I like handmade. For the most part, Americans don’t like handmade food because it’s not cheap food. But, handmade employs people, and if you don’t think a few extra cents makes a difference, you need to come to Italy and get educated.
Last week I discovered Lorighittas. Ring pasta; the Sardinian word for ring is “lorigi”. Look at them in the picture, they’re a thing of intense beauty, symmetry, and all the things “ring” stands for. The double strands hold a sauce like nothing else. You can click the picture to see it bigger. They are perfect. They are handmade.
Get this: They’re only made in a single city: Morgongiori. Say it fast three or four times. It’s a tiny village near Monte Arci, where the oldest inhabitants of the island got obsidian for arrow and spear points.
My guide and mentor Paola Loi writes, “Originally the lorighittas were made on All Saints’ Day and the originally recipe was to serve them with a thick tomato sauce and chicken wings or legs. Nowadays they can be cooked with zucchini and shrimps, or artichokes and so on.”
Also: “In Morgongiori there is the Sagra delle Lorighittas on the first week of August with free tasting of lorighittas dishes.”
We had them at the fine restaurant in Cagliari called Sa Piola, Vico Santa Margherita, 09124 Cagliari. It’s in our app, Sardinia Inside Out.
When you think of a restaurant advertising (and indeed naming itself) “Kilometer Zero” you think of staunch traditions that cannot be broken. In Tuscany the designation may imply rickety tables with worn marble tops inside a restaurant with a grandmother in the kitchen rolling pasta dough. Remove the marble table tops and you can say the same for Sardinia, which, as graffiti along the road constantly reminds us: “Tourists—SARDINIA IS NOT ITALY”.
But the name implies only that the food source is nearby. Such a moniker doesn’t prevent you from using such fresh and local produce in creative or unusual ways.
Welcome to Kilometro Zero, a stylish newish restaurant in Cagliari introduced to us by journalist Federico Fonnesu.
The room is long and narrow. The seats are clear plexiglass. The walls bounce every syllable; the place is loud when full.
This isn’t your granny’s pasta house.
(Re: noise. The owner explains that they’ve glued some rectangles of foam to the high ceilings to dim the noise, but it’s not much help. They’re looking into improving the situation.)
But let’s talk about the food. We are 5. The owner proposes a selection of starters and we pick and choose dishes to share. The house red we drink is a Cannonau. Not one of those big, dense, “international” Cannonaus that pack too much of a punch to drink with food, but a nice, subtle one that doesn’t overwhelm the well-conceived dishes, not even those based on seafood.
Most of the starters were seafood based. Standouts included the Culurgiones, little torpedoes of stuffed semolina dough, shown on the upper right, these stuffed with cernia and dusted with bottarga, dried fish roe, a nice interpretation of the traditional dish.
The Carbonara di Mare was the traditional egg-based carbonara with smoked swordfish substituted for the pancetta. I liked it a lot. I could have eaten it for breakfast.
We chose three plates to share for a main course, a couple of traditional items—baked fish (selected from a platter of the day’s catch presented by the owner) and a tagliata (grilled and sliced steak)—followed by the blasphemous dish, the dish made of two components you’ve been warned by thousands of web sites to avoid combining, ever: fish and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese! But there it was and it was exceptionally delicious: Filetto di Cernia alla Parmigiana.
Then we were in for another surprise. All this food, all this variety, all this freshness and goodness, traditional and innovative, all this noise, the two bottles of perfect wine, all came at a very reasonable price. 25 euro per person, out the door!
Recommended. Can I say more? Well, yes, it will be even better when they cover the interior with softness and you can actually talk to your table mates without shouting.
Address : Via Grazia Deledda 68, Cagliari
Phone : 070668901
WEB: Kilometro Zero
About 2 kilometers north of the town of Villaperuccio in the southwestern section of Sardinia you’ll find the well-maintained Prehistoric Necropolis of Montessu. We had an interesting exploration of the area recently with guide Paola Loi, my partner in Sardinia Inside Out, who is shown inside one of the “domus de janas” or Neolithic cave tombs (witches houses).
