Restaurant Perla: A Hidden Pearl in Izola


A definite must-stop on your next visit to Izola is Restaurant Perla, elegantly nestled between the fishing port and Manzioli Square. Run by the enthusiastic 27-year-old Dibran Zyba, this special spot will captivate you with the aroma of seafood and the relaxing atmosphere created by the Istrian seaside décor. The friendly staff will make you feel at home. Read the interview to find out what the young restaurant owner had to say about this hidden gem in Izola.

Restaurant Perla is a brand-new authentic story of the flavors of Izola. Given that it is still relatively unknown, tell us when did you open and what was the process of renovation like?

Yesterday (17 March 2023), we celebrated one year since opening! I took over the space toward the end of December 2022, and we began renovations immediately afterward. We've done everything from plastering to stonework, tiling, and equipment upgrades … Practically everything has been adapted to our needs. We completed the renovations in a relatively short time – just over two months, and I would really like to thank my whole family for helping me.

You've chosen the Istrian style …

Yes, that's right. We are in Istria after all. The rustic style evokes a sense of homeliness. My wish was for people to feel at home here. Wood and stone dominate the space. I think it's neat yet simple. We opted for that eternally trendy Istrian style.  

You're using plural: what is your team like, how many members does it have?

Well, it's not a big team; there are currently three of us because it's still the off-season. I manage the place and oversee the kitchen, including food preparation. During the high season, or even now on weekends, we need additional help – both in the kitchen and in service. Working in a restaurant isn't easy, so it's challenging to find staff. The hours aren't ideal, and the work isn't easy... but it can be truly rewarding if you enjoy it.

How long have you personally been in the hospitality business, and what do you like most about it?

I was trained for this profession in high school, where I gained my first experience. I've been navigating these waters for over ten years if I count my internship. I've honed my skills in various restaurants in Slovenian Istria, such as Life Class and Steak House Montagu in Portorož, Gušt and Bujol in Izola. I've also worked in Lipica, Karjola in Marezige, at the Karst Edge, and spent two months in Switzerland... But the common thread among all the places where I trained was Mediterranean cuisine, which is also where my expertise lies.

»I really enjoy cooking, and what I appreciate most about my profession is the opportunity to learn every day. Each day presents new challenges as I discover new ingredients, flavors, dishes, and meet new people. It's by no means a monotonous job.«

You're still in the role of a chef in Perla, but it's also your first time running a business. What's that been like?

The transition from working in a restaurant to running a business is quite significant, I must admit. Previously, my focus was solely on the kitchen, but now the situation is different. While I'm still heavily involved in the kitchen, I also handle various other tasks, including waiting on tables and attending to guests. Additionally, there's team management to consider. I no longer have a set schedule; I practically work the entire day. Even when I'm not physically in the restaurant, I'm often thinking about it. There's a lot more responsibility involved. But despite the challenges, I have to say that I'm enjoying it. I've always enjoyed working with people and managing a team. I'm confident they would say I'm a good boss (laughs). Having worked in a restaurant myself, I understand the wishes and needs of my team, and I strive to accommodate them as much as possible.

»I don't want to be just the boss, but mainly a colleague and a friend.«

How would you describe Perla? What makes it stand out in comparison to other restaurants in Izola?

The name Perla is connected to its location – the restaurant is situated close to the sea yet still retains a sense of being somewhat hidden, hence the allusion to a hidden gem, a pearl. The name is also tied to the sea in other senses – our menu is predominantly seafood-based. We wanted the restaurant to harmonize with its surroundings and crafted our offerings accordingly. Izola has a rich history as a fishing town, and we sought to honor this tradition by focusing on fresh sea fish in our menu. Additionally, we prioritize personalized service, striving to cater to the needs of each and every guest.

To what extent do you follow sustainable practices such as working with local suppliers and managing waste? Can you provide some examples?

