Archive for the Sardinia Category

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,

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).


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


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


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


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.


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


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).


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

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


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


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


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


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.


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


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


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,, 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,

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) 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,

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!


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.


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.


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+).


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).


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.

Olbia – out and about

Posted in Italy, Olbia, Sardinia with tags , , , , , on March 17, 2016 by gannet39

Olbia is the main town in the north-east of Sardinia and is the airport for the Costa Smerelda, the super-rich enclave developed by the Aga Khan and a group of international investors. It’s the capital of Gallura which was one of the four independent kingdoms of Sardinia in the Middle Ages.

I’ve broken my posts into three topics, this one about some of the hotels, delis and sights and others on the beaches, and the restaurants. Here’s my Google map with all the places mentioned in this post.

I was here twice in eighteen months. The first time was in the off season in mid-December 2013 for just four nights. A few months earlier this Northern tip of the island had suffered a tornado which caused a lot of damage but most of the repairs had been done by the time I arrived.

In 2013 I stayed at the Hotel Stella 2000 at 70 Viale Aldo Moro, in the more modern part of the town. The hotel is small and basic with a limited breakfast but strong, free wi-fi and friendly non-English-speaking staff. It’s a 20 minute walk to the old town on the other side of the railway tracks but there are lots of shops and eateries nearby. Apparently their own restaurant is highly renowned but I didn’t get round to trying it.

The second time I came in June 2015 I stayed at the Hotel Panorama at 7 Via Giuseppe Mazzini in the heart of the old town. It was a huge improvement (better location, rooms, breakfast and communication with staff) and lived up to its name with a 360 degree vista from its windy sun deck on the roof (video here). La Tavolara looms large on the horizon.

You also get a good view of the lovely multi-coloured tiled roof of Chiesa di San Paolo Apostolo on Via Cagliari.


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I think the oldest building in town is Basilica Sam Simplico on Via Fausto Noce, named after the patron saint of the town, which dates from the 11th century.

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There is apparently a Nuraghe in the industrial part of town north of the harbour but I got lost as soon as I tried to walk there.

One day I stumbled across Stella Sapori Sardegna (133 Corso Umberto), a deli specializing in Sardinian specialties. ‘Peter’ the owner is a talented salesman and will declaim at length in a hybrid of English and local dialect about the quality of his goods.

He also has a head for numbers and will tell you exactly how many DOP’s and cheeses you can find on the island (full national list here), as well as the exact weights and heights of his son and Chinese wife (who he met during a professional fishing competition in Shanghai) at various points in their lives whilst showing you his scrapbooks and family photo albums.

The samples of local flatbreads, Salami al Mirto, Peretta, Casilbolu and Tavedda sheep cheeses, honeys and drinks (‘nougat’, mirto and limoncello) were so numerous I didn’t feel the need for lunch afterwards!

After such hospitality, it would have felt churlish not to have bought something (he knows what he’s doing!) so I went for some prickly pear jam, hazelnut honey and a bottle of the famous myrtle-berry (myrto) liqueur, the latter costing €21.

I coveted his Limoncello di Pompia (made from very special lemons) but at €44 a bottle I couldn’t quite bring myself to fork out for it. I later picked up a bottle at the airport for much less and was glad I did as it’s amazing (A).

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I was also fascinated by some of the local pastas; Lorighittas (twisted loops) and Su Filendeu (fibrous sheets) which are made by only a couple of remaining producers and retail at a hefty €25 for 500g. Everything is handmade however so the steep prices are probably justified.

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Peter threw in a free pack of Pane Guttiau (a version of Pane Carasau, the famous shepherd’s flatbread, but with the additions of olive oil and salt) as a sweetener before I said goodbye.

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On another occasion I found another small deli/wine-seller called Sensazioni di Sapori Sardi near the market (at 71 Via Regina Elena I think) and bought some Abbamele a kind of concentrated honey found only in Sardinia. A very special product indeed.

The market is near here on Via Dattori, but I was unable to get there when it was open.

Piazza Matteotti is the centre of the town but there isn’t anything to see there except a rather ugly modernist statue and fountain. A stroll or jog along the waterfront is a slightly more pleasant option.
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It was pretty quiet when I first went in December but I’m sure it livens up a lot in the summer. Indeed when I went the second time in June I happily coincided with a beer and sausage festival along Corso Umberto, the main street through town.

