When the sirocco rises, and drives the clouds of the Gulf of Orosei over the coastal region, they are jammed in between the rocks of Su Gorroppu, in the deepest canyon in Europe. The mist rises above the Eastern Sardinian Road running hundreds of meters above the canyon, which the Touring Club Italiano calls the most beautiful panoramic road of Italy, and accompanies it, here or there narrower or wider, hiding or revealing the surrounding mountain range, as far as the pass of Genna Crux, where the view opens to the sea.
A small inn stands at the pass. A few tables, guests from the area, peasants from the valley, the village of Urzulei, shepherds from the mountains. A small-stature Sard host, Guido, a dark-bearded young man. “We would like some traditional Sardinian food.” “I will put together a bit of everything, okay?” “Okay.” We do not yet know that with this request we have opened up the encyclopedia of Sardinian grand cuisine.
The plate has pane carasau, crispy thin bread baken on charcoal, the typical bread of Sardinia, and mainly of the mountainous Barbagia region. On it, slices of ham and bacon, from pork raised wild in the mountains by Guido – who was earlier a full-time shepherd –, and salsciccia, sausages from the same, spiced only with salt and white wine. In addition, three types of cheese: fresh and aged goat cheese, and casu axedu, “sour cheese”, a soft cheese made from whey of goat, similar to the urdă of the Balkans. And finally, olives conserved in brine. The red wine is Cannonau, the “canons’ wine”, the variety of grape growing for the last three thousand years in Sardinia, whose modern production method was worked out by an agricultural school founded in the 17th century by the Jesuit college of Oliena, and spread by them throughout the island.
Nobody hurries us, we slowly partake of the excellent hors d’oeuvres, which is enough for two persons. When we say thanks and ask for the bill, the first surprise comes.
“Pasta is a must!” The macaroni is cooked al dente in a little salted water, to which they added a good portion of casu axedu, absorbed by the pasta. Its tangy flaavor is very well counterpointed by the pepper.
And the traditional food presentation continues. We receive four culurgiones, soft-cooked potato dough, with four different fillings of cheese: fresh and aged sheep cheese, cow and goat cheese. The plate was sprinkled with grated sheep cheese and a little olive oil.
Just wheen we believe we cannot take anything more, the dessert arrives. A small pane carasau, on which Guido spread a spoon of casu axedu, warmed up in an oven. On the melted cheese he adds a spoonful of honey, and lightly sprinkles it with the charcoal of wild olive, on which the pane carasau was baked. The charcoal flavor makes the honey-urdă pairing even more complex.
At the end of the dinner, Guido invites us to a glass of brandy at the bar, a gift of the house. In the pure grappa he soaked the root of gentian growing in the Supramonte, which gives it a slightly bitter taste, and strong digestive effects. Which we badly need now, having just finished the first volume of this encyclopedia.