Those infused with a desire to enjoy a Sardinia that is both beautiful and tastes great can follow this five-step plan, all based on our highly enjoyable – and repeated – direct experience. Starting from our base in San Pantaleo, a stone’s throw from the Costa Smeralda, we will bring you right into the heart of the island, before returning through the mountains of northern Gallura.
The first stage is right in the historic centre of Olbia: here, almost directly opposite the church of San Paolo, sits the little Anticas Licanzias. This informal, superbly maintained establishment fields a team of women dressed in the traditional costume – i.e. skirt, bodice, embroidered waistband and shirt – who prepare and serve authentic dishes of deliciously Sardinian cuisine.
An unsophisticated, practical and generous way of eating that is tasty and interesting: su filindeu, the long “angel’s hair” rolled by hand and served in broth, classic frattau bread and maccarrones de busa are just a few of the dishes that satisfy the palate and awaken the curiosity of those who are not (or no longer) used to our traditional cuisine.
Not far away, less than an hour from Olbia, lies Nuoro, the second leg of our tasting journey and a town whose energetic cultural life may surprise you. After a visit to the Man (museum of contemporary art), a short stroll brings you to the Piazza Sebastiano Satta, a corner enlivened by the granite sculptures of Salvatore Nivola, who was a protagonist of the New York Bauhaus movement with Le Corbusier.
Montiblu is located here, an original haunt that merges a tailor’s atelier with a tea room. On the upper floor, at the appropriate hour, things get serious, and dishes of Sardinian cuisine revisited with the chef’s creative expertise are served. Each one is to be sampled; it’s a difficult choice between the ravioli of red mullet in a sea urchin sauce, carpaccio of beef with cream cheese and pesto and the many other offerings devoted to taste and originality.
The zenith of our gourmet itinerary is probably the Ristorante Sardo Su Carduleu in Abbasanta, which received a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin guide 2019. In reality it takes little more than an hour from Olbia, along a good four-lane highway, to get here, where chef Roberto Serra has opened this unique restaurant, away from it all.
Here the “culurgiones” ravioli are delicate, with the perfect dash of tomato and stuffed with aubergine, potatoes and herbs. Then there is the marinated fillet of goat, the rabbit loin, the mutton casserole, the nettles flavoured with anchovies, the desserts – everything conspires to disprove what we had always thought could be done with local ingredients.
Advance booking is a must, because Su Carduleu is always full of people who, like us, would travel twice as far for this superior class of cuisine, which wins awards such as “Good Italian Cooking”, and merits recognition from authoritative guides such as that of the Slow Food movement for 2019, and many others.
On the way home, but via the north to avoid taking the same road, a stop in Aggius is worthwile. Here a small taverna called Il Mosto serves up the specialities of the Gallura region: good wine, first and foremost, meat from livestock that roams freely in this blessed area, “zuppa gallurese”, ravioli, and rivers of handmade pasta. The centre of Aggius is then worth a post-meal stroll, amidst granite houses and works of art by Maria Lai and other contemporary artists.
Next enjoy a soft landing in San Pantaleo, the gourmet destination of the Costa Smeralda, where Giagoni in Piazza has garnered increasing recognition thanks to its brilliant interpretations of the cuisine and raw materials of the island. The atmosphere, the view of the square and an excellent wine cellar complete the festive and extraordinarily pleasant experience. There is nothing better than rounding off an evening with a stroll around San Pantaleo and, finally, a last drink in the always-lively Caffé Nina.
And so concludes the perfect lap of five restaurants that speak Sardinian, each with its own accent, taking the opportunity to cover a few miles on some of the island’s most beautiful roads. Enjoy!