Archive for the Italy Category

Salerno – places to stay

Posted in Campania, Italy, Salerno with tags , , , on March 24, 2016 by gannet39

There are many good places to stay in Salerno as befits such a popular tourist destination. Please don’t consider this a definitive guide, it’s just my personal experience of a few places that I’ve either stayed at or heard about.

As I mentioned earlier, the hotel my employer uses is the Hotel Bruman at 30 Piazza Vittorio Veneto, www.hotelbrumansalerno.it. It’s partly owned by a former area manager of mine who I know quite well. The staff are friendly and helpful, the breakfast is pretty decent and the rooms and wifi are fine, however there’s no lift so you might need a hand with your luggage up a couple of flights.

We used to stay at the Grand Hotel Salerno at 1 Via Lungomare Tafuri, www.grandhotelsalerno.it which is a very modern four star hotel with its own helipad! I loved it because it has a gym (open from 8am) and a 22 metre pool in the basement (ppen 10am-1pm, 4-8pm). There’s also a sun deck on the top floor.

However the views from the rooms are quite variable. The spacious odd-numbered rooms at the front and side have fantastic vistas of the sea and the town, but you might want to pass on the even-numbered rabbit hutches at the back, unless you are a train spotter. I also found the reception staff to be quite snooty and the maids are a law unto themselves.

I’m told that back in the good old days we were billeted at the even more opulent five star Lloyd’s Baia Hotel at 2 Via Enrico de Marinis, www.lloydsbaiahotel.it but it’s a bit of a walk to town due to its cliff-top position, so many of my colleagues complained about it. It’s much better to be centrally located I think.

At the other end of the scale, the Hostel Ave Gratia Plena on Via dei Canali (on the right halfway up as you walk up), www.ostellodisalerno.it looks like a nice place to stay, at least if the lovely water feature in the picture is anything to go by. It’s a former convent that has been converted to a hostel.

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Salerno – places to eat and drink in the new town

Posted in Campania, Italy, New town, Salerno with tags , , , , , , on March 23, 2016 by gannet39

This post covers bars and restaurants along the waterfront as well as places off the main pedestrian street, Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Please see my separate post for restaurants in the old town.

Gran Caffe Canasta
(Intermediate B+) 58 Corso Vittorio Emanuele

This is a good spot on the waterfront to start your evening, You can sit outside and watch the sun set over the sea with a well-made aperitivo. Don’t fill up too much on the copious stuzzichini (nibbles) they give you though or you’ll have no room for your dinner, and that would be a shame.

Ciccio e L’Osteria Trio (Intermediate A-), 18 Piazza Flavio Gioia (go to 10 via Roma, which is parallel to the Lungomare, and turn right), Tel. 089 237242, closed Monday.

In 2009 I had an excellent lunch here with two friends, Nicky and Alison. The restaurant is located in a pretty square where you can sit outside and people watch. I would reserve to avoid waiting and aim to arrive for about 1.30 before it gets too busy. The menu is spoken as presumably it changes every day.

We started with a carpaccio of swordfish and tuna, poached octopus, mashed potato with more octopus and smoked eel on a bed of rocket. This was followed by Calomarata ai Frutta di Mare; thick rubber bands of pasta with fasolari and razor clams, squid and mussels. We had these dishes with a good Fiano di Avellino ‘Pietramara’ Vendemmia 2007 (A).

For the main I had a fillet steak with rocket and shavings of parmesan (B+) but Nicky’s steak with a cream and truffle sauce was even better (A). We had a great Anglianico di Vulture (Cantina di Venosa ’06) with the meat (A) with the meat. The only let down was the rather forgetful waiters who didn’t remember our bread, water or knives and couldn’t provide an ice bucket. They were still very pleasant though, especially the camp narcissistic owner who was cracking jokes throughout. Even with three limoncellos on top, he rounded the bill down to an even €100 for three, an absolute steal.