It seemed very popular with the locals, unlike these two policemen who foolishly decided to drive along the street while the festival was in full flow. The authorities aren’t well-liked at the best of times and I was glad I wasn’t in their shoes.


In conclusion then there isn’t much to excite you about Olbia itself but it is an important jump off point for tourists to more interesting places nearby. And of course the food is good (see next post).

Alghero – eating out

Posted in Alghero, Italy, Sardinia with tags , , , on March 16, 2016 by gannet39

There are heaps of good restaurants in Alghero and I was only there for two days and one night so please see this as just a brief impression rather than a definitive guide.

I did find a few nice places in the old town though. Here’s my Google map with all the places I mention.

Al Refettorio (High Intermediate A), 47 Vicolo Adami (parallel to Via Roma)

This is a modern wine bar located in a tunnel on an atmospheric cobbled street.


I only came for an aperitivo but was sucked in by a friendly English-speaking waiter.

He introduced me to the concept of a ‘Negreddu’, a Negroni made with mirto, the Sardinian national spirit, instead of red vermouth, and mixed with Campari and Tanqueray and a mirto leaf garnish.


I fell in love straight away (B+).


I’m a sucker for oysters and couldn’t resist when I saw them on the menu. They were the biggest I’ve ever seen (B+).


I had them with a glass of excellent Vermentino (B+) before heading off for my proper evening meal. The bill came to €19.

Interestingly the waiter described himself as Catalan and was supporting Barcelona in their Champion’s League final versus Juventus that night.


Al Vecchio Mulino (Intermediate B+), 7 Via Don Deroma,

According to my rudimentary research this place seemed to have the best rep in town.


The food is very good but I got poor service from the husband and wife team who run it. The female owner was very unfriendly and made me feel like a nuisance as a single diner.

Also her husband didn’t like me asking whether the mozzarella was made from cow or buffalo milk (you can’t get the latter fresh in Sardinia it seems). I’m guessing they were both a bit stressed by having such a busy restaurant on a Saturday night.

I had their signature dish of Spaghetti Al Vecchio Mulino; pasta with mushrooms, tomatoes and Parma ham. It was excellent (A) but so it should be.


The total cost was €37 for a pasta course and a bottle of wine. Too much if you ask me but they were packed out, mainly with tourists I’m guessing, so lots of people must think they’re worth the money.

If I’d had a second night I would have gone to Al Tuguri at 113 Via Maiorca, It’s listed in my Gambero Rosso guide and the menu looked really interesting when I walked by.

After this I wandered the streets looking for a bar to watch the final on TV and found this cosy place tucked down a nearby back street.

Birreria Sant Miguel (Elementarty B+), Via Raffaele Arduino,

Like the waiter at Al Refettorio the friendly barman here also considered himself a Catalan and was supporting Barcelona. All the bar’s customers seemed to be local Italians though and they were definitely on the side of Juventus who are probably one of the most disliked teams in the country.

Barca won the game 3-1 but the barman was quite restrained in his celebrations, perhaps for the sake of his custom.

A visiting Catalan-speaking friend told me that although many people define themselves as Catalan here, very few still speak the language, except for some of the old ones,  and it’s quite unusual to hear it.

After the match I kept walking and stumbled on this next place which seemed quite lively.

Sardoa (Intermediate B+), 4 Piazza Duomo,

Run by partners Igor, who is Basque, and Elenor, who is Sardinian, the concept seems to be a kind of fusion pintxo bar. The logo of the bar’s name plays on the Basque word for wine which is ‘ardo’.

Unfortunately the Italians don’t really do tapas so not much was being eaten this late at night but they were absolutely killing it on the gin and tonics.

I helped them out by having some of their great Jamon Iberico…


…and some nice salami on Pane Carasau.


Also a couple of glasses of their excellent wines; Cagnulari from Alghero (B)…


…and Valserrano Crianza, an excellent rioja (B+) which outshone the local wine. It was nice to have some Spanish flavours out of context.


Elenor is also an English teacher and Igor speaks English well so I stayed chatting with them for quite a while, eventually having a G&T made with Gin Mare (from Spain) and cherry tomatoes and basil, which was excellent.