Discovered in the 1970’s, the tombs are spread out over the southern slopes of Sa Pranedda in a natural amphitheater which offers fabulous views of the countryside. Various excavations have been carried out and the dates of the tombs range from the Recent Neolithic (3400-2800 BC) through the early bronze age.
Shepherds have re-used the caves until modern times.
There are some petroglyphs in the tombs (shown in the picture).
The Archaeological Civic Museum of Santadi contains the artifacts unearthed during the various excavations taken on over the years.
There is a small bar/museum/souvenir shop next to a large parking lot where you’ll buy your tickets and head up the hill (where there is very limited space for cars).
For more, see the Montessu Archaeological Area web site.
Did the eradication of Malaria in Sardinia lead to immune-mediated diseases like multiple sclerosis and type-1 diabetes, diseases that are startlingly common in Sardinia these days? Such is the question posed by Moises Velasquez-Manoff, a science writer living in New York City and the author of An Epidemic of Absence: A New Way of Understanding Allergies and Autoimmune Diseases, excerpted in Wired.
The stats weren’t always like this here. In Sardinia, there’s a distinct Year Zero for autoimmune disease. Just after the eradication of malaria in the 1950s, immune-mediated diseases began increasing precipitously. Sotgiu thinks the timing isn’t coincidental. Malaria may have selected for autoimmunity-prone genes. But infection with the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum likely protected against the dark side of the very genes it helped shape. In this aspect, Sotgiu’s hypothesis departs from more run-of-the-mill invocations of genetics. He suspects that the highly specialized Sardinian immune system functions properly only in the context of the invader it evolved to thwart. Sardinians need to engage with their old foe, in essence, to avoid the demons lurking within. ~ Island of Autoimmunity
Evidence, perhaps, that destroying something considered entirely evil isn’t the most noble course of action. Things even out.
(Read some background on Sardinia and Malaria. The traveler can see many signs of the effort to extinguish malaria in Sardinia.)
It’s pretty much common knowledge that one of the clots of ancients scattered sparsely around the world happens to be packed into the interior of Sardinia. The stories these days from the “news” media are coming hot and heavy to American shores. We must be worried about our longevity, our overly expensive “best health care in the world” here in the US doesn’t do diddly for our expected life span; Italians live a full 2 years longer on average.
One of the best stories comes in these past few weeks comes from the Guardian: World’s oldest siblings in Sardinia: ‘It’s all down to minestrone,’ says Consolata Melis, 105
Some inventions have not impressed her, starting with supermarket lettuces sold in plastic bags. “I would like to meet someone who actually buys them,” said Melis, who attributes her longevity to minestrone (translation: “big soup”) made with vegetables from her garden, washed down with a glass of goat’s milk.
Obviously she’s never been to the US.
It’s all in that soup she still makes from the garden she tends. And the story of the rocket scientists coming into town (she knitted lambswool mattresses for them) is something you won’t want to miss.
But I wanted to address one of the comments, a quite thoughtless one that many people share, I’m sure. It addresses the longevity of the family.
Nine of them with a combined age of 818? Bad news for planet Earth.
You see, it’s assumed that folks really quite working at 65 or so, and immediately turn into vegetables that feed off the State. Unable to slog through a day without medicines that are priced as if they were some rare earth from a distant planet, these vegetable-people are a well-recognized budgetary burden on the whole planet, unlike war, which is great fun when you and a bunch of your friends can stretch out in front of the wide screen and watch it with chips so it must be good for the economy somehow, economists suggest.
But let me remind you: this woman still gardens. She still provides for herself. And she does so without impacting anyone else. I’ll bet there’s nothing she wastes. It’s all big soup and small footprint. Can you say that about your life, Mr. davidsouthafrican? No? Well then, shut yer trap.
You can’t swing a cat in Sardinia without hitting someone who’s productive at an age when most folks would be dead in the US. Like two of my favorite people I met last year when researching our app, Sardinia Inside Out. At 92, lacemaker Giovanna Ledda gossips while whipping together lace at a speed your eyes can hardly follow. A cancer survivor who feels better than ever these days, sculptor Pinuccio Sciola makes rocks sing.
Being productive is the key. Being interesting is a bonus.