The Best Restaurants and Trattorias in Cagliari, Sardinia

You wont go hungry on a trip to Cagliari, thanks to these excellent restaurants
You won't go hungry on a trip to Cagliari, thanks to these excellent restaurants | © carlo maggio / Alamy
Matt Charlton

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.

1. Luigi Pomata

Restaurant, Contemporary, Italian, Mediterranean

Tuna dish at The upmarket Luigi Pomata restaurant, Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy.
© Yadid Levy / Alamy

The self-styled “King of Tuna”, Luigi Pomata heads this sleek fine dining restaurant in the city centre. Born and raised in tuna fishing capital Carloforte on San Pietro Island, just off the south coast of Sardinia, many of the dishes here are an homage to the fish dubbed “the chicken of the sea” – just don’t call it that in front of Pomata. For true seafood aficionados, look no further the highly prized Sardinian tarantello tuna, simply served in a tin, preserved in olive oil.

2. Martinelli’s

Pub, Italian, Seafood, Mediterranean

Once upon a time, this cosy, marina-side joint was an unassuming pub and pizzeria – but, thanks to head chef Roberto Raccis, it has since evolved into a sophisticated seafood bistro. The success of this new direction is in keeping things simple – from using fresh, locally sourced ingredients, to cutting out any fiddly food styling. Expect dishes such as trofie with clams, courgette flowers and saffron, or sea bass cooked in Sardinian Vernaccia wine.

3. PerBacco

Bar, Restaurant, Wine Bar, Italian, Seafood, Mediterranean

The magic of Cagliari is stumbling upon little hidden gems like this jolly, homespun little restaurant, tucked well away from the tourist trail down a narrow, residential alley-like street. With its beamed ceilings and crumbling limestone walls, it has a cavern-like feel, but the food is anything but primitive. The delicate seafood ravioli, dressed in a tangy tomato sauce is delicious, washed down with a glass of crisp house white.

4. Pizzeria Nansen

Restaurant, Italian

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.

5. Principi di Dan

Restaurant, Italian, Mediterranean

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.

6. Corso Dodici

Restaurant, Italian, Seafood, Mediterranean

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.

7. Trattoria Lillicu

Restaurant, Italian

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.

8. Caffè degli Spiriti

Bar, Cafe, Cocktail Bar, Pizzeria, Restaurant, Italian

Caffe degli Spiriti cafe, Bastione S.Remy, Castello, Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy, Europe
© REDA &CO srl / Alamy

If you like your food with a view, you’ll love this place – spread out on a terrace of the city’s hilltop bastion. You’ll need to book at least a day ahead if you want to eat, especially during high season, but it’s worth the faff – particularly for the crispy pork belly with rosemary potatoes, or the traditional Sardinian fregula pasta with mussels in a herby dressing. Or, if you want to keep things casual, you can’t go wrong with some antipasti and an Aperol spritz.

This is an updated version of an article originally by Graziano Scaldaferri.

For more foodie options, check out the best restaurants in Sardinia. Looking for somewhere to stay? Book into one of the best hotels in Sardinia for every traveller, or treat yourself to one of the best luxury hotels on the island. Inspire your itinerary with the top things to see and do in Sardinia, and don’t miss its most beautiful towns.

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