Wee bit of a delay between posts, sorry everyone! If you’re following along on Instagram or Facebook you will have seen we’ve been relaxing in Herculaneum and on the Amalfi Coast. If you’re not following on Instagram or Facebook find me! @TastingtheWorldsBest or Twitter if that’s your jam @CathMaryGeorge
We decided to walk to Reale Cassadona as it was reasonably close to our accommodation and fiancee had seen the signs for it on his morning walk. It was well signposted and nice little walk until we got to the hill! The GPS took us to the bottom however we still had to climb to the top, lucky we were early! Staff were super hospitable when we arrived and let us freshen up.
We’d read about Reale Cassadona and the Chef Niko Romito and his training school online and were quite excited to check it out. He works with his sister Cristiana and I recognised her as soon as we were taken into the dining room. Fiancee wanted to move his chair around so that he could have a better view, however, she very politely explained that where it was gave an even better view, which he quickly realised once he sat down properly.
There are options for tasting or a la carte. Once again we’d done our research and wanted to do the a la carte so we could try more dishes. We explained that we would share and she said she would check with the chef if it was possible to split all the dishes in two, some it may not, however, she would try. This is the first place that offered to split all dishes and was thoroughly appreciated.
Pro Tip 1 – where possible order a la carte and plan ahead, choose your dishes and work out the cost vs the tasting menu and what you’d prefer to eat. Saves money and you get to try more food!
Cassadona Reale has a nice and bright dining room overlooking the garden and Castel Di Sangro. There’s soft classical music in the background and there is an elegant feel to the room. It’s located in a 16th-century former monastery, however, has all the modern touches you’d expect. I’m offered a mirrored table to put my bag on. Along with lotions in the bathroom, I always appreciate the nice things and places you can put your handbag!
Pro Tip 2 – Don’t accept the first glass of champagne, instead order from the menu and if possible decide what you’re getting beforehand.
Of course, we followed this tip and got the bottle of champagne we’d decided on earlier. We’re given Spiegelau glasses rather than the customary Zalto and I’m pleasantly surprised by the full nose flavour you get as you take a sip.
Our snacks come out super fast! First, we have a pistachio sponge which is almost like a peanut butter lamington expect its, soft, light, salty and fluffy. I’m still thinking about this one days later. This comes with a marinated radish – a simple radish but a nice cleanser after the pistachio. Ravioli filled with ragu – pasta in a bite! Roasted tomato and honey – simple but great. And ash potato – croquette-like and something a little different.
Service is super fast, plates are taken away almost as soon as we pick up the food. We’re given some warm anise-scented towels and boy oh boy do they smell amazing. It was nice to finish up the snacks with a way to clean up our hands. Crumbs are quickly swept away and we know we’re off to a strong start.
The celery, carrot and onion infusion comes out next and you know what? It’s crazy good, they’d added in some olive oil and sage and when you sipped the infusion while chewing the sage you could feel the massive depth of flavour. It’s heartwarming yet refined. The final snack is the black olive and olive oil tartlet, simple but exquisite.
The bread comes out next and there’s a lot of it! We had chickpea and rosemary crackers, long branches like sticks, a pizza bread and a potato bread. The loaves of bread are crunchy on the outside and super soft on the inside, however, a little dense for our liking. Also once again we note no butter. In my opinion, we were given a little too much bread – it would be cool if you could take some of it home with you for breakfast the next day. I suppose we could have asked!
Our first official course is the beef tartare emulsion with olive oil and raspberry vinaigrette mayonnaise. Told you we had a thing for beef tartare!! It’s so well seasoned. It’s nothing like a classic French tartare, it’s hand-cut really fine and doesn’t have all the trimmings but totally works. This is the second time we’ve had a tartare like this in Italy so it’s fair to say this style is growing on us.
At this point we notice them changing our glasses for brand new ones. We ask about it and they say that it will look better in our photos. An enjoyable nicety. We notice the Italian cutlery with a mix of German and Italian plates. Nothing inscribed though, going into super detail on this one!!
We have the Roasted Savoy cabbage next, this is one of their famous dishes and the chefs’ speciality. It’s fermented for 40 days, an interesting mix of flavours, a sour undertone, crunchy on top, balanced with the butter. A great way to get people eating cabbage!!
Out comes a golden spoon, this is exciting! To accompany the spoon is the onion reduction with Parmigiano buttons and toasted saffron. This is more than just a stand out dish. It’s sweet from the onion, salty from the cheese. They’re like baby ravioli buttons that pop bursts of divinity in your mouth. It’s actually the perfect harmony between sweet and savoury with umami. Outstanding!
Chicken tortellini. On the face of it it’s just a tortellini then you bite into it and it’s so much more. No sauce just the juice from the chicken. Words can’t actually describe this one. Actual genius. It takes simplicity to another level, another world, another planet, another galaxy, another universe. I don’t know but it is something else!!
Smoked loin of lamb, garlic and pink grapefruit. I can’t say I’ve ever had smoked lamb before and it’s such an interesting cooking technique which adds such an incredible flavour throughout the lamb. It was poached in milk then smoked with beechwood and spice. Combined with the garlic and pink grapefruit and you’re onto a winner. “OMG, that’s delicious!”
They’ve been busy working on a new dish for 2018 and it’s cold duck, smoked duck water and spinach. It’s served on pate and you drink the warm smoked duck water while eating the cold duck. At this point, the chef comes out to say hello and get our thoughts on the dish since it’s so new. His English isn’t great however his sister translates. He explains about their cooking style and how they do things at Reale. I love that he’s so into the food that he comes out to talk to all the tables about it. I get the feeling he would have talked to us for longer if there wasn’t a language barrier.
A pale pink napkin is swapped out in place of our regular white ones as it is time for dessert, or so we think. Then out comes an extra dish, it’s the veal jelly, dried porcini, almonds and black truffle. There’s so much going on in this dish yet it’s so simple. So much flavour and texture – like sweet earth.
We then begin the desserts, we had trouble choosing for this one! In the end, we went with the mille-feuille with chocolate and vanilla custard. Whilst nice it wasn’t as standout as the other dishes we had that afternoon. We totally appreciated that even the dessert course was split two so we could easily share. They sure did look after us.
The final dishes of the afternoon are the petit fours. Chocolate ice cream with raspberry water, very chocolaty however also very natural. Pear chips, a nice cleanser after the strong cacao from the ice cream. The final two aren’t worth writing about, they were strong and bitter and both not to our liking.
Overall though while we didn’t like the end, the rest of the dishes were spectacular. The service is magnificent, the food is astonishing and delectably simple. Would I go again? Well, it’s a bit of a hike to get to Castel di Sangro, however, I can’t stop thinking about that Chicken Tortellini so yeah, I probably would make the trip.
- Tim Raue
- Piazza Duomo and Reale
- Le Calandre and The Ledbury
- The Clove Club
- Dinner by Heston
- Restaurant Steirereck
Next up Azurmendi, Larrabetzu, Spain