We spent 8 days in Sardinia, starting with a night in Cagliari and then driving around most of the island before winding up in Alghero. We ate breakfast either in our pensiones or Airbnbs; almost all lunches consisted of food we bought at shops or the supermarket and brought with us in our collapsible cooler, plus of course the inevitable stops for focaccia, gelato, the bar snacks that came with our afternoon spritzes, and whatever other street food looked good. We had dinner in restaurants about 2/3 of the time, with the other dinners made up of arugula salads and other supermarket fare when we felt a dire need for fresh vegetables. Sardinia has outstanding fish, pasta of endless varieties, and a lot of indigenous kinds of bread (the crispy flatbread found only in Sardinia is ubiquitous, and we also got an immense peasant loaf in the town of Sanluri). But if you want to take a break from carbohydrates, you’ll probably want to make your own meals from time to time. As in Sicily, the only vegetables generally seen on menus are mixed salads and grilled zucchini and eggplant.
Food is extremely cheap by US standards, both in the supermarket and in restaurants. Things like high-quality cheeses and cured meats are (to us) laughably inexpensive, mostly under EUR 10/kg. Sardinia is home to multiple varieties of pecorino (sheep) cheese, from fresh to well-aged, and they’re all delightful. The wine in Sardinia was outstanding—by far the best, and best value, that we had throughout our 25 days in Italy. Everywhere we went, we tended to order the house wine for maybe EUR 5 for a half-liter, and it was fantastic. In a restaurant, a full bottle costs maybe EUR 15-20–we would have ordered more of them if we could manage to drink that much wine! There is a huge choice of Sardinian wine in the supermarkets also, for as low as EUR 3.50/bottle, with almost nothing more than EUR 15. Drinks in bars and restaurants are similarly cheap—the standard price for a mixed drink was around EUR 4-5, and drinks almost always come with free bar snacks that can range from a bowl of potato chips to an assortment of meats/cheeses/baked goods/olives that (for us) occasionally served as our dinner! When combined with the fact that there is no tipping and no tax added to bar or restaurant tabs, eating out—very well—costs very little compared to what it costs in the US.
The restaurants I will mention below are the places we ate at and would recommend. We didn’t make any reservations at most of them, just showed up soon after they opened for dinner (usually places open at 7:30-8 PM) and got tables without difficulty. This was in September, so in peak season you may need to book. (Another reason we didn’t make reservations was because most places do not offer online reservations, and my command of Italian is definitely not up to the task of talking on the phone!)
Oristano: Ristorante Al Peco (Via Ernesto Campanelli 43). This was the one place where we did actually make a reservation (online), though it turned out to be not really necessary on a Tuesday night. It’s a really creative, “chef-driven” type place in a sleepy town that you’d not expect to eat so well in. The out-of-the-way location is in a somewhat dark and unpopulated neighborhood, but we walked there from our Airbnb without incident. Interesting and well-executed food, very friendly service.
Nuoro: I Grani (Via Fratelli Banderia 3). We were not super hungry this night and wanted something fairly light, which this place on the main drag of the historic center gave us. Their menu included appetizers of “tacos” with interesting fillings like savory ricotta flavored with preserved lemon, and we also had an entree of fish with vegetables baked in parchment paper. Great, cheap wines by the glass.
Nuoro: Panelentu (Via Delle Grazie 20). This was a super find that I credit Google Maps for—not just the review, but the directions, because it was a little tricky to find (though still a short walk from the center of town). We were eager to try Sardinia’s indigenous pastas, including malloreddus/gnochetti (small gnocchi-shaped pasta, but made from wheat, not potato) and culurgiones (exactly like potato pierogies, in a slightly fancier and smaller shape). We found them at Panelentu, which mostly specializes in wrap-style sandwiches made with local flatbread, but also serves these pastas and amazing-looking charcuterie and veggie boards. We also got a dessert of sebada (also spelled seada in some places), another Sardinian specialty, which is basically a big fried ravioli filled with cheese and served with honey. I’m glad we got it, but I don’t really need to eat it again!
Tempio Pausania: Al Vecchio Corso (Via Roma 96). This was a fairly upmarket restaurant for this sleepy town in the mountains, but still very reasonably priced for what we had. Delicious Sardinian wines by the glass, and creative food—maybe a little too creative in the appetizer of mille-feuille of marinated fish and zucchini cream (way too much cream that kind of obliterated the flavor of the fish), but we also had a pasta dish with rabbit and porcini mushrooms that was great.
Alghero: Bar Monti (Via Giuseppe Garibaldi 45D). Alghero is a beach and port city with a very touristy walled old town and a long stretch of beach promenade lined with bars, restaurants and gelato stands. The highly rated, fancy places in the old town didn’t interest us—too touristy, too expensive by Sardinian standards. We were dying for a gelato in the early afternoon and found it at along the beach promenade at Monti, where we happened to peek at the fritto misto lunch that another table was eating and decided that it looked great. So we went back a few hours later and had it for dinner, along with an appetizer of crudo misto. This was entirely too much food, but who among us can stop eating when there are super-fresh, lightly fried shrimp and fish and calamari (and french fries) to be had? We ate it all and were glad that it was a mile walk back to our Airbnb in the old town.