This post is purely about food and drink in Sassari. Please see my separate posts for things to see and do. Everywhere mentioned is on this Google map.
CHEAPER RESTAURANTS IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE:
Trattoria da Gesuino (Intermediate A) 17 Via Torres
This was my favourite place in terms of food in the eight days I was here. It’s a bit of a walk, and there isn’t anywhere you can sit outside but it’s still worth going just for the great grub. It’s a good place for vegetarians too as they have a large antipasti buffet.
I began with the Linguine con Bottarga e Dadolato di Pomodori (mullet roe and diced tomatoes) which was excellent (A).
The house red was pretty decent (B) and went well with the mixed grill of horse, donkey and pork (all B/B+). The donkey was much better than what I’d had at La 2 Lanterne (below) earlier in the week, which proved that it can be nice to eat.
The bill came to €38.50 for pasta, meat, contorno, wine, water and a commercial mirto, which was excellent value, especially given the large portions.
There’s lots of space so you probably won’t have to book and they have a big telly to entertain you in the otherwise bland space. I watched Sassari (who have one of the best basketball teams in Italy) stuff Milan 86-81 in the play offs.
Trattoria L’Assassino (Elementary A), 18 Via Sagarat, www.facebook.com
For me this is the best choice in the old town, recommended by receptionists, teachers and travel guides alike. The food is good, local and reasonably priced. It also has a nice ambience and you can sit outside in a pleasant, spacious courtyard and be served by the multilingual owner.
The menu is heavily weighted towards offal and unusual (for non-locals) meats (horse, donkey etc) so it’s not a great place for veggies or picky meat eaters. I had a mezzo of house red with a primo and secondo for €28.
The lovely, salty Pane Carasau that came in their bread basket was addictive and I ate the lot while waiting for my food. Apparently remains of this bread have been found in the nuraghi so it was already in existence before 1000 BC.
For the pasta course I went for the Chinsone alla Gallurese which turned out to be the ubiquitous Malloreddus (aka Orecchiette) with salami-like sausage and tomato sauce that you get everywhere. I think they called it something different here so people would be intrigued and order it. Despite this sleight of hand it’s still a good choice (A).
The donkey wasn’t on that night so I had the Primo Latte which turned out to be sweetbreads (aka thymus glands, a favourite of mine) with slightly singed roast potatoes (B+).
The red was good for a house wine (B) and I enjoyed their homemade Grappa Barricada (B+).
The service is friendly but they have a lot of ground to cover so everything takes a while. More importantly the location and food are great so I’d definitely come back.
La Cozzeria de Arborea (Intermediate A), 14 Viale Caprera, on the corner with Via dei Regoli, www.lacozzeriadiarborea.it
I was brought here for lunch by the teachers from the school around the corner so it’s very much off the beaten track, although not too much of a walk from the old town. The decor is a bit garish in a nautical way but the staff are nice.
They advertise that you can have twenty different mussel dishes, including eleven different sauces. I can’t remember the name of our sauce but it involved lemons, breadcrumbs and parsley, and was delicious (A). It’s only €10 for a kilo of mussels.
Taberna Santona (Elementary B+), 21/22 Piazza Tola, closed Wednesday
This place was recommended by the American manager of a local school owner who had married and settled in the city. The food is okay, and the owner likes to crack bad jokes. There’s a terrace out in the square where you can sit under sun umbrellas.
The restaurant is apparently a crepe and gallette specialist but I came to have a three course meal.
To begin, Zuppa Gallurese, which despite the name is actually a kind of tart made with stale bread and a variety of cheeses. The name comes from ‘inzuppare’, meaning to soak, as the bread is soaked in meat stock. It was okay but quite bland (B).
Next Sardine in Verde; grilled sardines with a green sauce of parsley, capers and anchovies (B+).
Finally a homemade Crema Catalana and a Mirto, both homemade and good (B) brought the bill to a measly €26 which also included a flat half litre of beer.
Trattoria La Vela Latina, (Elementary C), 3 Largo Sisini, www.lavelalatina, closed Sunday, open Monday
A Lonely Planet pick. The restaurant terrace shares a little square with a popular café (owned by the same people I think) so you could start with an aperitivo there first.
On arrival I was served two bowls of olives. I especially liked the small variety which I think were wild. The Pane Casacau was disappointingly tasteless though.
