Morfar: Spectacular Argentine Empanadas Take Over Split

Total Croatia News

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Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich
Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich

In my 27 years of life, I’ve never heard so much anticipation over a food joint opening before. Weeks before it happened, all I’d heard was “hey, did you know an Argentine empanada place is opening soon in Split?” After its long-awaited opening on June 21, all the people I knew in Split were telling me, ”have you tried Morfar’s empanadas yet? They are spectacular!”. As a Peruvian, I understand what it is to feel proud of your gastronomy. And as a foreigner living in Croatia, I have learned to appreciate the efforts of people like me looking to make a place for themselves, and even more so if they can bring something from their country along the way. I not only wanted to try these famous Argentinian empanadas but also to know the history behind this initiative.

Just a few meters from the theater in Split, I find myself in Morfar. My first impression when I got to know the place for the first time was simple. ”This is the unofficial embassy of Argentina in Croatia”, I thought. The popular Argentine tango is heard on the speakers, a screen that can be seen from the street shows landscapes of Argentine Patagonia, and most importantly, anyone who passes by can see the warm empanadas on the counter. Inside, a variety of Argentine products are displayed on a shelf: fernet, dulce de leche, alfajores, yerba to prepare the popular mate, and Argentine wine. In a refrigerator, there are cold Quilmes beers and the popular chocotorta. Argentine flags and photos signed by legendary football players from the city of Rosario hang on the walls. “This is the unofficial embassy of Argentina in Croatia,” I think again.


Santiago, owner of Morfar. (Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich)

For those not familiar with Argentine empanadas, these are a type of baked or fried turnovers filled with a variety of savory ingredients and baked or fried. They are best eaten when they are still warm, and at any time of the day. Ideal for eating on the go, or even at home. At the counter is the charismatic Santiago Nieto, founder of Morfar. He not only makes sure that he treats all of his clients with love but also takes care of the marketing and promotion of his business. On this particular occasion, he also gave up some of his time (between multiple sold empanadas) to chat with Total Croatia News about the recently opened Morfar.

So you guys finally opened up Morfar!

We did, yes. We had planned to open on Monday the 20th, the day of the Argentine flag, but we had some bureaucratic problems, we ran out of electricity, so we had to solve it quickly and that is how we moved it to the next day, Tuesday the 21st. We had already organized an inauguration in style with music, percussion, and cymbals, as is usually celebrated in Argentina, but in the end, something more improvised and intimate with close friends came out, and it was still very good for us.


Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich

Do you have Croatian ancestry? Tell us more about your connection to Croatia.

Yes, I do. I have family that lives here, but the one who migrated to Argentina was my great-grandfather at the beginning of the last century, in 1908 if I remember correctly. Hence my grandfather always told me about Croatia. My father’s last name is Nieto, but my mother’s name is Karaman, like the cinema in Split. They always told me about Croatia, but to me, as a child, it always seemed like something very far away and distant. It was not until I finished college and wanted to explore the world that I began to think about which place could open more doors for me, and later I came to Croatia through the scholarship offered by the Central State Office for Croats Abroad to study the Croatian language in Zagreb, which helped me to obtain my citizenship as well. This is how I arrived in 2018, 4 years ago, I studied the language in Zagreb, quickly obtained my citizenship, and after that, I came to Split where my family is from. I have two aunts here, my mother’s second cousins, and cousins everywhere, and the truth is that they sort of adopted me and made me feel very comfortable, and that’s how I stayed.


Santiago Nieto, David Folis, and Valeria Garcés, the masterminds behind Morfar.. (Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich)

So you haven’t been back to Argentina since then.

I returned to Argentina to get my degree. I came with my degree finished, but not with my thesis finished. Once here, I felt that I was getting very comfortable and I said to myself: ”you did five years of your degree, finish your thesis, and graduate”. This is how I put my life in Croatia on pause and returned to Argentina. Unexpectedly, COVID-19 appeared and what was initially five months in my country ended up being a year and a half. I finally came back in March of last year. A year and four months ago.

And how was your return to Croatia? How was the idea of Morfar born?

In 2021 I started to work in Marketing for Fig Restaurants, and on the other hand also in a restaurant called Republic Square, which has already closed in Split. So I was with Fig that season and the truth is that it was something that also motivated me a lot and I saw how a place was run, since I never worked in gastronomy. And being next to Geoff from Fig Restaurants he was like my mentor and he also motivated me to do this.


The empanada criolla. (Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich)

When the season ended last year the other co-founders David and Valeria wanted to take the next step with empanadas since they were already selling them on Instagram back then. During that time we were already thinking about marketing, making advances in social networks, and planning a little, and shortly after they told me, ”don’t you want to open a store?”. ”No way”, I thought. ”Open a store here in Split? I need to think about it a lot.”

But then I consulted with my family and with the people who know and those who wanted to help me, and they told me to go ahead, that if ”it doesn’t exist, you are going to make it happen”. So from then on, in November of last year, we began to put together the entire business plan, we began to build the concept, to build the brand, how it was going to be, we began to look for spaces, delve into the bureaucratic and administrative processes which are a real nightmare and already in March of this year we found the place.


Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich

Once you got the space, how did the project grow from then on?

