Never mind that Dubrovnik is tucked into one of Westchester’s busiest thoroughfares. Once you step inside, downtown New Rochelle disappears in a flash and you’re on vacation in Croatia, sitting at a tranquil spot along the Adriatic Sea.
The restaurant, named after owner Zeljko Tomic’s hometown, is far more spacious than it looks from the street. Inside the main dining room, there’s a nautical feel, with white stone walls and mahogany accents. This time of year, you can also enjoy the quiet patio out back, where a wood-burning brick oven produces grilled fish and seafood year-round.
On busy nights, there’s another seating option too: a downstairs dining room, with doors that open to a vegetable garden that grows basil, tomatoes, eggplant and more.
Fish and seafood are the star attractions here, and you’ll have help making your selection: Soon after you sit down, a waiter presents a large platter of the day’s catch on ice, a lobster resting in the middle. If you’re not comfortable eating a whole fish, they’ll debone it for you tableside, putting the skin back on top, so you’re not losing any of that charred goodness.
Meat-eaters will be happy here too: There are lots of choices, including chicken, lamb chops, steak, pork loin and pasta.
Dishes here are simple and bright, prepared with a light touch so the fresh ingredients shine, just as you’d get in a good Mediterranean restaurant. Whether you’re looking for a hearty stew, or in the mood for a salad and a piece of grilled fish, you’ll find something you like on the menu.
What we tried
Grilled calamari: If you’ve only had sliced fried calamari, you’re in for a treat. The garlicky-buttery squid is grilled in large pieces, and served alongside a lightly dressed cabbage salad. You’ll need a knife to slice it up into rings, but it’s so tender, it’s a breeze. We ordered it after a couple at a neighboring table told us we couldn’t pass it up. We agreed: it’s a must-try.
Veal stew: Tender cubes of slow-cooked meat are prepared just the way your grandmother would have made it — if she was a great cook with a sophisticated touch. The veal is served on top of homemade gnocchi, hearty and yet delicate at the same time.
Grilled branzino: After looking at all the fresh fish on that pile of ice, I went with what was familiar to me: branzino. The waiter deboned it for me, demonstrating the technique as I watched. The fish was just perfect, with bits of garlic along the skin, and served with kale and potatoes.
Drinks and dessert
There’s an interesting wine list here, with lots of choices of reds and whites from Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Spain and California. Inventive drinks include a fresh cucumber cocktail, a chocolate martini and a berry lemonade with vodka.
The dessert menu features Croatian-style crepes with an assortment of fillings, homemade flan, a wine-soaked poached pear served with ice cream and a chocolate mousse cake. We tried the kremsnita, a flaky Croatian puff pastry filled with vanilla custard — delightfully light, but filling enough to share.
Couples and some families with older children. The acoustics are great here, and even when it’s busy, the noise level is low. Go here on a date; you’ll appreciate the romantic lighting.
One of the special dishes on the menu, Under the Bell, refers to a cooking technique that allows for assorted meats and vegetables to be cooked together in the brick oven, under a dome. You’ll need to order this 24 hours in advance — so call ahead if it sounds intriguing.
What we will order next
We’d love to try lunch on the patio one weekend, and sample the marinated sardines, the grilled vegetables and the octopus salad. Tables have umbrellas, and fall is a great time to dine outdoors.
New Roc City, with its 18-screen movie theater, is just a few minutes away. If you need to go shopping, there’s a Home Depot and a Costco just down the road, but maybe do that before you eat. You won’t be in the mood afterward.
THE 411 on DUBROVNIK
Entree price range: $17 – $32 (lobster can be higher)
Great for: Date Night, Going Out on Mondays, Romantic, Dinner with Grandparents, Outdoor Dining (Patio), Special Occasion Dining.
Noise level: Moderate
Hours: 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, until 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, noon – 9 p.m. Sunday
Go: 721 Main St., New Rochelle, 914-637-3777, www.dubrovnikny.com.