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It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Alghero – Something Fishy in the Air! (Hooray!!)

Alghero! Seat of Catalonian culture in Sardinia, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ themed lolly shops and an old town for pedestrians only. It’s also home to a massive marina loaded with millionaires’ toys, and features old men gathered in huddles on the broad boardwalks under palm trees doing absolutely nothing but talking.

The Costa Smerelda (Emerald Coast) on the north east coast is the place for the rich and famous (obviously we didn’t go there since we weren’t qualified), whereas Alghero is more the main port historically you needed to invade to take over the entire island.

Located in the north west corner of Sardinia, Alghero is the gateway port to fabulous islands and beaches, and is famed for the seafood which feeds off the constant ring of seaweed that grows outside the town (P-ew!) and may be the basis of the town’s name (Alghero, “the place of algae or seaweed”, don’t ask me what languages, like everywhere in Sardinia, everyone’s been here…).

Shall we take a dip?

I went for a swim on the local city beach a fifteen minute stroll down the road, nice but a bit too sea weedy and loaded with people with dark, tanned skins that looked a bit like handbags. Further up the coast beckon crystal clear waters, while tour boats offer day-long adventures to isolated beaches where you can escape the volleyball and on beach cafes with hire recliners.

The further you go from the old town, the more you run into our old friends “the abandoned properties of Sardinia” – this is a place looking for canny and far sighted investors.

Alghero was also where we found Jane’s much looked for iconic Sardinian chicken crockery and where I bought one of their famous handmade knives which is an absolute demon at slicing salami. Ask me for a demonstration!

The Old Town
A word of warning to those driving to Alghero: if you stay in the old town (recommended), you can’t drive your car in. We got as close to the walking district as we could, and found ourselves driving around in circles down little lanes through wandering herds of tourists with cameras, and driving multiple times past the same old man standing on a corner. With no map of the town, or an address of where we were staying, we parked near the sea and did a wiggly walk into the old town, where I heard the magic words:

“I know this square, I’ve seen it on Google Maps!”

God bless the internet (I never thought I’d write those words)! Then we found the building, and rang the bell!

Our Hotel
No answer. That was a low point. You know when you’re really tired? Like getting off an international plane when you expect there to be a driver to pick you up and they’re not there? It was one of those moments. We had about ten Euros between us, the car was miles away, no phone card, no phone, and no pen to write down the number to have someone come and let us in to our room. If I’d been twenty years younger, I would have collapsed, drunk heavily and then found the nearest backpackers and booked in there.

However, with some basic compass orientation we worked out where the car was, got a parking spot outside the battlement walls (about twenty metres) from where we were staying (despite there being double parked cars everywhere), bought a ticket from a ticket officer to leave the car there all night, got a pen, got the number, found a phone booth, and called “the guy” Giovanni. Giovanni was very slick, with white teeth and brilliantined doormat hair which made me immediately suspicious of Don-Lane-like extra-curricular activities. Ten minutes later we were in, showered and enjoying a glass of wine in what I’d have to say was one of the most excellent B&B’s I’ve ever been to. You can visit it at:


Note: The next morning moving the car I was approached by a suit wearing Italian-speaking Jehovah’s Witness, so it was nice to know we’d finally arrived at an international locale: even the JW’s have got it on the map.

Alghero Cuisine – Seafood Specialities Ahoy!
As a Catalan influenced fishing port - distinct from wider Sardinia with its goats, cheeses, and kidnapping midgets - there are a number of fish dishes specialised to the town. These include:

  • Allada de peix: a red sauce made from tomatoes, garlic, and chilies, cooled and poured over small fried fish.
  • Capunada: a fisherman’s lunch featuring a potato and cucumber salad with softened salted fish and fresh tuna.
  • Cassola de Peix: a local fish soup with fried octopus, dried tomatoes, ground garlic and parsley base to which fish, crabs and whatever else they’ve caught is added. Served with toasted or day old bread soaked in the sauce.
  • Bogamari: local sea urchins, raw with bread and wine or served with pasta.
  • General grilled fish: whole or in steaks.

A Quick Word on Bread at Table with Olive Oil
I like bread. I like Italian and French breads. I like bread on the table while I’m waiting for the waiter (how aptly named) to bring me my food. And I love it with olive oil and some fancy salt on the side to wiggle it in. May I make a note here, if you are similarly inclined, that nowhere in France or Italy, at the high or low-end restaurants we visited, did I have one place serve olive oil with the bread. How disappointing, and a big tick to Melbourne!

We were in town for only a couple of days, but visited the restaurants recommended to us by Giovanni (always get a local’s advice then follow your nose), who recommended we avoid the port and stick to the old town for food.

Osteria Machiavello
Our first stop was to plunder (“Arrrrrr”) a seafood dinner at ‘Osteria Machiavello’. It was one of the first places I spotted on our walks along the battlement walls next to the sea and I was delighted to hear it recommended to us.

The staff were old school pros, but not chatty and bright – we had a grumpy old guy and a girl who wouldn’t know a joke if it bit her on the bum – but the seafood was excellent with an antipasto misto di mare, featuring most of the dishes listed above, followed by a whole grilled catch of the day which I cleaned myself having watched one of the waiters do it for some Germans at the next table. This was all washed down with a bottle of Sardinian white and coffee and liqueurs – I think Jane had a mirto.

Top marks for food and views, a deduction for stuffy waiters, I give it six and a half tentacles out of eight. There was even a wandering accordionist!


Martini con olive?
The next night before dinner we tried to hold off going to a restaurant until a normal time (locals tend not to eat until after nine), so had an aperitif at a small café and read the Italian newspapers: Italy qualified for the European Cup by beating Northern Ireland 3-0 (who said “mi non parla Italiano, e tempo de vai, e questo con trove?”).

I ordered a vodka martini, reminiscing about the excellent one I had in Cagliari. When I asked the man at the bar if he made them, he smiled and said “si, una vodkatini!’ I asked for it “con olive” and it promptly arrived with a peel of lemon in it, with a side order of olives (!), but was excellent in every way.

Posada del Mar
In spite of the time wasting, we were still too early for tea (the worms were biting), so went to eat shortly after eight regardless, ahead of even the German tourists. The shame!

On the Via Roma, the Posada del Mar is, compared to Machiavello, a simple restaurant that still covers the local specialities (e.g. octopus in ink, squid in tomato sauce, etc.) and has a nice local feel inside. I had the pasta with scallops and eggplant, and would have taken the tourist menu, but we would have been there all night.

We found out the name of the home made semolina pasta as made by Angela at the farm stay – Malloreddus (a bit like a semolina gnocchi usually served in a tomato and sausage sauce); which Jane commented was very close to malodorous. At the time I thought she meant it was similar to another Italian word, but it transpired she was referring to an English one, which is often used in relation to yours truly!

Tasty, friendly, not too shabby, I give it a five and a half tentacle squidzy review. Visit it at:

Like to find out more?
It’s easy! Literally. They’ve got a magazine guide to Alghero called “easy alghero”. You can check it out online (the English is not as good as in the hard copy) at:


Next Stop: Francaise et Arles! May the Francophilia Commence!