I remember we told ourselves, before we found the space, that if we didn’t find one in two weeks, we would start sending our CV’s everywhere looking for work because we had to start this business this year no matter what. And well, we found it in March. And for two months we were working on the administrative procedures at the same time as the redesign of the place, with our own hands. Valeria is a calligrapher, David is a jeweler and I am in Marketing, and the three of us were building a store. It was crazy. And it was only on June 21 that we were finally able to open after all the bureaucracy.


Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich

Have you felt some kind of support from the Latin community in Split?

Many of us who studied the Croatian language together came to the country with the same goal, and that is why over time we got together a lot even after classes. I think I felt the most support when we opened Morfar, as we initially wanted to keep it low profile so as not to jinx it. But as soon as we opened, people began to arrive, many of them familiar faces, and they were very happy about what was happening and shared it on their social networks. In addition to buying our empanadas, they also came to chat and wish us good luck. Some even come to escape their usual routines. We like to be that holding space for them. People from the community also often pass by asking us for information or if we know of an available apartment. In the end, the support is mutual.

Why empanadas?

”People asked for it!”, says Valeria Garcés, one of the architects of the delicious empanadas. ”We have a friend at Marvlvs Bar, and there people always asked us for empanadas. Once, for an event a 25 de Mayo event, where everyone always has to bring something, we brought more empanadas. And that’s when people told us that we had to do something more.”, she added.

”Once, when we were in Italy, some Italian girls who lived in France told us that they had loved something from Argentina that was made of dough and with meat inside, but they couldn’t remember the name.”, recalls David Folis, one of the great empanada artists in the kitchen. ”And we ask them, ’empanadas?’ ‘Yes! Empanadas!’, they answered. We realized that even in Europe they were quite popular!”.


Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich

Tell me more about the design of the store.

”We wanted it to feel like home, you can see it from the inside. But the most important thing is that we wanted to attract the curious.”, says Santiago. ”It’s a good location, but it can also be a tricky one. That’s why we did everything possible to attract the attention of people passing by, such as the logo or the screen. But mainly, when we were thinking about the design of the place, something that was mandatory was to have the empanadas to be displayed on a window. We wanted to place as many points of attention as possible, which are difficult to ignore”, he added.

”The thing is that Latinos know and have tried empanadas before. They are familiar with the word.”, argues David. ”But for those who have never tried one, they have to see it. We wanted them to see the empanadas and ask themselves, ‘what are these’?”

”Food enters through the eyes”, Valeria explained.


Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich

What’s been the most surprising so far?

”We knew that Argentines and Latinos would buy empanadas. Considering that we opened at the end of June, our goal was to attract tourists who were in Split during the current season. What has surprised us the most has been the number of Croatians who have tried empanadas. We hadn’t planned it!”, said Santiago, better known as ‘Santi’ among friends.

How come you started selling even more Argentinian products?

Our plan at first was to sell empanadas and alfajores. But as the days went by, more Argentines came and asked us ”Che, and do you have dulce de leche”, ”Che, and do you have yerba”?, ”Che, and do you have fernet?”. And that is how we have been adapting to the demands of the people. As a good Argentine, first we say yes and then we see how to make it work.


Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich

Which empanadas are having the biggest impact so far?

”They have all had a great reception among the people. The empanada criolla is definitely the one with the most traditional flavor, but we see that the caprese and humita empanadas are also frequently bought.”, says Santi.

”And let’s not forget the ajvar empanada!”, adds David. ”It has been well received not only by locals but by tourists alike”.

What goals do you have after the season?

”We have now extended our opening hours. We used to open from 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. We are now open every day, except Mondays, initially from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, and then from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm. After the season? There are times when I would like to close for a few days to rest”, jokes Santiago. ”We would really like to open all year round, even out of season. We know that there will not be so many tourists, but the locals and the Latin community will remain, with whom we have had a good reception these first few weeks. We would also like to open in other places, but we are going easy”, he adds.

“We also plan to add more flavors to our menu!,” says David.

According to Valeria, ”In Argentina, one can find stores with up to 30 flavors of empanadas”.


Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich

Finally, what makes you very happy about this experience?

”It makes me happy when people say that the quality of our empanadas is comparable to those at home. I understand that there are not many in Europe to compare, but they have recognized the taste and quality of our empanadas and that is a great motivation.”, concluded Santi.

Morfar is located at 4 Porinova Street, just a few meters from the Split Theater, close to the Old Town. They are open from Tuesday to Sunday, first from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, and then from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm. You can follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and you can also share your experience on TripAdvisor.

Their empanadas flavors are the following:

  • CRIOLLA: typical Argentinian with meat, olives, onions, peppers, green onions, and eggs.
  • VEGAN CRIOLLA: Argentinian style but with lentils instead of meat.
  • CAPRESE: mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil.
  • HUMITA: corn, mozzarella, and onions.
  • AJVAR: inspired by the traditional sauce that goes with ćevapi, eggplant, peppers, and onions.
  • SIR KAPULA: onions and mozzarella.


Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich

The price of each empanada is 20 kuna. You can take three empanadas for 50 kuna! Also, ask about the promotion of an empanada with a glass of Argentinian wine. Additionally, on Saturdays, you can order a special Morfar pizza!

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

For more news about the Croatian diaspora, visit our dedicated section.


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