My bill came to €26.50 which wasn’t too bad. In a nutshell this is a friendly place with good quality food and wine that’s open Spanish hours i.e. when most other places are closed.

And that was my Saturday night in Alghero. Not sure what time I got home but it didn’t matter as I had the whole of the next day to sleep it off.

Santa Cruz (Intermediate B), 2 Via Lido

I came here for no other reason other than it was the nearest decent looking beach restaurant to my sunbed. The food is okay but not out of this world and the service is fairly brusque as they’re always busy.

I ate two lunches here. The first time I had their Risotto ai Frutti di Mare (more like a paella) which didn’t wow me that much (B-). Nor did the house white (C).


The second time I had the Linguine ai Frutti di Mare and enjoyed it more (B+).


It’s very popular so get your reservations in, especially if you want to sit outside on the coveted terrace. It’s probably the best place along the beach, or at least I didn’t see anywhere that looked better.

Alghero – stuff to see

Posted in Alghero, Italy, Sardinia with tags , on March 15, 2016 by gannet39

I had the weekend off while I was in Sassari but rather than stay in this landlocked town I persuaded my coordinator to let me swap hotels and go to nearby Alghero which is by the sea.

There’s a little train that runs between the two towns. It has its own platform and ticket office at Sassari station.


Alghero is unique for a few reasons. To begin with I’ve been told it’s the only Sardinian town that has a beach within walking distance of its centre.


Consequently it’s one of the island’s premier resorts and the population quadruples in July and August thanks to a huge influx of tourists. I was there in June when it was busy but not too crowded.

I stayed at this place on the recommendation of some locals…

Hotel San Marco (Intermediate B), 67 Via Lido,

Located on the seafront, this is a large, mid-range family hotel. The rooms and breakfast are nothing special but I was only there for one night so I wasn’t too fussy.

I spent two days at the beach. The hotel has its own section of sun loungers which cost €4, €6 or €8 a day depending how near the water you want to be. As you can see, the sea is beautiful and very clear but the hotel has a pleasure pool too should you prefer it.


The old town is about twenty minutes walk along the beach. It’s really lovely and crammed with great bars and restaurants (see my next post).

The fortified port was founded by the Genoese in 1102 but fell to the Aragonese in 1372.



The Aragonese expelled the local population and facilitated the arrival of Catalan colonists whose culture still dominates the town.


Catalan is the joint official language, although only 22% of the population speak it nowadays.




The old town is located on a small peninsula and is encircled by defensive walls with a series of towers and bastions dotted along them.





The Catalan-Gothic Cattedrale de Santa Maria dates from 1570.



Inside there are some nice late-Renaissance features.



The lions guarding the altar are the happiest I’ve every seen in an Italian cathedral!

The ancient cobbled streets are very atmospheric at night.



However this is mosquito territory so bring protection for the evenings if you are walking around.




Alghero is a really special town and I’d love to come here again.


There are lots of other places to explore nearby such as the Grotta di Nettuno, Nuraghe Palmavera and the secluded Lazzaretto beach.

Here’s my Google map which has all these places on it.


Sassari – restaurants and bars

Posted in Italy, Sardinia, Sassari with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2016 by gannet39

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.


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,

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 Orichiette) 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,

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

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.


L’Antica Hostaria (Advanced B), 55 Via Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour,

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 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,

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 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,, 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.

Sassari – Museo Sanna

Posted in Italy, Sardinia, Sassari with tags on March 13, 2016 by gannet39

The best museum in Sassari (there are a few) is the Museo Nazionale “G.A. Sanna” which has a comprehensive archaeology collection albeit not as large as its counterpart in Cagliari (see this post).

It’s housed in an old Palladian villa at 64 Via Roma which has a nice garden as well.


The collection starts off in the Sala Preistorica with some Stone Age and Neolithic finds.




Not sure if the whole in this person’s head was caused by the archaeologist’s pick or something more sinister…


The exhibition then moves on to the Bronze Age with some ‘bronzetti’; small figurines from the Nuragic civilisation.





Not sure what period these finds are from but they are beautifully made.



These are all just objects that caught my eye so please don’t think of my photos as being representative of the whole collection, there’s heaps more to see.

I love the form of these jugs, they look so modern.

The Roman collection is the largest as you might expect.










There are some stunning Sarcophagi.




And other beautiful carvings from the late-Roman period.









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