Trianon da Ciro (Intermediate B+), 22 Piazza Gioia Flavio (next door to Ciccio above), closed Monday

This is the Salerno branch of a very famous Neapolitan pizzeria. The original place in Naples is one of my top three favourites in the whole city (see my pizza post).

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In 2015 I had the Margarita di Bufala (the only choice in my opinion) and two draught beers for €15. They are very busy and the service is poor, but I doubt you’ll get a better pizza in Salerno.

Cantina Del Feudo (Intermediate B+), 45 Via Velia, a side street off Corso Vittorio Emanuele

This Puglian restaurant has a very good rep and comes recommended by my former area manager who is a local and Lonely Planet who give it their ‘top choice’ accolade.

I went with my friend Dee to celebrate the last night of several weeks of work and consequently I was too busy enjoying myself to take proper notes or even to remember some of what we had!

We started with some mixed seafood antipasti which I’m sure was very nice.

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I was craving rice so I had La Tiella, made with rice, potatoes, mussels, courgettes and tomatoes. It’s basically a fancier version of Patate, Riso e Cozze, a Barese classic (see my Bari posts). A tiella is the cast iron frying pan used for cooking the dish. I think it should burn the rice slightly as the crust is delicious, but this one was a bit too refined (B).

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Dee had Fusilli a Ferretto, pasta with courgette flowers, ricotta and guanciale (cured pigs cheeks) which I’m sure was excellent.

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There’s a nice terrace outside but I can imagine it gets full on busy days so a reservation is probably a good idea, The service was very pleasant and we got 10% off by dropping our manager’s name! (I think the bill came to €60 for both of us with a bottle of wine).

I remember the food was very good but not totally amazing, hence B+ overall. I’m sure other dishes would score an A though and I’d be more than happy to come here again.

Portovecchio (High Intermediate B), 39 Via M Manfredi, www.portovecchioristorante.com

This place is the favourite of a teacher I worked with who lives in a nearby town. It’s a sizable modern place at the western end of the waterfront in the district known as Rione Porto. It’s two blocks south west from the Villa Communale, a small park which is quite pleasant.

The area was going through a transformation when I was there in 2015 with a major construction site going up around Piazza della Liberta next door, which didn’t exactly add to the ambience of sitting on the restaurant terrace. The large group of loud Americans next to me didn’t help either.

I played it safe and went with the standards. The mozzarella I had to start was okay but I know it can taste so much better when it’s a bit fresher (B). Ditto the fresh tomato bruschetta (B).
The following Spaghetti Vongole was a bit oily but tasted good (B-).

To drink, a decent Fiano di Avellino from Terredora (B+) which was correctly priced at €20.

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They charged for the limoncello as I recall but they rounded down the €47 bill to €45. The place is fine but it’s a bit out of the way and there are other more interesting options.

And a couple of places to avoid:

Zi Renata (Intermediate C/D), 170 via Roma (near the town hall)

Four of us ended up at this place when one evening when we were in a rush to eat before a piano recital that started at 9. We wanted to go to the tried and tested Ristorante Rada at #172 but it didn’t open till 8 so we made do with the neighbour rather than going further along the strip where there are at least ten other places all in a row. Big mistake.

The ridiculously cheap menu (pasta €4-7, meat €4-7, fish €5-10) and the graffiti on the inside walls should have been a warning but we forged on regardless with the time in mind. After some ‘bruschetta’ (toasted old bread with drizzled oil and oregano), the mixed starters of mussels, octopus and shredded crab stick on a bed of rocket had obviously been frozen but were just about edible (C) and the aubergines, peppers, boiled potatoes and rape that came on another plate were only just better by virtue of being vegetables (C+).

I couldn’t finish my Risotto ai Frutti di Mare (D) as the mussels were truly revolting and the rice undercooked and lacking the lovely creaminess of good arborio. Another friend had Pasta e Fagioli which was reportedly ok but another person’s Gnocchi alla Sorrentina had a horribly bitter aftertaste, once you got past the parmesan.

