By Marlise Ponzo
After a 6am flight we arrive in Sardinia in the early morning and head straight from the airport to the magnificent ‘restorante tipico’ Su Gologone nestled at the foot of Supramonte mountain in the town of Oliena in the heart of Sardinia. The resort is literally in the middle of nowhere… our GPS tells us we are off the map. The winding roads that climb up the mountainous interior and treacherous drops are made all the more frightening by the exhausted state we find ourselves in. This untamed, remote and hilly interior of Nuoro is historically notorious for kidnappings and robberies by the briganti, bandits who hide out in the isolated interior, land of the sheppards. For centuries these outlaws tormented the island’s people and its visitors with seemingly no fear of punishment. This does not happen ‘much’ today but a few years back I might have been much more concerned. We arrive alive and without the exchange of ransom.
The hotel in it’s entirety is immaculately put together with absolute attention to detail like a magnificent work of art… and the lunch we are later presented with is no exception. We walk the grounds and marvel at the traditional crafts, folklore and textiles that adorn Su Gologone’s many secluded nooks and crannies. The view in every direction is breathtaking, mountain ranges, hundred-year-old knotted juniper trees and wild olive trees pepper the undeveloped landscape.
Culigiones, a very particular type of agnolotto filled with potato, mint and an acidulated Sardinian sheep’s milk cheese, are perfectly executed and we mop up the sauce, or ‘facciamo la scarpetta’ we make the little shoe as they say in Italia, with intricately sculpted traditional bread. The smell of the porceddu, roast-suckling pig, fills the air as it sizzles fireside in the center of the gorgeous dining room. Crispy skin!!!! Yummy.
The Carignano del Sulcis DOC from Santadi is fabulous with our meats and brims with blackberry, licorice, myrtle and leather. Both the goat and fennel braise and the pork partner well with Santadi’s Rocca Rubia.
The desserts are to die for. The traditional array of Sardinian sweets are so beautifully hand crafted we marvel at them for quite some time before devouring… but the Mirto gelato is my favorite. Creamy and sweet with pronounced bitter herbaciousness from the myrtle berries, the iced cream is perfection.
A little sleepy with food, travel and a lack of rest we pile into the car and head to Sa Corte, the agriturismo we are booked into for the night. Sa Corte is one of only two agriturismos mentioned in the Michelin Guide. In Sardinia, and many other regions of Italy, agriturismos are scattered throughout the countryside. Their aim is to promote local product, preserve local tradition and traditional food preparations and serve the guests who stay the night a meal from products grown on their land or a close by property. Everything from antipasti straight through to the jug of wine on the table and the liquor of myrtle in the shot glass is grown raised and made on the premises. This is a true labor of love as the owners of such agriturismo work rigorously from the crack of dawn till nightfall in the name of Sardinian cultural preservation and the culinary arts. Chef/owner Giacomo Pisanu and his brilliant and hospitable wife are the most welcoming of hosts and sit with us after our dinner till late in the night speaking passionately about traditional food preparations.
Pane Frattau is a deliciously simple dish of Carta Da Musica, a thin Sardinian flatbread, soaked momentarily (at Sa Corte at least) in sheep’s broth then topped with poached eggs and a ladle full of tomato sauce and grated pecorino cheese. Sa Cordula, a dish of spit-roasted or oven roasted offal stuffed and braided lamb intestine is succulent. After dinner and the emptying of the dining room, out comes the Casu Marzu, a contraband sheep’s milk cheese riddled with live fly larvae and Albert tucks in! This cheese warranted mention in author Taras Grescoes book The Devil’s Picnic, a journey around the world in pursuit of forbidden fruit. Albert describes the cheese as feeling extremely piccante and energetic in his mouth. WOW!
We head to he beach for four days of sun and turquoise sea driving inland for meals at near by culinary destinations. First stop, Su Barchile hotel and restaurant on a beautiful cobblestone street in Orosei. We try an intricate presentation of ‘crudo’ raw seafood with olive oil salt and citrus juice. Very delicate flavours. Gnocchetti Sardi is rich and full of porky flavour. We enjoy a bottle from winery Attilio Contini; ‘Pariglia’ Vermentino Di Sardegna. Fat juicy and heady with orchard fruit. Yum.
Satiated we take in the stunning countryside as we drive back to our hotel on the coast.
Another blissful day in the sand is ended with a seafood tasting menu at Spinnaker and a bottle of revered ‘Ruinas’ by Azienda Vitivinicola Depperu. This Colli Del Limbara IGT is made with 100 percent Vermentino and is laden with aromas of apricot and flowers with a salty minerality and broad palate. Complex, alluring and worth every penny. Aragosta, Italian lobster, is unctuous and the highlight of the meal.
We travel to Cagliari, the regions capital city and this is where we end our journey and after a few days of visiting with my in-laws there Albert, Gabriel and I set off to Cagliari’s historic zone for a stroll, a light lunch and a smorgasbord of Sardinian sweets made by Maurizia Pala and her mother at the captivating Durke bakery. After a feast of sweets and a walk along the port we stop for the best espresso of the trip and head back to our hotel to reluctantly pack for the next days flight that will carry us away from this magical place. Sadly… ciao Italia. Xo
Marlise Ponzo is a Sommelier, Writer, Educator and Consultant based in Toronto. Her Sommelier service, Crushing On Wine, focuses on hosting wine centered events in the private residences and offices of its clients. Crushing On Wine also offers wine list consulting and staff training for restaurateurs who understand the value of a knowledgeable front of house staff.