Having tried the Iselis white at Bella Be earlier in the week (see below), I went for the red version this time for €18. It started off well (B+) but seemed to deteriorate towards the end of the bottle (B). Iselis is made by Argiolas, the biggest producer on the island www.argiolas.it.
For the pasta I once again had the ubiquitous Malloreddus with sausage and tomato sauce. The pasta was slightly overcooked here and the tired garnish looked like it had had it was left over from Saturday night (this was Monday). Given that they only had three customers and at least three staff to pay I’m guessing a few corners had been cut.
For the main there are several risqué options. For example you could have Cervella e Granelli Fritti (deep fried brain and testicles) but I wasn’t feeling brave enough that night.
They were out of the local speciality of donkey so instead I had a medium rare horse steak and roast potatoes (apologies to my equine loving friends). The steak was fine (B) and much more enjoyable than the horse I’d eaten a few months before in Bari.
They had no homemade digestives so I tried a shot of their commercial Mirto which was just okay (B).
The bill came to a slightly pricey €43. Overall I’d score them a B- which isn’t too bad. Might be best to try them on a busier night, although the fact they’re open on a Monday is a blessing.
Le 2 Lanterne (Low Intermediate C), front door in Piazza Tolo, back door at 28 Via Mercato
Another Lonely Planet pick, this place is of a similar ilk to Assassino above in terms of its authentic menu of local specialities and location in a courtyard accessed through a tunnel. However, I prefer Assassino for food and service.
The owner here isn’t a great communicator and doesn’t dish out any freebies. I’m pretty sure he doctored my bill by hiking up the price of his mediocre wine (C) as well.
I enjoyed the Pane Carasau which was nice and salty (B+). All the other customers (all locals) were having fava beans to start (I think), so maybe they are a good choice.
However his Curgliones with sugo were quite spongy (B-). LP describe Curgliones as being Sardinian Ravioli but here at least they aren’t filled with anything and are more like dough balls, or gnocchi.
The Asinello (donkey) was tender but cold and flavourless except for the virtually raw garlic it was topped with (C). Thankfully the chips the dish came with were great (A).
Rather than a dessert I had some grilled provolone to finish but it was unimpressive (C+).
The homemade mirto was very good though (A-).
At the end of the meal the owner suggested I have a look in his old cellar which was built during the Spanish epoch (so 14th century). He’d turned it into a private party space, as attested to by a pile of mouldy Ry Cooder records, but it was too musty for me to want to spend any time down there.
In short, a strange place. Think I’d rather go elsewhere next time.
Fainè alla Genovese Sassu (Elementary), 17 Via Usai
Fainè is Sardinian for Farinata di Ceci, a chickpea pancake originally from Genova. It’s all this shop sells but you do get a choice of toppings such as sausage, anchovies, onions and mushrooms. I really wanted to try it but sadly they were closed when I was there in June as it’s more of a winter food, or so I was told. Hope you have more luck.
Although its roots are probably more ancient, a legend says that Farinata was born by chance in 1284 when Genoa defeated Pisa in the battle of Meloria. The Genoese galleys were caught in a storm and some oil barrels and sacks of chickpeas fell over and became soaked in salt water. The sailors were thus given bowls of chickpea puree and oil to eat. Some sailors refused it and left it in the sun where it dried into a kind of pancake. The next day, driven by hunger, the sailors ate the pancake and discovered it was delicious. Once back on dry land, they cooked the puree in the oven and got even better results. The Genovese called it “the gold of Pisa” in celebration of their victory.
The same battle also allowed Sassari to free itself from Pisan rule and it went into alliance with Genoa, which much have resulted in this culinary influence. The flag of Genoa, the Saint George cross, is still used for the background of the Sardinian flag.
HIGHER END RESTAURANTS IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE:
L’Antica Hostaria (Advanced B), 55 Via Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour, www.lanticahostaria.eu
Described by Lonely Planet as one of the top restaurants in the city and also getting an entry in Ristoranti di Italia, this is indeed a good high-end place for a treat on my last night in town.
The chef owner was trained in Sicily so many of his seafood dishes have Sicilian roots whereas the meat dishes are typically Sardinian. He was very friendly and helpful, as was his English-speaking wife who waits on the tables.