The best thing was the Fiano Beneventano (B+) but the following Aglianico from the same cantina (Vinicola del Sannio) was poor (C). Although the service was pleasant enough the only really good thing was the soundtrack with Aretha singing Walk On By. If only she’d told us earlier…

Kikko Sushi (Intermediate C-), 8/9 Via Tenente Colonnello Carmine Calò, at the eastern end of the waterfront

Japanese food is my automatic go to when I need a change of flavour after being in Italy for a while. This Japanese restaurant (actually Chinese owned) has a sign outside saying Kaiten Sushi. Kaiten means it’s one of those places which have a circular conveyer belt that you choose small dishes of food from as it speeds by. In Japan these are the cheapest places to eat sushi and when I lived in Tokyo I tended to avoid them as you don’t know how long the food has been sitting on the belt.

I came here hoping it would be better than my expectations but sadly they were confirmed. The Edamame (fresh soya beans) should have been a vibrant green but instead were dark and brownish and had obviously been frozen a while ago so I sent them back (D). The salmon and tuna nigiris I chose from the menu were tasteless to the point of being indistinguishable (C). I decided to go hungry and left after that. Avoid this place if you love real Japanese food.

Salerno – places to eat and drink in the Centro Storico

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Salerno with tags , , on March 22, 2016 by gannet39

Salerno has heaps of restaurants and it can be difficult to chose a good one so I hope my experiences will help you find the good stuff. I’ve divided the dining posts into two geographical zones; the old town or Centro Storico on the one hand and the waterfront and the new town to the east on the other (please see next post). The better places to eat generally seem to be in the old town. I’ve listed the establishments in order of preference. Here’s a Google map with everywhere I mention plotted on.

Caffè Mercanti (Intermediate B+), 114 Via Mercanti

This is a really cool, atmospheric little bistro that serves precooked food to drink with your tipple.

In 2015 my friend Dee and I each had a slice of Parmagiana and Torta di Scarola (escarole pie) for €5 each (B) and shared a good bottle of local Coda di Volpe (B) for €18.

Antica Pizzeria del Vicolo della Neve (Elementary B+), 24 Viccolo della Neve, www.vicolodellaneve.it, closed Wednesday, no reservations on Friday or Saturday.

This old place is a little hard to find however if you go to 148 Via dei Mercanti, the alley opposite is Viccolo della Neve (Alley of Snow). The restaurant is a short way down on the left.

Okay first off, haute cuisine this ain’t but what this place lacks in finesse it makes up for in atmosphere, in spades. Listed in Gambero Rosso as a low cost restaurant, it’s very popular with locals, especially families, because of its rustic value-for-money food.

I’ve been twice; early on a Tuesday night in June when it was about a third full, and at 8pm on a Saturday night in November when I had to wait twenty minutes for a table. There were still twenty people waiting outside when I left at 9.30 so on busy nights you might want to go at 7 when it opens to try to avoid the queues.

When it’s busy the action is frenetic; scruffy waiters in ill-fitting red waistcoats and plasters on their faces negotiate the fifteen cramped tables, doling out big mounds of food from the kitchen and the huge pans sitting in a glass cupboard. You have to shout your order at them as they go past.

My chap was a bit brusque at first but lightened up when I started taking notes! (I even got a smile and a pat on the back). The food arrives in metal bowls on trays (because they’re very hot) and there’s little time between courses. At the weekend this certainly isn’t the place for a relaxed slow meal; they want you in and out as quickly as possible.

In 2009 there are only two pasta dishes on the menu; Lasagna (with mozzarella, ricotta, salami, eggs and small meatballs) or the equally classic Pasta e Fagioli (various sizes of pasta tubes baked in a sauce of beans and tomato), both of which are subject to availability. Think they have a choice of three pasta dishes now.

