One Michelin Star, Two Hungry Sardinian Tourists, a Private Sailboat, and 11ty Courses . . .
I tend to go on and on about how much I love Europe, and how Italy (specifically, Positano) has stolen my heart, but I’m here to tell you, I think I have a new love in my life. I know. Surprising, right?
It’s been quite some time since, but W and I jetted off to Sardinia in May ahead of what was a very generous (and timely) vacation to the island of Capri provided by Small Luxury Hotels.
Well, *provided* after I spent weeks and weeks voting and asking many of you to spend some time voting for me, so for that, I thank you. I intend to do some justice to Capri at a later date, but this post is intended to focus on our lovely experience at a hidden gem of a restaurant in Palau on the northeast tip of Sardinia, La Gritta. Oh, yeah. And something, something . . . on a boat.
Coincidentally, the Rally d’Italia Sardegna (knocking things off of W’s bucket list left and right) was located on Sardinia just barely adjacent to our booked week at JK Place Capri, so we decided, why not!?!? It must be meant to be! So, we set off in search of the perfect hotel to complement a vacation we were setting off for in Capri (aka, we were looking for something cheap, but nice). Finally, we found a really lovely resort outside of Cannigione on the Costa Smerelda in Sardinia, Hotel Villa del Golfo.
I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that this place was Heaven perched on a hill over the sea. In Sardinia. Did I mention our next door neighbour parked a 458 Italia within the walls of his villa? I know, there’s some irony in there somewhere . . . We all essentially had our own villas, with enormous terraces and comfy patio furniture.
And are you ready for the kicker? This place was under $300 a night. That’s right, I said dollars and not euros. I know, I was floored when we checked in and it wasn’t a 10′ x 10′ single room with linoleum and a “shower room” complete with toilet. Not to mention, we had a separate bedroom with a 4 poster bed swagged in filmy white curtains and the largest terrace I think I have ever seen. It felt like home!
So, once we got all checked in and settled, we immediately took pictures because this place is just lovely.
So much texture and colour, and you’ll see in upcoming pictures, the *water*; it was the most indescribably beautiful green-blue. Clear as could be, but not nearly as warm as it looked like it should be.
Each villa was completely stucco with the most rustic looking clay tile roofs. I was so fascinated with the multi-colour tiles, I took a picture of just the roof. I mean, it was pretty spectacular, and being a Las Vegas native, I’m somehow drawn to stucco + terracotta tile.
Our view was a bit interrupted by some of the other villas, but with water like that, I was pretty well ok with that. Perusing the hotel’s offerings for that week, and knowing we had little (if nothing) planned to do the next day, we thought we would sign up with other hotel guests to enjoy a day of sailing to and eating/exploring through the Maddalena Archipelago, a plan that we felt deserved a celebration.
First bottle of wine sought.
So, once we had an hour or two to acclimate ourselves and a plan in motion for the next day, we decided it was high time we found the nearest grocery store and acquired ourselves some wine.
Rumour had it that Cannonau, Italy’s version of the Grenache varietal, was worth the attempt, and boy-oh-boy did we end up loving us some Cannonau. I’ve tried many different vineyards/vintages since, but this bottle was one of our favourites.
Also, remember I was mentioning the comfy furniture? Well, this table was a shin-killer, but it didn’t matter all that much to me because it was just so pretty! Many an evening while sipping wine I was plotting ways in which I could sneak it into our luggage to bring back to Dallas.
That being said, I cleverly decided to avoid posting the rest of the spread we ate that night (mortadella, salame, pecorino, and olives, anyone. . .?) because the pictures were just . . . well, they were an abomination. We were starving after 18+ hours of travel just to get there, so plating/presentation was the absolute last thing on my mind! So, my apologies there, but the pics get better. I promise. 🙂
The next morning, we arose completely bright-eyed bleary-eyed for our 8 am departure on the hotel’s yacht, and absolutely craving the strong, bitter coffee Italians are known for. And, to W’s pleasure, they absolutely did not disappoint; he was practically mainlining the stuff.
Also to our pleasure, we arrived in the lobby and found we were the only people who had opted to cruise that morning. It was a very Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous moment for me when I realized we had the boat, the whole boat (and crew), all to ourselves. All of the coffee, pastries, wine, and food – all to ourselves! Those other suckers don’t know what they missed.
