Located off the western coast of Italy, it’s not surprising that many people assume Sardinia is as Italian as the mainland. However, you’ll soon discover that Sardinia is a world unto itself, separate in almost all ways – even in the food you’ll enjoy during your visit.
Anthony Bourdain visited Sardinia once, in episode 20, season 5 of No Reservations; this is the only time he films an episode there, though he has visited before since his wife Ottavia is from Sardinia. Given the family connection, it’s an exciting prospect to follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Sardinia. It is a bit more challenging, in part because Sardinia is remote and perhaps less developed for tourism than other European destinations – and because of cultural differences too.
As Tony himself points out during the intro, Sardinia is a place where most people view restaurant dining with a bit of suspicion – why would you eat at a restaurant? Isn’t your family food good enough? For that reason, Tony and Ottavia eat most of their meals either in smaller agriturismos (farms that serve meals) or with locals including Ottavia’s family. To help you enjoy as much Sardinian food as possible, I’ve put in a section of the local dining experiences the Bourdain-Busia clan enjoyed, so you can look for those dishes at restaurants and other places you eat when visiting.
Ready to explore Sardinia, family-style? Here’s your guide according to Bourdain – actually, according to his Sardinian aunt-in-law, Adriana, since she arranges all of the places they visit and the locals they share meals with.
Su Gologone Experience Hotel
Located in the village of Oliena, Bourdain says that he’s quickly becoming a regular at Su Gologone, a hotel and restaurant that opens the episode. Over their meal, Tony and Ottavia discuss Sardinian food; the dishes they try include flower-shaped pasta with pesto, sheet pasta with artichokes, ravioli with fresh ricotta and feta, and a roast meat from the open-hearth fire.
This is also a great place to stay if you’re planning a visit to Sardinia and skipping the beach in favor of more flavorful escapades.
Agriturismo Sa Rocca (?)
To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve correctly identified this agriturismo; if you know better where Bourdain filmed this part of the Sardinia episode, please let me know!
In any case, Tony and his family and crew tuck into a very local meal of ingredients all grown or raised right on the farm. It includes Sardinian pork sausage, Macarrones de busa (local, handmade pasta), spit-roast baby goat basted with flaming lardo, and roasted cheese with local honey for dessert.
Heading into the big city of Sassari, Bourdain next heads to Zia Forica, a restaurant famous for its grilled snails in particular. There he meets two local friends who are obsessed with Sardinian food, and they try several other dishes as well. That includes anchovies, octopus, Cordula (lower intestine with peas), fava beans, and donkey steak.
Agriturismo Predas Rujas
Finally, Tony and the team head to another agriturismo, this one near the northeast coast of Sardinia. At Agriturismo Predas Rujas, Bourdain enjoys several dishes of local game, highlighting the hyper-local approach to food in Sardinia.
The meal includes hand-formed pasta with porcini and ricotta, braised wild hare with capers and herbs, stuffed partridge with pancetta and simmered with vegetables, and fresh farm cheese with honey. In each case, Tony discusses and learns from Ottavia and their local dining companions how Sardinians use what they can from the land around them.
Local Dining Experiences in Sardinia
As mentioned, Tony has as many local meals and food experiences as restaurant/agriturismo meals in Sardinia. Here’s a quick breakdown of each in case you want to seek out similar experiences and dishes:
- First, he attends a Pane Carasau breadmaking lesson in Nuoro (I think); there he learns how the famous Sardinian flatbread is made, and enjoys it with pecorino and homemade sausage with wine, as well as with fresh goat cheese.
- Next, Tony and Ottavia have a local seafood meal near the coast. They seek out Sardinian Bottarga (salt-cured fish roe), and have several dishes that feature it: sliced artichokes with olive oil and dried bottarga; simmered bottarga with pasta and olive oil; steamed mullet with fresh herbs and lemons; and spiny lobster with lobster roe and shell sauce.
- Then, the whole family attends the Festival of San Francesco. They have several dishes over the course of the day, including rotini with tomato sauce, su filindeu (“threads of god”) with sheep’s milk cheese, and sheep’s stomach filled with blood, bread, and herbs served with bread.
- Finally, the episode ends with the entire Busia clan at the family home, eating a meal prepared by Adriana. The meal includes sliced prosciutto of wild boar with sausages and green olives from the yard; wild asparagus, local artichokes, and mushrooms; roast pepperoncini in local olive oil; handmade ravioli with homemade ricotta; Malloreddus with braised wild boar (Tony’s favorite); roast lamb and whole roast suckling pig; eel in sauce; and snails with spicy Pomodoro sauce.
Obviously, the food Bourdain enjoys at these local dining experiences is on par with what he eats at more formal establishments – as a visitor, you can at least seek these out on restaurant menus if you see them.
Sardinia Food Tours to Try
As an alternative to help you fill your Sardinia food itinerary, here are a few food tours in Sardinia that will help introduce you to different dishes and flavors that you might not otherwise find unless you have Sardinian family as Bourdain did.
Have any questions about following in the footsteps and forkfuls of Anthony Bourdain in Sardinia? Let me know in the comments below!