Before coming to Sardegna, I had always heard of the pastoral heritage of the island influencing the meat-laden cuisine, leading to a vision of a tropical Scotland in my mind. I had not expected the raw beauty of the arid vegetation, called the macchia mediterranea, contrasted against some of the most striking coastline in the world.
While the traditional dishes are based on meat, we found many of the restaurants serve excellent seafood ranging from simple preparations to sophisticated and elegantly presented masterpieces. We tried several restaurants but two clearly stood out amongst the crowd for their excellent seafood.
The first seafood restaurant we tried was in Alghero and is named Al Tuguri. The best course of action when dining at Al Tuguri is to place yourself in the hands of the proprietor. Simply explain what you like to eat and how much of it you would like and he will come up with something fabulous.
Families be advised that children are not only welcome but are very well taken care of here. Like many well-run Italian restaurants, their first order of business was to find out what the children would like and feed them first. When our boys finished shoveling down their pasta and started becoming lively, bowls of gelato appeared which kept them entertained during the rest of our meal.
We were served a very special dish of fresh fettucine pasta which was black with squid ink on one side and white on the other and dressed with skate and fresh tomato. It was delicious. The main was a mixed grill of fish comprised of amberjack, sea bass and swordfish, each flavoured differently with tomato, lemon or almond. This restaurant focuses on the cuisine of the Catalan people of Sardegna who reside in and around the Northwest of Sardegna.
Our next special seafood meal was in the spectacular town of Castelsardo, a town arranged around a castle and fort dramatically set on a cliff overlooking the Asinara Coast. In the town, we found the lovely restaurant, Il Cormorano. The restaurant specializes in rock lobster (aragosta). We started with the seafood fregola and the homemade squid ink maltagliati pasta with rock fish, both of which were excellent. The fregola had clams, mussels, langoustine and prawns and the fregola had a lovely toasted flavour to them and a nice chewy texture.
Next we had the dentex and the boiled rock lobster prepared with an emulsion of olive oil, white wine and the lobster roe. It was excellent, perhaps the best rock lobster I have ever eaten. This is no small statement considering how much time I have spent in Asia eating rock lobsters.
The children were equally well cared for as at Al Tuguri and a blind eye was turned to some of their bad behavior.
We found the local Vermentino di Sardegna to be the perfect white wine with the local seafood. We were surprised how different the Vermentino tasted in Sardegna to that in Liguria. Our clear favourite was one by Capichera called Lintori. Other Vermentinos we tried and liked were Canayli by Cantina Gallura, Costamolino and Is Argiolas by Argiolas and Chimera by Tenuta Soletta.
Recipe by Al Tuguri:
Lobster Alghero style (Aragosta all’algherese)
1 kilo rock lobster
60 ml extra virgin olive oil
20 ml white wine vinegar
Using a pot large enough to accommodate the lobster, fill it with water and add 50 grams of salt. Bring the water to a boil and add the lobster. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove the lobster and allow it to cool.
Cut the lobster in half lengthwise. Remove the stomach and discard. Cut the lobster pieces into halves or quarters. Dress the lobster with the olive oil, vinegar and salt to taste.
Al TuguriVia Maiorca 113, 07041 Alghero Tel: +39 079 976 772 Email: [email protected] www.altuguri.it
Closed: December to February and every Sunday
Al Tuguri is primarily a seafood restaurant specializing in the dishes of the Catalan people of Sardegna. They have some of their recipes on their website.
Recommended dishes: linguine ai filetti di razza (linguine pasta with skate), Grigliata mista di pesce (mixed fish platter) and crema catalana (crème brulee).
Il CormoranoVia Cristoforo Colombo, 5, 07031 Castelsardo, Sassari Tel: +39 079 470628 www.ristoranteilcormorano.net
Recommended dishes: fregola con frutta di mare (fregola with seafood), maltagliati con scorfano (maltagliati pasta with rock fish) and aragosta (lobster) – bollito (boiled) or with pasta. Please note that as they use local seasonal ingredients the menu changes.