So, off to the Marina we went, where we met our Captain. Andy was a guy who I would love to model my life after. If I knew how to sail. He was Australian, lived on Sardinia, and sailed for a living doing nothing but entertaining hotel guests whose eyes must have also have been as big as the saucers mine were. Oh, and did I mention he was Australian, complete with the awesome accent?
Yes, if you’re ever at Hotel Villa del Golfo, someone tell Captain Andy his hand (pointing out the final destination in the Archipelago) made it to Lauren’s Kitchen. I threatened him, but never made good on that promise; until now. 🙂
So, we then met Luca, who was Andy’s first mate and a fantastic chef/fisherman/sailor. He kept us happy the whole day, and did I mention; cooked all of our meals for us, and fished off of the boat while we were traipsing around a deserted island?
I snapped a pic of him cooking while he was below deck. There’s something to be said for having absolutely everything you need in the kitchen within arm’s reach. Watching Luca cook, I could tell he’d done this a time or two before; and with aplomb. So, now onto the pics of things. Food, water, Maddalena. . .
This is where we finally dropped anchor. I can’t even begin to tell you how crystal clear and simply stunning the water throughout the Archipelago is on a beautiful day.
We were there in early May, and earlier in the day had some overcast skies, but when that sun came out; it came OUT!
Past the beach and around that bend was a larger private beach and a little cottage that had been relatively undisturbed for what is probably decades.
Truth be told, Captain Andy told us most of the history of this whole area, but I’ve since forgotten because of the sheer amount of time + wine since that time.
On to the food . . .
So, now that I’ve got you good and warmed up; it’s time to discuss lunch at La Gritta in Palau. The real gem of our entire trip was this small, out-of-the-way restaurant on a hilltop overlooking Palau. The drive to get to the restaurant from Cannigione is just beautiful as it cuts a swath through the mountains to the northeast corner of the island. Large estates (all of which have their own vineyards), rambling ranches (did I mention the plentiful sheep on Sardnia?), and miles of twisty, narrow roads.
When we arrived, the old house in which the restaurant is housed doesn’t look like much, but the white tablecloths and pristine glassware remind you that this is a top rated restaurant for a reason. The chef is quite genuine and put together a fish-centric tasting menu that I have not been able to stop thinking about. I think it only appropriate to do the rest of this post in just (mostly) pictures. I’ll let them tell the tale;
Simple grey stucco walls and chunky white block lettering, quite the juxtaposition from what lies inside . . .
Ran into a high school friend of mine in Sardinia who was covering Mini’s return to rally during Rally d’Italia.
He had a clever quip about Michelin-starred restaurants that I had to include, since it seemed quite fitting with us there for the rally.
Those copper pots; serious want!
Chef Roberto handwrote our menu once I mentioned I was going to blog about the experience. It may be 4+ months later, but I genuinely appreciated his effort/suggestions throughout the meal.
What a delightful way to begin our meal! The fish was steamed and the lettuce wilted perfectly. I was disappointed this was only a 2-3 bite dish.
Lovely salad with exceedingly tender squid, prawns, and fish.
This king prawn (especially sucking the head out) was very nearly the highlight of my trip.
I have not been able to get this out of my mind since our trip. The squid was so incredibly tender, and the presentation was visually stunning; perhaps my affinity for hard-boiled eggs coloured my view on it a bit, but this was definitely the best dish we ate all week. The coriander aioli drizzed atop the stuffed squid was an impeccable accent to the deliciously savory stuffing.
The rest of the menu.
Again, the pasta was very clearly fresh, as was the seafood. Squid, prawns, oysters, small amount of oil all tossed together. Brilliant!
As much as I’d love to say I absolutely adored the sea bream, this one didn’t quite do it for me. The components were elegant (crispy skin, well-cooked fish, lovely ratatouille), but because of how dense the fish was, it seemed to be a bit too much to finish out the savory courses. I’d love to go back and try it on it’s own, but I suspect that, for me, it’s just the texture of the fish I don’t quite love.
Surprise truffle served to us was the perfect size, and a wonderful accompaniment to any wine we had leftover!
Maybe I’m silly, but I just couldn’t get over all of the multicolored sugar options. I had to HAVE ALL THE SUGARS!
This was so delicious, sweet, but not too sweet, with some tartness thrown in from the raspberry coulis. Perfect end to our meal.
Oh, wait! It’s not over yet! Freshly made brittle from the kitchen!
Oh, and one more pic of the stunning water . . .