Restaurateurs, Producers in Croatia Debate Charging Extra for Local Olive Oils

Croatia' award-winning producers would like more restaurants to serve local extra virgin olive oils.
By Nedjeljko Jusup
Aug. 16, 2023 16:08 UTC

Despite the ris­ing pro­file of Croatian extra vir­gin olive oil on the inter­na­tional stage, restau­rants in the coun­try con­tinue to serve lower-qual­ity imported olive oils on their tables.

Olive grow­ers in the coun­try are increas­ingly debat­ing why this is the case and whether it would be dif­fer­ent if restau­rants added a sur­charge for serv­ing local extra vir­gin olive oil.

I am absolutely against oil being charged sep­a­rately in restau­rants… Restaurants should show their guests what the right oil is, in terms of taste, and espe­cially in terms of health.- Petar Perković, Dalmatian olive farmer and tourism offi­cial

It is not easy to pro­duce high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil, and it is even more dif­fi­cult to find a con­sumer,” said Ivica Vlatković, an award-win­ning pro­ducer and pres­i­dent of a local olive grower asso­ci­a­tion.

That is why we need to change the prac­tice in hos­pi­tal­ity,” he added. Kudos to the excep­tions, but most of our restau­rants and tav­erns do not yet offer high-qual­ity domes­tic oils.”

See Also:In Greece, Olive Oil Remains Absent from Restaurant and Tavern Tables

Vlatković said he recently vis­ited a restau­rant in Jazine, a town in Zadar county, for the first time. While the food delighted him, Vlatković was less impressed by the olive oil and asked the restau­rant owner why there was no locally-pro­duced extra vir­gin olive oil to pair with her home­made del­i­ca­cies.

The owner responded that it was too expen­sive to put out extra vir­gin olive oil bot­tles as if they were salt or pep­per shak­ers.

Vlatković sug­gested that she place small olive oil bot­tles on each table instead of the usual 250 or 500-mil­li­liter bot­tles.

A small bot­tle of 100 mil­li­liters with a pour spot could be served when the guests sit at the table before receiv­ing their main dishes,” he said. Briefly explain to them that it is an extra vir­gin qual­ity oil they can use while the dish they are wait­ing for is served.”

Vlatković sug­gested that restau­rant patrons use the olive oil with bread or their meals and take the rest of the bot­tle with them after­ward. The cost of the olive oil bot­tle could be paid through a small cover charge on the final bill.

If the cus­tomers do not want to take the bot­tle, Vlatković said a smaller cover charge could be applied to the bill, and the olive oil could be brought back to the kitchen and stored for culi­nary pur­poses.


Award-winning olive grower Ivica Vlatković

He believes this is one of the best ways to develop olive oil cul­ture and reduce the amount of adul­ter­ated and low-qual­ity olive oil in cir­cu­la­tion in the country’s bars and restau­rants.

While some restau­rants have opposed the idea of charg­ing for the olive oil, Vlatković said this does a dis­ser­vice to pro­duc­ers. He believes that giv­ing the olive oil away for free implies it has no worth to those who make or sell it, which sub­con­sciously impacts the con­sumer.

Unlike Vlatković, Petar Perković, a Dalmatian tourism offi­cial and an olive afi­cionado, has an oppo­site opin­ion about charg­ing for olive oil.

Restaurants should show their guests what the right oil is, in terms of taste, and espe­cially in terms of health,” he said. Then they should advise the guest which oil goes best with fish, meat, veg­eta­bles, etc. Let the guest learn, they will be grate­ful, but they should not be charged for it.”

Perković has trav­eled the world but said that only once, on the Croatian island of Pag a few years ago, was he charged for 100 mil­li­liters of oil.

Perković said the waiter brought him fish with­out oil. When he asked for some olive oil, the waiter asked how much he wanted. Well, as much as it takes,” Perković recalled. The waiter brought him a 100-mil­li­liter bot­tle and charged him 30 Croatian Kuna (about €4 at the time).


I am absolutely against oil being charged sep­a­rately in restau­rants,” Perković stressed. A restau­rant is nei­ther a kiosk, store or OPG.”

Instead, Perković believes restau­rants should offer extra vir­gin olive oil and explain to the guest its health ben­e­fits and organolep­tic qual­i­ties.


There is no charge for oil in the restaurant Pjat.

Regardless of whether they believe din­ers should pay for it, the gen­eral con­sen­sus among pro­duc­ers is that restau­rants should be extra vir­gin olive oil ambas­sadors and help build the cul­ture in Croatia.

Knowledge about good olive oil is miss­ing,” said Perković, who has an olive grove in Ljubče, near Zadar, with 101 mostly local olive trees.

