The origins of pizza in Split are poorly documented. Despite popular belief and the proximity to Italy, the first pizzerias opened in former Yugoslavia reportedly only date to 1970s. Italian historian Francesca Rolandi has argued that the first pizzeria in Yugoslavia was Pizzeria Parma, opened in Ljubljana in 1973. Milorad Stošljević of Novi Sad, present-day Serbia, has reportedly opened the second one in his home town later in the same year. Claims that the appearance of pizzerias in Zagreb pre-dates these two have been so far been unsubstantiated.
So when did the first pizza come to Split? Of the still extant restaurants, both Varoš-based Pizeria Galija, and Trattoria Mlin from the nearby Žrnovnica claim to be the earliest pizzerias in town. Similarly, Bakra, which lays a claim as one of the earliest eateries in town, having first been in operation back in 1948, only became a pizzeria in 1984. The rise of popularity of pizza in whole of Croatia can be traced well in the 1980s, when a number of new places sprung up throughout the country, perhaps partially influenced by a touristic boom and the great influence and interest in the western culture that had been fermenting since the 70s. Popular memory recalls that pizza was already available in Split in the late 1970s and arguments have been made that pizza was served at Ispod Ure (lit. ‘under the clock, referring to the clock tower at Pjaca‘) already in 1975/6.
Whether that is true or not, it is apparent, particularly through the traditions of the older pizzerias in town, that pizza did not come to Split from Naples or Southern Italy. The Neapolitan style of pizza was virtually non-existent locally until 2017 when Zagreb-based brand opened, the now already closed, O’Hara, which was immediately followed by the opening of Bokamorra. In fact, the pan-Dalmatian version of pizza, beloved in Split, was a derivative of the so-called Roman-style pizza, characterized by slightly thicker dough and thinner crust, with generally more toppings.
Despite the potentially misleading name, the first pizzerias of the region were not inspired by Roman pizzerias, but rather, their influence most certainly came from Trieste, the largest seaport in northeastern Italy. The city of Trieste was the closest Italian large city to the Yugoslav border, and as such attracted hundreds of thousands Yugoslav shoppers looking to buy goods, particularly trendy clothes popular in the west (e.g. jeans trousers), that were at that time either expensive or unavailable in Yugoslavian stores. Though Split-evidence is obscure, Milorad Stošljević, the founder of the second oldest pizzeria in Yugoslavia, has himself admitted Trieste as a point of origin of his pizza endeavor.
The most popular topping in Dalmatian pizzerias, the ‘pizza capricciosa’, often found under the name ‘miješana’ (lit. ‘the mixed one’), and best described as the ‘default option’ for many Dalmatians, comes in its Dalmatian iteration with tomato sauce, oregano, cheese (usually Gouda), baked ham, mushrooms and, occasionally, olives. It differs from the Italian pizzas with the same name in two things: first of all, the absence of mozzarella that was, at the time when pizza first came, in the 70s and 80s, unavailable for purchase and thus had to be replaced by commercially available cheese and, secondly, by the absence of the artichoke, whose consumption never did enjoy much popularity in Dalmatia, certainly not compared to Italy.
Today, like elsewhere in the world, pizza is probably the most popular dish in Dalmatia. Though less than 50 years have passed since its introduction into the culinary scene of Split, it is almost impossible to image that the dish was once thought to be so repugnant by the early visitors to the first Yugoslavian pizzerias that they have reportedly often had returned it after just a couple of bites.
In a sea of choice now available to even the most casual of pizza-eaters in Split, we have carefully selected, the best and most popular six pizzerias in the Old Town whose pizza-making tradition has had significant impact on the modern appearance of pizza in Split. For this purposes, in the honor of the favorite choice of Dalmatians everywhere, we have devised the Capricciosa Index, which gauges the average price range of each individual pizzeria on the basis of their price for ‘pizza capriciossa’, the staple of all Split pizzerias. The index is based on the price of capricciosa at Pizzeria Gušt who charge the lowly 48 HRK and are given a Capricciosa Index of 1.00. All the other pizzerias are indexed relative to Gušt’s based price, enabling you to quickly approximate their individual price ranges.
So without further ado, we present: the six best pizzerias in Split by SplitCurated.
The 6 BEST Pizzerias in Split (From least to most expensive)
(Click on the name or the picture to see the restaurant’s details and contact information.)
With the basic Capricciosa Index of 1.00, Pizzeria Gušt is the least expensive pizzeria in the Old Town. Located on the outer edge of the Old Town, in the Dobri neighbourhood that is not the site many travellers walk to see, Gušt is one of the longest running pizzerias in the city that traces its origins to 1995. Offering a possible town-high of 22 topping options, on the classic Dalmatian-style dough, Gušt is guaranteed to have a little something for even the most picky of pizza lovers.
Tucked away behind a mazy pathway around the corner from Marmontova Street, entering Pizzeria Maslina might feel like going into Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. Reminiscent of the taverns usually found in smaller Dalmatian fishing towns, Pizzeria Maslina is one of Split’s warmest pizza-places. Unpretentious, down to earth and outright delicious, Maslina offers a variety of Dalmatian-styled pizzas as well as a number of ‘konoba’ specials. With a Capricciosa Index of 1,22 is offers a fairly good value for money.
One of the relative newcomers to the scene, Pizzeria Portas has managed to put itself on the pizza map of Split. Just around the corner from the magnificent Golden Gates of Diocletian’s Palace, and with the Capricciosa Index of 1.35, Portas’ Dalmatian-style pizza with a plenty of topping possibility is the middle of the road option among the local pizza places. The pizzeria’s main highlight is its lovely outdoor terrace, snuggled underneath lusciously green vine offering a cool shade in the scorching Dalmatian summer days.
Basta Gourmet Bar is a pizzeria slash cocktail bar located on the brink of Split’s Western Waterfront where you can enjoy the great view of Split’s port all the while enjoying their selection of Neapolitan-style pizzas and pagnottielli sandwiches in a casual, café-like setting. With a Capriciossa index of 1.41, Basta is in the cheapest the three pizzerias in the higher echelon of prices-though here you get a fully authentic pizza experience, with Italian-sourced produce and mozzarella.
Boasting with the tradition as one of the oldest eateries in town, Bakra has been opened as a pizzeria from as early as 1984. Located in the small street in the old neighborhood of Toć, few hundred meters to the Old Town, Bakra serves excellent Dalmatian-style pizzas. Since its rebrand in 2018, it has become one of the most popular restaurants in town, expanding their offer well beyond pizzas. With the Capricciosa Index of 1.54, Bakra is one of the pricier pizzerias in our selection, though still well inexpensive relative to the average price of a meal in Split restaurants around the Old Town.
Last but not the least is Bokamorra, self-stylized as Pizzaurant, a sumptuous hybrid of a pure Neapolitan-style pizzeria set in the upscale fine dining setting. With the Capricciosa Index of 1.55, Bokamorra is the highest priced of the six, though still very reasonably priced in relation to the other restaurants in town. At offer are a variety of pizza standards like the Margherita and the new Dalmatian-favorite Shrimp pizza, though menu is carried by pizzas built of the otherwise exotic topping choices like black truffles or mortadella with the arugula, pistachio and basil pesto. With the widest palette of colorful topping choices, Bokamorra is a must-visit for foodies looking to try one of their unusual topping options.