One of our key practices is sourcing fresh produce from local suppliers. Like many restaurants in Izola, we adhere to the Zero Kilometer guidelines whenever possible. Our fish is supplied by local fishermen in Izola, which means that what's on the menu today may not necessarily be on the menu tomorrow. Our menu depends on the season and the daily catch, and we try to minimize waste in the kitchen.

What are your favorite local ingredients, and how do you incorporate them into your dishes?

Everything revolves around fresh fish, and our dishes are crafted based on the availability of the catch. However, I would definitely highlight our homemade olive oil, which we produce ourselves. Additionally, we take pride in making our own pasta – Istrian fuži being a particular favorite. We source the produce locally … so it’s a combination of ingredients that define Mediterranean cuisine. Some examples of our signature dishes include olive soup, fuži with baccalà and truffles (Istrian pasta with codfish and truffles), cuttlefish with fennel, and of course, seasonal fish paired with a vegetable side dish.


Based on the menu described above, we can somehow understand that Perla is a kind of fusion of Mediterranean and Istrian cuisine. How do you assess the importance of preserving traditional dishes in modern times?

I think it's important to preserve tradition. At the same time, this type of cuisine, both Mediterranean and Istrian, is also very healthy. Eating fresh fish, vegetables from nearby gardens, homemade olive oil... These are all our strengths that are worth preserving. Izola welcomes many tourists, which also gives us an opportunity to showcase our cuisine.


Which Istrian specialties would you recommend to visitors who want to try authentic local cuisine and traditional recipes?

To start with, I would suggest baccalà (codfish spread) and štorte (olives from native Istrian olive varieties). For the main course, I would recommend cuttlefish goulash with baked polenta, which is a really traditional in the region. For dessert, there's Refosco cake, as Istria is also famous for its extremely good wines.

» I would describe the heart and soul of Perla in three words: fresh, simple, and tasty. «

A year has passed since Perla was first opened. What are your thoughts and plans for the future?

Our intention is to continue upholding the vision we've established – to be renowned for our fresh fish offerings. Additionally, we aim to attract as many local guests as possible, not solely focusing on tourists and visitors. We envision working year-round and fostering strong connections within the local community. Our desire to operate throughout the year is also driven by our commitment to providing employment opportunities 365 days a year, rather than solely during peak tourist seasons.

What would you say is the main factor that keeps guests coming back? What is most important in creating an unforgettable experience?

I would say it's the relaxed ambience, the attitude towards guests, the simplicity and, of course, the quality of the food. People are becoming more and more aware that local produce is very important. At the same time, they like dishes to be simple, healthy and, above all, to taste their basic flavor - meaning they should be as natural as possible, without any additional additives.

There is indeed a demand for authentic flavors, and people are increasingly concerned about consuming healthy food. How is Perla adapting to food trends such as vegetarianism, veganism, or gluten-free diets?

As we primarily focus on Mediterranean and Istrian cuisine, our current selection for vegans and vegetarians is somewhat limited. However, we can certainly prepare tasty dishes to accommodate them, ensuring they leave satisfied. While it's not our primary focus at the moment, I admit that we are considering expanding this aspect of our menu in the future. The trend towards plant-based diets is growing, and we recognize the need to adapt over time. We haven’t experienced significant demand for these options yet, but we anticipate potential shifts in the long term.

We've almost reached the end of this pleasant conversation. What would you say to tourists and visitors who are visiting Izola and are considering coming to Perla?

Come, indulge and enjoy our delicious seafood and a glass of local wine - both inside the restaurant and on our sunny terrace.

And finally, a few interesting facts about our interviewee Dibran Zyba:

If I were one of the seafood dishes, I would be: a Mediterranean scallop.

An experience in Izola I really enjoy is: a boat trip to the sea.

Something I always recommend to my guests is: a stroll from the Archaeological Park to the lighthouse.

My favorite event is Izola is: Fishermen's Fest.

My favorite free time activity is: riding a motorbike.

TIC Izola +386 5 640 10 50
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