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Castel di Sangro, Italy


Explore the complexities of flavour in the Abruzzo hills

Why go? Reale is a truly original restaurant and not just because it's housed in a 16th century monastery with rooms in the mountains of Abruzzo. Niko Romito's cooking philosophy is unique, using innovative techniques to enhance the intrinsic flavours of often unfashionable ingredients from the region.

More on the food: “Complexity, but not complicated,” is how the chef describes his deceptively simple dishes. 'Absolute of onion,' for example, is an intense roasted onion with saffron accompanied by pasta 'buttons'. Another recent creation involves roasting savoy cabbage and ripening it for weeks in foil, before serving slices with a cabbage sauce made with star anise distillate on a potato emulsion.

The chef: Romito studied economics and wanted to work in finance, but changed direction in 2000, setting up Reale in the family bakery with his sister Cristiana, who oversees the front of house operation.

What else? The former Casadonna monastery and different culinary laboratories for researching techniques in baking, fermentation and pressure cooking. It is also the base for the Niko Romito Formazione – a certified higher education cookery school.

Did you know? Romito pioneered a radical project to improve the quality and nutrition of hospital food in Italy.

On the pass

  • Niko Romito

Pastry chef

Style of food

  • Modern Italian

Standout dish

  • Sweetbreads, Cream, Lemon and Salt