I tried the Pasta e Fagioli on my 2015 visit. The pasta was overcooked, flabby and slightly singed (the heat it up in the pizza oven) yet somehow lovable (C+).

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Just in case you feel cheated on the carbs, you also get half a French loaf, toasted and drizzled with olive oil (C).

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In contrast to the pasta, there’s no shortage of vegetable side dishes; about sixteen in all I think. I had the Peperoni Ripieni; a whole capsicum of truly gigantic proportions, stuffed with bread, capers and anchovies and slightly blackened again. It was fine (C+) but could have fed a family of four on its own. The picture shows just part of it.

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There are about a dozen meat and fish mains, including some scary items like cotiche (pig skin), and back in 2009 but no longer, busecca (veal spleen). On both occasions I’ve had the Polpette; their very large and very dense meatballs (C+), with roast potatoes. Again, I couldn’t finish it all despite being ravenous.

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The house Aglianico red is usually relatively drinkable (C or C+) and very cheap.

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My four dishes and a half bottle of red in 2015 cost me the grand sum of €31 and the amount of food I got could easily have fed three or four people, so bring reinforcements if you can. As I say, it’s rough and ready but definitely worth going just for the ambience.

One place that I really wanted to try was Osteria Canali (1 fork from Gambero Rosso, three courses for €30, closed Sunday evening and Monday) which is at 34 Via dei Canali, www.osteriacanali.it, but they seemed to be recovering from a private party all the time I was there.

Please see my other posts for restaurants and bars in the new town, and places to stay.

Salerno – out and about

Posted in Campania, Italy, Salerno with tags , , , , on March 21, 2016 by gannet39

I’ve been to Salerno twice, in November 2009 and June 2015, staying just a few nights each time.

The town can be divided into three zones; the medieval area, the 19th century area and the post-war area. All the places I mention in my posts (predominantly in the first two areas) can be found on this Google map. See my next three posts for restaurants and one on hotels.

Most people alight in Salerno at Piazza Vittorio Veneto, the square in front of the train station where buses also terminate. Conveniently, the Hotel Bruman where I stayed is located here.

There’s a beautiful Art Deco war memorial in the middle of the square.

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The main pedestrian street, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, leads out of Piazza Vittorio Veneto. It’s about fifteen minutes’ straight walk along it to the medieval area.

I love walking around the maze of streets and alleys.

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They’re especially atmospheric in the evenings.

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In the Middle Ages Salerno was a Lombard principality. The most picturesque street in in the old Lombard area is Via Botteghelle.

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Nearby is another must-see; the Cattedrale di Salerno.

The entrance courtyard has a portico with arches that allude to an Arabic influence.

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The 12th century bell tower is built in an Arabic-Norman style.

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Several Roman sarcophagi are on show under the portico.

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Ancient lions guard both the inner and outer entrances.

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Inside my favourite sights are the two beautifully patterned pulpits. Sadly my photos didn’t come out but here are some from the web to give you an idea.

The ceiling above the altar is pretty stunning too. I’d like to come back and get some better pictures.

Salerno also has a castle on the hill above it; the Castello di Arechi. Built by the Lombards over a Phonecian fort it has Norman and Aragonese modifications. Unfortunately, the castle is not accessible by foot, but the #19 bus goes up there. I’ve never had the time to visit it sadly.

The tourist info at 2 Corso Vittorio Emanuele will be able to help you with suggestions. It’s on the corner on the right as you turn right out of Piazza Vittorio Veneto. Apparently there are many good walks in the area.

A boat trip to Positano or Amalfi would make a good day out in the summer. You can also easily visit the Greek temples at Paestum (best by bus) or Pompei (best by train).

