WHAT’S in a name? Altrincham is blessed with an admirable trio of restaurants rooted in Italian regional cuisines. The name of Puglian pasta masters Sugo means simply ‘Sauce’ while Neapolitan pizza and pollo palace Tre Ciccio translate as ‘Three Fat Men’, an ironic reference to its co-owners’ waistlines.
Both are first rate but we’re suddenly more fascinated by their rival, Sardus, a homage to an ancient mythological hero of the Nuragic civilisation (Sardinia). The restaurant’s wines from that sun-kissed island are equally heroic on the evidence of a previous tasting at their specialist Vinoteca in Manchester city centre.
On the back of that beguiling introduction to Vermentino, Cannonau and many more lesser-know indigenous grapes we were invited down to the more food-centric (as the name suggests) Sardus Cucina on Ashley Road, formerly Bem Brasil, who own the Sardus brand.
Two Sardinian exiles, once of Piccolino, Giovanni Testone (above) and Salvatore Sechi persuaded their BB boss there might be room in the market for a specialist Sardinian restaurant. They took him on a trip there, which must have helped.
So does the cuisine stand up and be counted? On the evidence of a trio of dishes definitely. First up was Coratella (£8.50), chicken livers and chestnuts stewed in Vernaccia di Oristano fortified wine. It was rich and satisfying with a kind of Sardinian umami appeal. We should have asked for more of the toasted bread to sponge up the pan juices.
More rustic was Pane Frattau (£8). Think of it as a shepherd’s brunch, this crisp Sardinian flatbread layered with tomato sauce and grated pecorino cheese, topped with soft egg. A generously fruity, oak-tinged red, Maccori Carignano del Sulcis (£35.95 a bottle) partnered it well.
It was recommended by Salvatore, who suggested a white we’d never previously encountered to accompany the final dish – Fregola ai frutti di mari (£14.50) Made by the island’s best known producers Sella & Mosca from another native grape, Torbato di Alghero Sardinia was herby, zesty minerally. Perfect seafood wine.
The frutti di mari – prawns, squid mussels – teemed among the fregola, a larger fluffier cousin of couscous, nuttier because the semolina base is toasted. The heady saffron flavouring the dish also came from Sardinia. Salvatore and Giovanni (pictured below in a playful social media shot) are equally impressive ambassadors for the island. We are thinking of emigrating.
Sardus Cucina, 14-16 Ashley Road, Altrincham. 0161 927 9001. Sister restaurant Sardus Vinoteca is at 124 King St W, Manchester, M3 2GQ.