Sardinia’s buzzy capital, Cagliari, isn’t short of good restaurants. If it’s the Italian classics you’re after – pizza, pasta etc – you’ll find it’s as excellent here as anywhere on the mainland. But it’s Sardinia’s biodiverse nature – its bountiful game, fruit, veg and seafood – and the collective influence of centuries of different occupations, that will excite more adventurous foodies. From casual trattorias to five-star fine dining, it’s all on the menu in the island’s capital – we’ve narrowed the field down to our absolute favourites.
This pizza-by-the-slice place is where Cagliari’s working locals head for a quick – and cheap – lunch on the go. The pizza flies out as fast as it can be cooked, so you know it’s always going to be fresh. The focaccia-style base is soft, fluffy and surprisingly filling – especially when you factor in the toppings, which Nansen goes big on, from the more traditional mozzarella and basil to heavy-hitting combos such as potato and sausage.
You might be thinking that Dan doesn’t sound particularly Sardinian – and you’d be right, in a way. But this trattoria-cum-bistro is actually named after the warriors of Sher-Dan who once inhabited the island, and is Sardinian to its core. We’d say it was just breads, meat and cheese, but that would be doing a disservice to the exceptional quality of the cold cuts, roasted pork and lamb, and crusty, still-warm loaves they serve up. This is simple, rustic dining, done to perfection.
Set up, encouragingly, by Sardinia’s more recent generation of restaurateurs, this young gastrobar has already been firmly embraced by the locals. And it’s easy to see why: stylish, timeless decor – think parquet flooring and bare plaster walls hung with antique mirrors and vintage photos – a prime location near the marina and beautifully executed dishes served at inexpensive prices. A daily changing menu keeps things fresh, so move fast for entrees such as four cheese pasta with aubergine parmigiana.
How do you know when the seafood is really fresh? When the restaurant doesn’t have a menu – as the kitchen is waiting on the catch of the day before deciding what it’s going to cook. This might sound a bit wacky, but it’s a formula that’s served this modest little trattoria – and its patrons – well since the 1930s. From whitebait fritters to spaghetti with sweet little clams and salty, pungent bottarga, seafood is the star here.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Graziano Scaldaferri.