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Having a good time in Avellino

Posted in Avellino, Campania, Italy with tags , , , , on March 20, 2016 by gannet39

I’ve been to Avellino twice, in 2005 and 2015, and stayed for just a couple of nights on both occasions. The town doesn’t have the greatest of reps amongst my colleagues as there’s not much to see or do, possibly due to the various earthquakes it has suffered over the millennia (the last was in 1980).

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I always look forward to coming here though as the region, known as Irpinia, is very famous for its viticulture, in part due to the temperature changes made possible by its mountainous location. Two of Campania’s best wines, both personal favourites of mine, are made in Avellino province; the white Fiano di Avellino and the red Aglianico which is produced in the nearby Irpinian town of Taurasi.

The first time I came I stayed in the Hotel De La Ville (B) at 20 Via Giovanni Palatucci, www.hoteldelavilleavellino.it which was comfortable but quite a way from the centre of town, at the far end of the seemingly never-ending Corso de Vittorio Emanuele II; the main promenade through town.

The second time I stayed at the Viva Hotel at 123 Via Circumvallazione www.vivahotel.it which was faded and basic but essentially okay for a short stay (B-), and very near the bus station and centre of town.

I went to two restaurants and a bar during my short second visit. Along with the hotels, they are all on this Google map along with a couple of other places I didn’t get to. I’d like to try Barone next time.

Antica Trattoria Martella (Advanced A), 10 Via Chiesa Conservatorio, www.ristorantemartella.it, closed Sunday evening and Monday

According to my research, this old school place is the best restaurant in town. I came for a blowout Sunday lunch and really enjoyed it.

I began with Ravioli di Magro con Pomodorini; ricotta filled pasta pockets with cherry tomatoes (A).

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Then Costolette D’Agnello ai Ferri, or grilled lamb chops (B+).

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These came with Patate Fritte; chips that look like crisps, unless you’re American, in which case they’re fries that look like chips (B+).

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I was still ravenous so I had the Manzo ai Ferri; grilled beef with some great olive oil, green peppercorns and oregano (A).

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The Taurasi Donnachiara was a little thin on the aftertaste but still very good (A-).

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I indulged myself with a slab of their excellent Millefoglie, made with chocolate and cherries (A), alongside a glass of Passito (B).

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Finally I had a shot of Nocello (nut liqueur; Avellino is also famous for hazelnuts) which was the best I’ve ever had (A+). The waiter described it as ‘multo particular’ and it was very strong! I liked it so much I persuaded them to give me a bottle to take home, which bumped up my final excessive bill to €85. Whoops.

Degusta (High Intermediate B+), 35 Via Ammiraglio Ronca, www.ristorantedegusta.it

I heard about this place through the blog of Luciano Pignataro, a local wine writer and restaurant reviewer. It’s quite modern and brash, and quite popular.

I nearly didn’t stay because I didn’t like the table I was offered, or the first two bustling servers I met. However, a more welcoming waiter, Paolo, and Giovanni the off-duty head chef persuaded me to stay and I was glad I did.

The dishes Pignataro raved about were out of season but they did put together a special menu for me. They are big on specialist ingredients here which meant the menu took some translating.

The starter ‘Cipolla Ramata di Montoro’ was described as ‘cipolla ramata di Montoro, cotta al sale, ripenia con fonduta di formaggio, crostini di pane’ or a particular onion from Montoro, baked in salt, stuffed with melted cheese and served with croutons. It was a novel serving method but the flavours weren’t particularly special (B).

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The next course was ‘Scialatiello’ which the menu described as being made with ‘fave Avellinesi, cipollotto nocerino, pecorino Carmasciano, fiche secchi cilentani’ or spaghetti with local broad beans, a certain spring onion (with its own DOP), sheep’s cheese and dried white figs from Cilento. The specialist ingredients (all from Campania) worked well together but not amazingly so (B).

