We’ll start off in the northeast along the Emerald Coast (Costa Smeralda), move to the northwest, then southwest and then to the east to eat a range of meals—from the best restaurants to homey locales—with surprising food and wine quality.
1. DISHES & WINES –
FRADES RESTAURANT [Northeast Sardinia]
Tagliere misto (cheeses that include pecorino (sheep) vaccino (cow), and caprine (goat) as well as salamis/meats that include capicola (cured and then soaked in fennel, coriander, anise and black pepper), mustella (sweet and thin pork loin) and prosciutto crudo (raw cured ham).
2018 Dea Madre Vermentino di Gallura DOCG Superiore wine from Monte Matteu—Arzachena.
Main Dish (Secondo Piatto) –
Culurgiones arosto con gazpacho di pomodoro camone.
Culurgiones are a Sardinian specialty pasta—often filled with potatoes and mint, or garlic and meat.
Cantina di Mandrolisai 1921 red wine from Sorgono in the dead center of Sardinia.
CANTINA DI LUNI, BADESI [Northern Sardinia]
Snacks and Wine –
A plant of pecorino sheep cheese, local salsicha and pancetta (salt cured pork belly) with fresh bread.
Served with a glass of sparkling Isola dei Nuraghi Rosato IGT rosé from vines grown on sandy dune soils a thousand feet (300 meters) from the sea. A fresh and lovely wine to pair with local meats and cheese.
After, some pecorino sheep cheese with aged and candied figs and a glass of Nozzinna Vermentino di Gallura Superiore DOG wine.
LIBERTY RESTAURANT, SASSARI [Northwest Sardinia]
For lunch I drove to a restaurant that renowned Sardinian winemaker Mario Bagella had recommended, named Liberty, in the city of Sassari. The city is sloped and cobbled and somewhat gritty and resembles places in Palermo, Sicily. This is a hot region—siesta country. Here owner Gianluca Andreini and his staff served a wonderful three course lunch for an astounding 20 Euros.
First Course –
Zucchine, cozze e salsa aioli—zucchini, mussels and olive oil with mashed garlic sauce.
Owner Gianluca Andreini paired this course with a 2021 Stria Vermentino from Vigne Rada Alghero from the northeast of Sardinia, with aromas of flint, salt and hazelnuts in a mineral wine with an oily cheek feel and a generous mouthful of flavors of butter, caramel and mandarins.
Second Course –
Agnellone arrosto con bagnetto verde e funghi, or roasted lamb with a green sauce and mushrooms.
2018 Tanca Farra DOC from Sella &Mosca—a blend of some unnamed local red grape with Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was rustic and slightly oxidized, with aromas of cherries, prunes and black pepper coated in buoyant acidity.
RESTAURANT L’INCANTU, CASTELSARDO [Northwest Sardinia]
First Course –
Poker di mare dello chef, or four seafood appetizers: salmon with cucumber and a coconut reduction; scallop with burrata cheese and pesto; squid and garlic mayonnaise, and prawns with red onions and guacamole.
Sette Vermentino from Calasetta 1932—the color of light limes, with aromas of green apples and grapefruit, and an oily mouth feel with a rounded, open, honeyed wine with slight caramel on the finish.
Second Course –
Culurgiones ogliastrini con pomodoro fresco, basilico e petali di Grana Anglona (local ravioli stuffed with potato and mint, sauteed with fresh tomato sauce, basil and local cheese).
S’Èleme Vermentino di Gallura DOCG wine .
Seades al miele di corbezzolo o zucchero, or the classic Sardinia giant dessert ravioli served with local honey or sugar.
Sweet wine from southern Sardinia, from the producer Santadi.
Cantina Santadi—2015 Latinia—vino da uve stramature. A sweet wine with 14% alcohol that includes aromas of rum raisin ice cream, vanilla and orange rinds. Flavors of treacle and sultanas in a river of sleek juice, with flavors of mandarin, and lemon cheesecake on the finish. A juicy delight—think Amarone meets Monbazillac.
IL VELIERO DI TANDA DARIO, ARGENTIERA (Western Sardinia)
Il veliero means sailing ship, or galleon, and is a common restaurant name in Sardinia. Argentiera, named after silver because this was a coastal mining town, is in a desolate and beautiful location on the shore that reminded me of ocean regions in the country of Namibia in southwest Africa.
Here I was served tanuta fish, or black seabream, and drank it with a Mario Bagella 2019 Vermentino wine named 1964, of appellation Isola dei Nuraghi IGT. I had purchased the bottle in Sorso to the north a few days earlier.
Dinner and Wine –
CIBUM SNACK BAR AND STORE, ORISTANA (Western Sardinia)
Sardegna Panini (Sardinian sandwich) with copra, pecorino and melanzine (cured pork meat, Sardinian sheep cheese and eggplant), served with two shot glasses, one light and one dark of the oxidized style Vernaccia di Oristano.
Il VELIERO LOUNGE BAR AND PIZZERIA, CALSETTA, SAINT’ANTIOCO (SOUTHWEST SARDINIA)
First Course –
Il tagliere del Veliero—olives, cheeses and ham.
2021 Demà Vermentino di Sardegna DOC wine from Cala di Seta. Slightly lime colored, the wine had slight floral aromas, as well as aromas of grapefruit, limes and gunpowder. Flavors of creamy oatmeal, candy cane, limes, butterscotch and boiled candies with scorching acidity roaring down the throat.
Second Course –
Spaghetti alle vongole, or clams, cherry tomatoes and bottarga—salted and cured fish roe.
2019 Cantina Santadi Grotta Rossa Carignano del Sulcis DOC wine, a 13.5% alcohol wine with aromas of red plums, minestrone and orange peels, and flavors of black pepper, sage, oranges, applesauce and licorice. Layered as a decent Sangiovese and flavored almost as a Corsican Nielluccio, but without the same chocolate profile.
ALBERGO RISTORANTE DA CONCETTA, JERZU [EASTERN SARDINIA]
First Course and Wine –
Culurgiones. Deliciously spicy with pomodoro–tomato–sauce.
Vino Bianco Cantina Jerzu. Seriously perfumed—lilacs, irises. Flavors include lime and sage and with uniquely soft tannins, sleek acidity and a silky finish. This is a highland Sardinian Viognier. And as a pitcher of table wine? Ridiculous value for the quality.
Second Course and Wine –
Cinghiale in umido, or wild boar in season, served with whole, uncut roasted potatoes without butter or garnish. Just raw and tasty basics here.
Served with a quarter bottle pitcher of Cantina Jerzu rosso (for five Euros). Aromas of cocoa, red plums and Oreo chocolate cookies, and tastes that include blackberries and cranberry juices. Roiling acidity melded with the wild boar gravy, and there was a lick of mint on the finish An unusually happy, festive wine in an unpretentious location where time stands still for a few hours.
Again, local seades dessert with honey.
Digestif Wine –
Zelda piras digestif. A black beauty with flavors of nutmeg, cinnamon and white pepper.
3. SCENE & INSIDER ANGLES.
A brief but colorful visit to a wild and mountainous land with delicious Italian cuisine and wines.
Spend time along the lush and rich Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast) until you have tired of viewing oligarch yachts and pristine families pacing white sand beaches. Then head south, to where it is a little wilder.
The Vermentino is spellbinding—enjoy with seafood and culurgiones pasta and seades dessert. The Cannonau is heart—enjoy with heartier beef or goulash meals.
Below are a few more photos of this land.