Quartiere Marina is the main area for tourists. Via Sardegna, which runs parallel to Via Roma on the waterfront, is it’s principal street where you’ll find most of the best restaurants. Happily the Hotel Italia where I was staying was also on this street.
The hotel is dingy. fading and some of the rooms are strange shapes (look at the floor plans on the landing walls and ask for a different one if you don’t like yours) but essentially okay (B) with decent internet, helpful staff and a rudimentary breakfast with coffee freshly made by a barista. It’s just a few minutes walk from the train and bus stations.
Ristorante Italia (Intermediate C+), 30 Via Sardegna
This place, immediately outside the entrance of the Hotel Italia, was recommended by the receptionist, although he was at pains to emphasise they were different businesses despite having similar names.
I loved their window display of seafood which looks like a scene from a cartoon!
I came here for lunch on my last day and had a mixed seafood grill (sea bass, swordfish, king prawn, squid) (B+) with…
…a basic but vibrant mixed salad (lettuce, radicchio, tomato) (B+) and…
…a half bottle or Vermentino ‘Costamolino’ by Argiolas (B). It came to €34 with bread and water.
It’s okay, a nice spot to sit outside and the food is decent. I’d definitely choose it over this place next door.
Ristorante Pizzeria Gobbetta (Intermediate C+), 23 Via Sardegna
The neighbour of the above, I came here on my first day when Ristorante Italia was closed. It’s a pizzeria as well as a restaurant and common wisdom has it that a place can be good at one thing but not the other.
Things got off to a bad start with the Burrida, a local speciality suggested by the waitress. In the Sardinian context (as opposed to Genoa and other places) it’s basically chunks of dogfish (a small shark called gattuccio di mare in Italian, never a favourite of mine) in vinegar (even worse) and is an unappetising murky brown in colour. I thought the crunchy bits were nuts at first but I quickly realised they were the vertebrae. I struggled manfully with it and finished most of it but I won’t be going back for seconds (C-).
To be fair, Burrida would probably taste the same wherever you went. I watched with amusement as Gino D’Acampo ate a mouthful of it at Ristorante Italia above in his 2016 ITV show ‘Gino’s Italian Escapes’ and even he couldn’t bring himself to say anything nice about it!
I wasn’t blown away by the Vermentino (Cala Reale 2014 from Alghero) the waitress offered up either as it was a bit too fruity for my tastes (B-). The best Vermentino comes from the Gallura DOCG around Gallura in the North so I made a mental note to specify it in the future.
Thankfully the pasta course saved the day; Fregola con Cozze, a small local pasta, here served in a kind of stock with the mussels (B).
Total cost €34. I’m sure they have better dishes but there are heaps of other places to go to so I don’t think I’ll be back. Or maybe they should just stick to pizza…
Trattoria La Lillicu (Intermediate B+), 78 Via Sardegna
Gleaned from the net and cross-referenced with two receptionists who both said it was the best place in town for seafood. It’s five minutes’ walk from the hotel, along the same street as both the restaurants above.
The owner is a bit of a tyrant by all accounts (on Trip Advisor) and certainly wasn’t particularly friendly with me when I tried to reserve a table outside, but my young waiter was a nice chap and got me what I wanted.
I had Spaghetti Arselle (A); pasta with a kind of clam that the waiter said was sweeter than Vongole and not as strong in flavour, although they look quite similar.
On the side was a bowl of grated Bottarga, Grey Mullet roe, which is sprinkled on pasta as a condiment. One of my regrets is not taking some of this home, especially as the chef told me via the waiter that it was available at a couple of the fish stalls at San Benedetto market.
To drink ‘Giogantinu’, a Vermentino from Gallura, which was great (B+).
For my main course, the waiter recommended the grilled Spigola (seabass), but it was a bit small and disappointing for €18 (B).
The dessert (B), a local Pecorino-filled fritter called Seadas or Sebadas (the pictures didn’t come out sorry), came with a complimentary flask of sweet dessert wine (B+).
With a couple of parting shots of frozen Mirto (myrtle berry liqueur, the national drink of Sardinia), by Mulino Novecento (B+), I rolled out of there a happy man. Total cost €40, not too bad for what I had in the end.
Ristorante Su Cumbidu (Intermediate B+), 13 Via Napoli, www.sucumbidu.info
If La Lillicu is the best for fish, then Su Cumbidu is the best place for meat, at least according to a local school owner, two receptionists, Fodor’s guide and the Daily Telegraph.
I came here three times in all and had a very different experience each time according to what I ordered, where I sat and who served me.
You can save yourself €3 by sitting inside with the locals rather than outside with the tourists where you will be hassled by hawkers and various buskers, including a god-awful violinist who seemed to follow me around just to torture me with the same badly played tune!
Try to sit at a table where you’ll be served by the older balding chap or the young enthusiastic English-speaking guy with glasses, as opposed to the tall, thin, gum-chewing bloke who couldn’t give a toss.
The thing to get here is the Su Porcheddu, (aka porchetta, aka maialetto arrosto, aka roast suckling pig) which is probably the most famous Sardinian speciality and done very well here. You can either get it by itself for €18, or go for one of their set menus where it comes with antipasti and/or a primo of pasta.
On the first visit I started with the classic northern Sardinian dish of Maloreddus alla Campidanese, a local pasta similar to gnocchetti in a sauce of sausage and tomato. The pasta was a bit overcooked but it still tasted great (B+).
Then the main event, the Su Porcheddu, which is traditionally wrapped in myrtle leaves and roasted underground. Here they just use a normal oven and no leaves, but it’s still very good (A).
It’s served on a flatbread called Pane Carasau (B) with a salad of whole raw vegetables like radishes, celery and tomatoes to cut the grease.
The best local red wine to have with this is Cannonau. The one I had was called ‘Murgia’ by Barralis (B+).
The second time I went I was trying to be healthy and ordered the extremely boring Fregola Sarda alla Verdure. It only scored a C+ even when helped with copious amounts of salt and grated pecorino.
My main of sausage with a side order of roast potatoes also failed to impress (no notes or photo), as did the half litre of house red (C+). As ever, you get what you pay for.
Not being one to give up, on my last night I treated myself to the €30 menu, which involved antipasti, pasta and the porcheddu again which I’d been craving.
The antipasti could have been a meal in itself. First a plate of prosciutto, salami, capocollo and a couple of cheeses served on Pane Carasau, alongside a platter of grilled veg (aubergine, red chicory, red peppers, carrots) and some olives (all B).
Then some separate bowls of more antipasti. Firstly Nervetti (veal cartlidge) which were ok (B-) but not as good as I’d had in Milan (see my Navigli post).
Other antipasti were meatballs in a very salty gravy (B-) and some Lumache, snails in a tomato sauce, which were very good (B+).
I wanted to try a different red so went with the waiter’s offer of ‘Stuni’ (Cantina Vigna de’ Luceri) made from a grape varietal called Monica which has it’s own DOC. It was good (B) but not as full bodied as Cannonau which better suited the suckling pig.
Then Curlugiones Salvia e Zafferano, another typical pasta dish of big raviolis filled with sheep’s cheese in a tomato sauce with sage and saffron (B+).
Then the Maialetto Arrosto (Su Porcheddu) I’d been craving (A), again with flatbread and a salad.
I was also hankering after some cheese so had the unphotogenic grilled Pecorino Arrosto for dessert (B).
With a couple of shots of Mirto the total cost came to €54 which wasn’t too bad for the huge amount of food I was given.
So lots of great food to be had, if you choose carefully. Wish I’d had more time to check out some of the other places on my Google map.