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Surprisingly I was given ‘Raviolo’; a second pasta course of ‘Raviolo di ricotta di fuscella, pomodorini del piennolo Casa Barone, caciorioctta Bruna Alpina’ or ravioli filled with ricotta cheese (made in a special wicker basket), cherry tomatoes from a certain farm near Vesuvius and scattered with cheese made from the milk of the Bruna Alpina breed of cattle.

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For the main I was given the ‘Hamburger di Razza Podolica Azienda Agricola Cerrone’ which was served with ‘misticanza capricciosa, maionese senza uovo, ketchup di San Marzano e patate’. I translate this as being a burger made with beef from the Podolica cattle breed (from a particular farm) served with a mixed salad, eggless mayonnaise, San Marzano tomato ketchup and chips. It was great (A) and I was particularly impressed by the ketchup (A) although the mayo was too subtle (C).

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The Aglianico Molettieri had a great nose (B+) but didn’t follow through on the palate (B). It was fine for €15 though.

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I finished with pear and ricotta crumble, also excellent (A). Two limoncellos brought the bill to a reasonable €44.

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The adventurous menu made a nice change after samey Naples. I’d definitely come here again.

Godot Art Bistro (Low Intermediate B+), 13/15 Via Giacomo Mazas, www.godotartbistrot.com

This cosy little place is a really cool literary bar that I stumbled across while I was walking around. I didn’t try the food (freselle buns with cheeses and salads) but I had an average Negroni (B) for €4 whilst grooving to Coltrane and other jazz vibes. They put on live acoustic gigs on a regular basis.

So that’s all I have on Avellino from a very short visit. Despite first impressions not being particularly favourable, you can eat and drink very well here so I hope you can make the most of it.

Olbia – eating out

Posted in Italy, Olbia, Sardinia with tags , , , , , , , on March 19, 2016 by gannet39

Here’s a Google map of all the places I mention below. I’ve put them in order of preference in terms of food.

I really like this first place for seafood.

Osteria del Mare (Advanced A/B+), 8 Via del Terme, www.osteriadelmare.it

I came here twice in three nights and had different but still very good experiences each time, hence the split rating.

Each night I had a tasting menu, first the seafood for €50, and then the meat for €40, both of which involved seven courses and included a bottle of house wine which, given the standard of the service and the presentation, was excellent value.

The seafood experience began with an amuse bouche of prawns with yogurt (A).

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Next some fantastically fresh octopus with potato (A+).

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Then some ravioli (B+) accompanied by an excellent tempura prawn (A).

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Then some turbot which was good but needed a bit of salt (B).

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My notes go to pot here as I got chatting with a friendly couple on the next table. This looks like grilled tuna steak. I’m sure it was good.

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Can’t remember what the dessert was either (creme brulee maybe?) but it looks nice.

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A bottle of the house Vermentino (B) was included in the price, however I added a glass of Lupus in Fabula which is an excellent local wine (A).

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I was back a couple of days later for round two.

The Menu di Terra began with egg and asparagus (B)…

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… followed by some veal carpaccio with mojito sauce, potato and smoked with juniper (B).

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The pacchieri alla caprese were nice but a bit cold (B-)…

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…but the veal oot roast with chickpea puree, tomato and anchovies was great (A).

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The house red was just okay (B) but the extra glass of ‘Meno Buio’ Carignano from a fat little bottle was fantastic (A). The Carignan grape is a local varietal that seems to have Spanish origins.

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For dessert their ricotta-filled seadas with yogurt ice cream were tasty but tiny (B). Dolceaqua (see below) does them better.

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I was finished off with a house mirto and some complimentary chocolates.

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The service I got was excellent. I received fresh cutlery for each dish and the plates had been warmed, a rarity in Italy. The tasting menus should be for two but it wasn’t a problem to just cater for one. Definitely a place I want to come back to. Maybe reserve if you want to sit on the small terrace on a nice day.

Ristorante Dolceacqua (High Intermediate A), 4 Via G.Palo, www.ristorantedolceacqua.com, closed Monday

After reading about it in Lonely Planet, I came here for Sunday lunch and the food and service I got was very good.

