Castel di Sangro, Italy
Daniela di Michele
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. His creations include a dish of celeriac, hazelnut and cardamom; oyster and chicory; cold pasta with squid; beef bollito with fennel and wild fennel; and marinated fresh fruit with lemon infusion, caramel coffee and black pepper. In 2020, to celebrate its 20th anniversary, Reale unveiled a menu that looked back on the history of the restaurant through the dishes that marked its journey.
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 siblings manage the Casadonna former monastery and different culinary laboratories for researching techniques in baking, fermentation and pressure cooking. The building is also the base for the Niko Romito Academy – a certified higher education cookery school. The chef has more casual restaurants in Milan, Roma and Rivisondoli, and even a presence further afar in Beijing, Shanghai and Dubai through a collaboration with Bulgari hotels.
Did you know? Romito pioneered a radical project to improve the quality and nutrition of hospital food in Italy.