IF you’ve ever wondered where Rangers and Celtic football players dine on their days off, chances are you may find them at a Southside gastro pub nestled in a quiet street.

Croatian brothers Marko and Mate Curic opened Zinfandel in Strathbungo at the start of 2020 serving Croatian Scottish fusion food.

They decided to open the restaurant due to the popularity of Croatia as a holiday destination and the lack of similar restaurants across the UK.

Glasgow Times: Marko CuricMarko Curic

Marko said: "We came to Scotland eight years ago to work, and we always had a dream to open up a restaurant because all my life was connected with restaurants and food.

"We decided to bring Croatian food to Glasgow because I think Croatia is a very popular place to go.

"We used to work in Croatia in hospitality, and I know the reaction of the people when they come and try the food they are like 'oh my god it’s so amazing', and there are not many restaurants or bars in the UK which present that kind of Croatian/Mediterranean cuisine.

"In Scotland everyone loves Croatia, so we thought let’s try."

Glasgow Times: Marko and Mate CuricMarko and Mate Curic

Zinfandel opened on February 20, 2020, just weeks before lockdown started meaning this is the first summer the restaurant has been able to operate normally, and while Covid restrictions saw them get off to a slow start the restaurant is proving to be increasingly popular.

Marko said: "We basically had an idea to present Croatia with a Scottish version, so that’s the reason why we opened.

"Every single dish that we do has some fusion between Croatia and Scotland.

"We do fish and chips but what we do is we use cod, octopus, prawns, so it’s not like the traditional fish and chips in Scotland."

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Mate continued: "The reaction has been really good.

"In the beginning, we didn’t know how it would go, we know people have been in Croatia, they like Croatia, they like the food, they like the wine, so that’s all good, but when you put all that together you never know exactly how the reaction is going to be.

"But so far our feedback about everything is amazing and people are willing to try."

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Marko added: "We started more traditional Croatian food a couple of weeks ago and people are crazy for it, they like cevapi.

"Since we put that on the menu basically everyone is ordering that, no one is eating burgers."

Using their mum’s recipes, cevapi are small sausages made using mince that is cured for three days with garlic to ensure it absorbs all the flavour and they have proved to be just as popular with many of the football players who have been to the restaurant.

Marko said: "Even these players they come in straight away and we know what they’re eating.

"If they’re celebrating something they do the big steak but now when they’re coming and just from the door they were like 'can we have three of them' [cevapi]."

Glasgow Times: Pljeskavica - grilled dish consisting of a spiced meat patty Pljeskavica - grilled dish consisting of a spiced meat patty

In recent weeks, Rangers’ Nikola Katic, Antonio Colak and Borna Barisic, and Celtic’s Liel Abada, Josip Juranovic, Matt O’Riley and Jota have shared their visits to Zinfandel on social media, with Katic even branding it "the best restaurant in Glasgow".

While the brothers want to respect the privacy of their well-known customers, they’re pleased that they’ve seen the players returning to the restaurant several times, often bringing along family and friends or sharing their visits online.

READ MORE: Three Rangers stars dine out at popular Glasgow restaurant Zinfandel

Mate said: "We never post anything about them, we let them have their privacy but it’s a good feeling when people are coming.

"And they take other friends and most of these people are coming back after they’ve been the first time, and it’s a good feeling when they’re coming back.

"These guys are all really nice, they’ll pose for pictures.

"It’s happened a few times that they’re here on a Saturday and everyone wants to take a photo.

"When they come in during the week it’s a different clientele, so people don’t want to bother anyone."

READ MORE: Rangers star Nikola Katic encourages fans to try the 'best' restaurant in Glasgow

Glasgow Times: Mate CuricMate Curic

The brothers not only chose the name Zinfandel as they decided to focus on wine but because the variety also has a recently discovered link to Marko and Mate’s home Kaštela.

In 2001, DNA tests discovered the grapes made to make Zinfandel, or Primitivo in Italy, originally came from the island where it was known as Crljenak Kaštelanski, or ‘red grape of Kaštela’.

"That grape’s been grown forever but it was never very special, but now everything is going in that direction of the home of Zinfandel," Mate said.

"When you go there you can see so many small producers of Zinfandel, even though in Croatia it’s a different name.

"We have a few here but it’s very hard to get."

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Marko added: "We did a wine list that is completely different to any other one, so we don’t do Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, we do different types of wines.

"We have different wines you can’t find, Romanian, Georgian, Lebanese, Indian, from all around the world."

Zinfandel is located at 69 Nithsdale Road and is open Tuesday to Sunday.