I had the Gamberi alla Catalana, a prawn salad (B+), to start and for the pasta course, spaghetti with squid, artichokes and bottarga (A). The food was even served on a warm plate, hallelujah!

For dessert, I had Seada con Miele e Scorzette de Arancia which is a kind of crepe filled with ricotta and doused with honey and served here with orange zest. It stood out as the best of several versions I have tried (A+). With a bottle of wine and a limoncello this all came to €60.

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Antica Trattoria Pizzeria (Intermediate B), 1 Via delle Terme, www.anticatrattoriaolbia.com

Recommended by both Peter the shop owner (I think they are his customers/friends) and the Daily Telegraph, this spot seems a bit touristy but was full of locals on the Saturday night I went in December, perhaps due to its location just opposite the cinema.

The interior is quite modern but nods to tradition with local ceramics and old maps of the island on the walls. They have three kinds of Menu Touristico at €15, €20 and €25 which are a pretty good deal. The service was fine, the food just okay.

For my primo, I had the Gnocchi di Farina Galluresi, some unusually textured pasta made from spelt and tossed in a simple but tasty tomato sauce (A).

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I followed up with the Arrosto Misto di Carne, a mixed grill involving a pork chop, bacon on the bone, a sausage and a slice of lamb, all of which were fine but plain and uninteresting (B-). Even though I had skipped lunch in preparation, I couldn’t finish it.

I had Patatine Fritte as a side which were probably McCains by the look and taste of them (C). The small portion of roast potatoes that came with the meat were fine though (B) so maybe order Patate al Forno instead.

To go with these a bottle of the house red Cannonau di Sardegna (Sella-Mosca 2009) www.sellamosca.com which was a good choice (B+) for the €10 asking price.

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Finally, the ubiquitous Seadas, again. They were mediocre but did the trick (B).

With this a glass of Su F’ile Ferru aka ‘Rod of Iron’, the local grappa, but the homemade version here had a strange aftertaste (C). The name comes from the practice of using a thick piece of wire to indicate the hiding place of the secretly buried bottle!

I came here again in 2015 for lunch and had the €20 menu which was fine but not particularly exciting.

La Lanterna (Intermediate B), 13 Via Olbia, www.ristorantelalanternaolbia.it

Another Lonely Planet pick, handy for the Hotel Panorama. I had an okay Pizza Margherita here (B). With cover, two beers and a limoncello the bill came to €24. It’s very popular so I’d recommend making a reservation.

Ristorante da Paolo (Intermediate A), 27 Via Garibaldi

I had a good seafood set menu for lunch here. Three courses with house wine came to €32.50. Nice old place but a bit dark and slightly gloomy brightened by pleasant service. It’s very near the Hotel Panorama.

Near the Hotel Stella, on the other side of the tracks in the new town:

Pizzeria L’Antico Borgo (B) 12 Via de Fabris, Turn right out of the Hotel Stella and turn right at the fifth side street, you’ll see its terrace on the right.

One of many pizzerias in the area but this one seems to be the most popular with the locals, and is open the latest. They let me in just after 11pm to get my fix of Pizza Margherita (the ‘Buffalo Bill’ with buffalo mozzarella and cherry tomatoes). I’d been fantasising about my first Margherita for several weeks before coming and this one hit all the right buttons (B+).

Several Belgian beers were on the menu but at €10 or more a bottle, I settled for the local Ichnusa which was fine. Factoid: Sardinians are the biggest consumers of beer per person in the whole of Italy at 60 litres per person per year!

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By the way, the flag you can see on the bottle (and everywhere in Sardinia) is the St.George cross with four Moor’s heads in each corner, the history of which is quite interesting.

Total cost was €15 with a complimentary flask of limoncello. I liked the Christmassy atmosphere here, very cosy and warm. The service is very young and inattentive but friendly. Perhaps avoid the indoor terrace where they have a patio heater pumping out carbon monoxide. These things should be outside.

