Ristorante Reale

Piana Santa Liberata

Castel di Sangro (AQ) Italy

Tel: +39 0864 69382 

The Food:

Small sandwich of scampi (Panino agli scampi)

Almond and macerated wild herb salad (Mandorla e misticanza alcolica)

Beef tartare emulsion with olive oil and raspberry mayonnaise (Emulsione fredda di manzo e olio con maionese di lamponi)

Roasted squid and lettuce (Calamaro, pepe e lattuga)

Cold linguini with oyster and potato (Linguina fredda con ostrica e patata)

Semolina fettuccelle, red shrimp and pink pepper (Fettuccelle di semola, gamberi rossi e pepe rosa)

Watermelon and tomato (Anguria e pomodoro)

Pigeon and pistacho (Piccione fondente e pistacchio)

Licorice granita, vinegar, white chocolate and balsamic vinegar (Granita di liquirizia e aceto di vino, cioccolata bianca e aceto balsamico)

The Wines:

2014 I Borboni Asprinio d’Aversa Vite Maritata


2014 Agnanum Falanghina Campi Flegrei


2014 Tiberio Pecorino


2002 Markus Molitor Alte Reben Riesling


2007 Duplessis Chablis Les Clos


2010 Contrada Salandra Piedirosso Campi Flegrei 


1985 Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva


1971 Moulin Touchais Coteaux du Layon


For a few years, Niko Romito has been the veritable talk of the food town, with just about every foodie and expert in Italy concurring about his talent and sublime three Michelin star cuisine. Reale is a very bright, good looking and spacious restaurant, with tables intelligently placed at a considerable distance from each other. Like the room, Romito’s cuisine is also fresh and airy, inventive and very modernist. Even “traditionalist” dishes are tweaked towards the future, not the past. Those looking for a hearty meal full of rich flavors that trigger childhood memories need to keep this in mind or risk coming away disappointed. Last but not least, wine lovers will find the wine list well thought out, if not especially deep in old vintages. Giovanni Sinesi, the young and likeable sommelier, is both modest and competent. Cristiana, Niko’s sister, runs the front of the house.

Small sandwich of scampi and Beef tartare emulsion with olive oil and raspberry mayonnaise

On this day, three dishes really stood out: beef tartare emulsion with olive oil and raspberry mayonnaise, watermelon and tomato, and the fettuccelle with red shrimp and pink pepper. The latter especially had me longing for seconds, and even thirds! By contrast, I found a few other creations almost too intellectual. For example, the cold linguini with oyster and potato is a good idea (in theory), that plays on memories of Gualtiero Marchesi’s famous cold linguini and caviar, but I am not sure it comes across as successfully as the original. I appreciate Romito’s great dexterity and creativity at the stoves, but after having been to Reale three times recently, I have come away with the impression that while some dishes are absolutely marvelous, there are always others that miss the mark. This is probably not a surprising state of affairs when pushing the creativity envelope; after all, if you’re always blasting off to reach the stars, an occasional misfire is to be expected.

Semolina fettuccelle, red shrimp and pink pepper and Cold linguini with oyster and potato

However, the creative food allows for some unusual wine and food combinations, so dining at Reale is always stimulating and fun. I started out with two solid aperitif wines, the 2014 I Borboni Asprinio d’Aversa Vite Maritata and the 2014 Agnanum Falanghina Campi Flegrei: the former is one of the best Asprinio wines made (Asprinio is a native Campanian variety that gives very tart and light-bodied wines); the latter an up and coming Falanghina producer of the Campi Flegrei. A delicious wine, the Agnannum is marked by menthol and balsamic notes that are true-to type flavors of this variety and not the ridiculous intense papaya and pineapple of other Falanghinas.

While the 2002 Markus Molitor Alte Reben Riesling was pleasantly dieselly but a little on the lean side and lacking in fruit, there was no such problem with the gorgeous 2014 Tiberio Pecorino Colline Pescaresi. Along with the Pecorinos of Cocci Grifoni and Cataldi Madonna, this is by far Italy’s best Pecorino wine, and it proved its mettle yet again on this occasion. Lemony and herbal, but with sneaky concentration and mouthfilling texture, it is a textbook example of what Pecorino can be when older biotypes are used and grown in higher hillside locations. Unfortunately, Pecorino has become a victim of its own success; too many bottles labeled Pecorino nowadays are made from high yielding newer “clones” planted in flatland vineyards where the variety does not show its best. Tiberio’s Pecorino and the outstanding  2007 Duplessis Chablis Les Clos stood up very well to the two pasta dishes, lifting them both to another, more complex, place. Duplessis, arguably an underrated producer, makes a textbook example Chablis from this grand cru vineyard. The 2007 is lovely to drink right now, offering delicate honeyed mineral nuances.

The 2010 Contrada Salandra Piedirosso Campi Flegrei once again proved this estate is second to none in making wines from this difficult variety. Smooth, rich and long, it showcased impeccable balance and none of the green notes that are all too common with Piedirosso. The wine worked very well with the pigeon dish, as did the sublime 1985 Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva, a wonderful wine from one of my favorite Tuscan producers. Still youthful and riper than usual in its red fruit profile, the 1985 is still relatively young, without the drying tannins that are starting to show up in some other memorable vintages such as the 1971 or 1978. Last but not least, we finished off the evening with the 1971 Moulin Touchais, Coteaux du Layon, which was long and concentrated, as it usually is, with a pleasant rustic note to its honeyed quince and herbal aromas and flavors. At eight generations and counting, Moulin Touchais is to be commended for its traditionally-made Chenin Blancs, which remain some of the Loire’s most reasonably priced and consistent sweet wines.

-- Ian D’Agata