It is inter­est­ing to hear how suc­cess­ful restau­ra­teurs also think about this.

Leo Mialić, the owner of Pjat in Zadar, offers guests three types of extra vir­gin olive oil free of charge.

The oil reaches the table first,” Mialić said. When the guests are seated, he brings a plate and small pieces of bread to dip in the olive oil before the ordered dish arrives.

I try to have three cat­e­gories of oil: robust, medium and del­i­cate,” he said.

In addi­tion to Ol Istria from the olive groves of the Istrian Lagoon, there are also award-win­ning OPG Kutija oils and OPG Baradić from north­ern Dalmatia.

Pjat only serves tra­di­tional Dalmatian dishes made from meat from local butch­ers, veg­eta­bles from the mar­ket and fresh fish from the fish­mon­ger.


Fresh and local is the for­mula that has brought the restau­rant reg­u­lar, mostly local guests, and new ones arrive every day.

From abroad, guests from the Kolovare and Bastion hotels come on rec­om­men­da­tion, and the land­lords also rec­om­mend Pjat to those who ask where they can eat well,” Mialić said.

Every day we pre­pare tripe, Venetian liver from lamb and calf liver, stews, stuffed pep­pers, eel brudet, fried fish from the day’s catch,” said Anita Mialić, Leo’s wife who cooks at the restau­rant.

A lot of olive oil goes into all dishes and sal­ads, but Mijalići does not charge for it.

What is spent on salad sea­son­ings and food ingre­di­ents, we try to cal­cu­late into the final price, based on pur­chase prices,” the cou­ple said.

Mate Ražov, the owner of another restau­rant, Maranovi Dvor in Sukošan, has a sim­i­lar view. The only dif­fer­ence is that Ražov offers guests its award-win­ning extra vir­gin olive oil.

Since the begin­ning, we have only offered home­made pizza, drinks and our own extra vir­gin olive oil,” said Ražov, who has 200 olive trees in full bloom in Škabrnja in Ravni Kotar. Half are of the Oblica vari­ety, and the other half are Leccino and Pendolino.

With a yield of 15 per­cent from last year’s har­vest, we got 600 liters of oil, Ražov said, adding that he expects even more oil from his olives in the com­ing years.

His oil recently won awards at two local com­pe­ti­tions, but Ražov said he is not rest­ing on his lau­rels.

I don’t com­pete for prizes,” Ražov said. My fam­ily and I do not per­ceive the cham­pi­onship cup as a vic­tory or a prize but as a con­fir­ma­tion of the qual­ity of work.”

Ražov does not charge extra for the extra vir­gin olive oil he serves at the restau­rant.

Each table boasts an ele­gant bot­tle of 250 mil­li­liters and other sea­son­ings. The table set­tings leave the impres­sion that its owner makes a spe­cial effort to bring extra vir­gin olive oils closer to guests.

When they taste it, many guests want to buy a bot­tle,” Ražov said. Especially sailors from the Zlatna Luka marina and oth­ers as well. For the most part, we have no prob­lems with sell­ing oil.”

The restau­ran­teur has not con­sid­ered charg­ing for smaller indi­vid­ual bot­tles of olive oil to be brought home by each guest but warned that charg­ing for olive oil could be a dou­ble-edged sword.

I would rather donate the oil than sell it that way,” he said. Instead, Ražov reflects on the lib­eral use of olive oil in the cook­ing process and on the tables in the price of his menu items.

It is impor­tant that the prices are real­is­tic, that they cor­re­spond to the qual­ity of what is offered, and that the guest is sat­is­fied,” he added.

Extra vir­gin olive oils are just mak­ing their way into the hos­pi­tal­ity indus­try. The expe­ri­ences of Matan Dvori and Pjat can serve as an exam­ple and guide.

Both restau­rants offer home­made del­i­ca­cies, drinks and local extra vir­gin olive oil. They have a good rep­u­ta­tion; they work all year round – not only dur­ing the tourist sea­son, as many oth­ers do. With their qual­ity, they attracted domes­tic and for­eign guests, which is how they suc­ceeded.

This is rem­i­nis­cent of the sit­u­a­tion with local wines about 20 years ago,” Mialić said. It did­n’t work until young oenol­o­gists broke the ice’ with their actions, clar­i­fy­ing how to pro­duce, store, label and mar­ket qual­ity wines.”

When wine pro­duc­ers accepted the les­son, restau­ra­teurs got involved lit­tle by lit­tle, so now qual­ity domes­tic wines are no longer a rar­ity on the tables of cater­ing estab­lish­ments,” he added.


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