I opted for the Antipasti di Mare, which started with some smoked salmon (B).
This was followed by Sgombro (mackerel) which was also smoked (B). This was served with Panzarella, a bread salad, which was salty but interesting (B+).
Next the Razza (skate) and tomato was good (B+) but I have no picture sorry. After this Insalata di Sepia (A).
I also had another go at eating gattuccio (spotted dogfish) which is used to make burrida, but I still couldn’t bring myself to like it (C-).
Finally, the Spigola (seabass) with prawn, celery and Pachino tomatoes was very good (B+).
I drank the best Vermintino (‘Canayli’ Superiore from the Gallura DOCG) on my trip so far (A) which I was happy to pay €20 for. I found the 2014 vintage for just €6.50 a bottle at www.bernabei.it but the website wasn’t functioning properly so I couldn’t order it sadly.
I finished with the Cassata, a classic Sicilian dessert made with ricotta, pastry cream and candied fruit. It was the best I’ve ever tasted (A+).
All of this, along with cover, water, a Zibibbo passito (B+) and a local ‘ferro’ grappa (B+), came to a tasty €70.
I did enjoy myself, but it was expensive and I probably wouldn’t go back now I’ve been once. If I want a high end experience next time I’m in town I’ll probably try Liberty at 3 Via Nazario Sauro instead.
Giamaranto (Advanced B+), 69 Via Alghero, www.giamaranto.it
For my end of week treat it was a toss-up between this place and Liberty (also a Gambero Rosso recommend) but as this was also a Lonely Planet pick I came here.
Given that it’s fairly high end, I got surprisingly good service here for a guy wearing shorts and trainers. It’s the kind of place where they serve off trolleys they trundle to the table. I was the first in at 8.30 but every table was full by 9.30. There is no outdoors area. The service is smiley and friendly and not as stuffy as you might expect.
Things didn’t start well however with a bland carpaccio of tuna with tomato (C). The following Antipasti de Mare were much better though (all A/B) although the waiter spoke to fast for me too catch all the names. Some were quite unusual, especially the fritturi.
After this the Tagliatell Nere fatte in casa con Calamari, Vongole e Bottarga (homemade black tagliatelle with squid, clams and grated dried grey mullet roe) which was superb (A).
The ‘Petrizza’ Vermentino by Tenuta Masone Mannu in the Gallura DOCG was excellent (A), especially for just €15. I later wrote to Tenuta Masone Mannu directly on their Facebook page www.facebook.com/tenutamasonemannu and they sent me 12 bottles for 145€ which included the cost of delivery to Sheffield.
The final bill at the restaurant came to €46 with two complimentary shots of commercially-made mirto.
Ristorantino Bella Bè (High Intermediate B), 8 Via Usai, www.facebook.com/Bella-Be, open Sunday
Tucked down a side alley off Corso Emmanuele, this is a modern place with quirky décor. I sat in the alley outside but I found the chairs to be quite uncomfortable.
I had the €18 Degustazione Antipasti which included a tartar of spigola (seabass) (A), squid with radicchio (chicory) (B), courgette and bacalao fritti (B) and mussels with green beans and datterini tomatoes (C).
With two glasses of Iselis Bianco (an 85% Nasco, 15% Vermentino blend) from the Isola de Nuraghi IGT (B+) and…
…a shot of their fairly sweet homemade liquor d’erbe (B+) the bill came to €33.
The service was friendly and efficient but overall the it felt like you were paying for pretension rather than quality. I’d give it another chance, and may try their €35 tasting menu.
BNO – Birreria di Nord Ovest (Elementary B), 2 Piazza Tola
A craft beer bar where ales are around €3.50 for a pinta. The pilsner and IPA that I tried were okay but a little flat. They serve cheese and ham if you’d like something to nibble while you drink.
Vineria Tola (Intermediate B), 10 Piazza Tola
A wine bar on the opposite side of the square from BNO. You can sit outside on bar stools at high tables. I paid €3 for a glass of red.
LP mentions Café Chiara and Accademia Café, respectively at 1 and 11 and Via Torre Tonda, towards the university district. I did a walk by but they were dead so I didn’t try them.
On Via Roma a local recommended Da Michele but all the tables outside were full so I kept on walking. Off Via Roma, Via Giorgio Asperoni had a couple of bars that were pumping with music.