a Tiffany lamp caught my eye so I had a peep inside the door and the sight of the interior of the restaurant bowled me over. I was sold with the warm colours and the ambience and in we went to find a table for two.
The restaurant inside is seperated by a long bar on the left and the seating area on the right with an archway at the back where you can watch the happy chefs throw pizza bases in the air and then place them into the large oven on a long handled wooden type of shovel.
The overall look of the restaurant is rustic with wooden beams, antique tables and chairs being the dominant features which is very attractive in an old fashioned way. The walls are white and decorated with wooden masks, and scenes of Dubrovnik. Tiffany lamps filled the room with a mellow light and some candles were softly burning.
The head waiter promptly showed us to a table in the central area which had a wooden railing decorated with garlands of bourganvilla. A candle was burning from the top of an old wine bottle. It reminded me of when I was a student and used to use wine bottles for lamps by inserting candles in the top. I have always loved bottles covered in candlewax. There is something medieval about it and I guess you can't get any more medieval than Dubrovnik.
The menu consists mainly of pizzas and various salads with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. The selection of pizza flavours was quite extensive but I didn't spot any variety that I haven't noticed at other pizzerias'.
Usually we order one large pizza to share with a salad but on this occasion went wild and ordered two different varieties. My choice was a Hawajska pizza with bacon, ham and pineapple and my husband ordered a Quattro Staggioni which consisted of ham., salami, mushrooms and peppers. To accompany the pizzas we ordered a pitcher of house red wine.
While we were waiting for the meal to arrive we had two small beers which went down a treat and were delicious. The ambience in the restaurant was buzzing and very busy to say the time was only just after 8.30. The terrace outside was already filling up too and was a little noisy but not too bad. It all added to the fun.
The pizzas arrived on a large wooden board each and they had already been gently sliced into triangles.
Before tucking into my Hawajska I admired the colour and the thinness of the base. To touch the base was soft and fluffy - always a good sign. I was also pleased to see that the base hadn't been completely soaked in tomato puree as this sometimes puts me off - it was just the right amount. The bacon was curled up into tiny rolls and was crisp and well cooked. The slices of ham were a bit on the thin side and a little salty but okay and the pineapple was delicious mixed with the melted cheese. I had no complaints.
My husband's Quattro Staggioni was also excellent. The bacon and salami were tasty and the ham was the same as on my pizza so again too thin for him but he loved the mushrooms and they were sliced just the right size for him as he is a bit fussy about the size of mushrooms. The most dominant pepper was yellow so I think he was a little disappointed as he would have liked a bit more red pepper. Overall, though he said it was very enjoyable, light and airy and he didn't feel too full after he had finished eating.
I did peep at the people on the table in front of ours and they seemed to have ordered a vegetarian pizza between two people. It was enormous and filled to the top with all sorts of vegetables including asparagus but I bet they were tinned asparagus because I have never come across fresh asparagus all the years I have been visiting Croatia. Still they ate it all and seemed to enjoy the meal.
The wine was very smooth if a bit tannic but came served in an earthenware jug. The glasses were very pretty - a lovely royal blue colour. Very majestic.
Music wise - I found it all a bit hectic. Behind the bar are rows and rows of cassettes and CD's and by the end of the night I felt like the waiters had played every tape. Most of the music played was rock music which is okay in small doses but can get a bit monotonous after a while.
So to sum up the Mea Culpa restaurant in Dubrovnik I would say that it is a very attractive restaurant inside with beautiful lamps and a warm ambience and outside on the cobbled street is a bustling dining area that seats about 50 or 60 people. The pizzas are delicious and really are like Mama makes them - soft and fluffy bases with lots of filling and not too much tomato puree.
Expect to pay around £4 - £5 for a large pizza and 10 euros for a bottle of the local wine which is drinkeable and nothing special. But then you are eating in one of the most picturesque and oldest cities of Europe.