As far as bars are concerned, I quite liked the laid back atmosphere of the intimate Jazz Art Café (at 129 Viale Aldo Moro, just before you get to the turn for L’Antico Borgo) with its chilled musical vibes, although I wouldn’t make a pilgrimage to come here. A limoncello costs €3.

Some places to avoid in the old town:

I had a mediocre Pizza Margherita (C+) at Pizzeria Trocadero at 14 Via Achenza. The brightly coloured décor is quite alarming. With cover, wine and a limoncello the bill came to a reasonable €17. La Lanterna above has better food and ambiance but is a bit more expensive I think.

Ristorante Il Gambero di Roberta Serra at 6 Via La Marmora was a Lonely Planet pick many years ago but is no longer listed by them. It was empty every time I passed by.

The legendary restaurant of the Hotel Gallura at 145 Corso Umberto is mentioned in many guides and articles but sadly it’s now permanently closed.

Please see my separate posts for things to see in Olbia and beaches nearby.

Photos uploaded January 2015 and March 2016.

Olbia – going to the beach

Posted in Italy, Olbia, Sardinia with tags , , , , on March 18, 2016 by gannet39

While Olbia itself might not have much going for it, there are several good beaches in both directions along the coast. I’ve plotted them all on my Google map. I was only in Olbia for three days on my second visit in 2015, but one of them was on a Sunday when I wasn’t working, so I managed to get a bit of beach time.

Another place you could consider going is the nearby island of La Tavolara, which is one of Sardinia’s most famous beauty spots.

However one local couple I met felt that the trip via ferry was more hassle than it was worth at this time of year (pre-season June) and that it was nicer to be on a beach that had a good view of the island. This webpage has more information if your interested.

The ferry to the island leaves from the small village of Porto San Paolo. To get there from Olbia you need to take the southbound #5 bus but it only runs a few times a day before the peak season starts, around July 15th.

Funnily enough I worked at the school in Porto San Paolo in 2013 and on the way back to town the teacher stopped off at Spiaggia Porto Istana, a nearby beach, so I could get a nice view of La Tavolara. The teacher said this was the beach where she personally spent the summer.

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Due to the lack of buses I decided to head instead in the opposite direction on the #4 bus towards Spiaggia Pittalongu, a twenty-minute drive to the north.

I got on the bus at Via San Simplicio, but if you want a seat, it would be advisable to get on a stop or two earlier because by the time I got on, it was already full with tourists, local kids and beach hawkers with their huge bags of tat.

I meant to ask the driver for Lo Squalo (a recommended beach bar) but I ended up going to the end of the line to Spiaggia Bados. Any of the preceding four stops would have been fine for Pittalongu as it’s a very long beach. I think Lo Squalo is the fourth stop on Pittalongu.

I could easily have walked back but Spiaggia Bados seemed like a nice, relatively quiet spot and it had a nice view of La Tavolara on the horizon.

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I hunkered down in front of Bar Bados (geddit?), one of the two bars on the beach. Sun loungers (lettini) here are €6 for the day, and an umbrella another €6, which is quite expensive given I paid €6 for both in Alghero the previous weekend.

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The food at Bar Bados is fine but nothing special, as is usually the case at the beach. I had Spaghetti con Arselle, which was a bit too salty and not al dente (C+).

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Arselle by the way, are known as Coquinas in Spanish and English, and are a member of the Donax bivalve family. By contrast Vongole, which are more commonly eaten in Italy, are in the Veneridae family of Venus clams.

I also had grilled squid which thankfully is hard to get wrong (B).

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And that was my day off. The next day it was time to say goodbye to Sardinia and head back to the mainland.

When you fly, make sure you look out of the window to catch a glimpse of the beautiful azure blue waters along the coast. I really must come back some time with the yacht.

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