Great seafood restaurants will never go out of vogue. In fact, people will travel out of their way to visit, even crossing borders to dine on the best the ocean has to offer.
My first trip across the border post-lockdown was well spent with a visit to Gallura Italian. We had heard so much about this restaurant from friends that my expectations were set for high end Italian cuisine, a diverse range of dishes and an abundance of seafood.
Owners Maki and Mike Dackiw, who met in Milan, are experienced restaurateurs, owning and managing La Pesa in Milano for ten years before opening sister venue La Pesa Trattoria Darlinghurst, then moving north to Park Street Pasta Bar, Brunswick Heads, which they owned from 2013 to 2018.
In Gallura, they continue their journey, “…drawing inspiration from the Island of Sardinia and the Italian coastline, where respect for local produce has evolved into distinct culinary traditions, Head Chef Mike Dackiw heroes fresh local seafood, hand-made pasta and innovative Sardinian methods, sourcing produce from the shores of both the Tweed region and Italy.”
With health presently sitting first and foremost in the spotlight, it’s timely that their focus should be on Sardinia, an Italian island that is considered a ‘Blue Zone’ in the longevity stakes. Sardinian villagers are ten times more likely to reach the age of 100 than people born elsewhere in the world due to their communal way of life, active lifestyle, nutritious Sardinian food and locally produced Cannonau red wine, made from Grenache grapes that contain several times the antioxidants of other grapes.
Tucked away from major thoroughfares, Gallura’s location may seem discreet from the street, but once inside we enter a vibrant yet intimate seaside restaurant, its bright mural reflecting the colours of Mediterranean coastal life.
Like the venue, Gallura’s food too is fresh and bright, following the Sardinian mantra, ‘Food must be simple’. Freshly made pasta, tomato, basil, olive oil, goat’s cheese, beans and other fresh produce, and seafood are transformed into delicious dishes: Chargrilled local octopus with cannellini bean crema and pickled green tomatoes, Crispy artichoke hearts with Italian tartare and Tempura zucchini flowers packed with spanner crab, prawns and risotto served with salsa rosa, our serving of four instead of the usual three flowers so we can share this delicious dish as a starter.
We’ve chosen Majolini Franciacorta Brut from Lombardia to accompany the seafood.
For mains, we can’t go past Gallura’s handmade Linguine loaded with seafood, the origin of each one listed on the menu: local octopus, local king prawns, NZ vongole, TAS Spring Bay mussels and WA scampi. Garlic, chilli, cherry tomatoes and vermentino (a Sardinian white wine) finish off this stunning dish. We cannot rave enough.
Sharing is caring, so we also share Fregola with vongole (clams), mussels, SA cuttlefish and local softshell crab with zucchini and saffron. Similar in appearance to Israeli couscous, fregola is a Sardinian hand-rolled and toasted semolina pasta. To us, the fregola base is light and delicate with minimally seasoned flavours, the crisp fried softshell crab without doubt the overt star of the dish, adding both texture and flavour.
There are lots more choices, including the Sardinian specialty Pane Frattau, Brandy-flamed Tweed king prawns, Zuppa di mare ‘seafood feast’ featuring WA scampi as the star and, for those seeking something other than seafood, a Grain-fed eye fillet with chilli polenta cake & truffled Cavolo Nero.
We finish with classic Sicilian Cannoli, one with candied orange and lemon, the other with chocolate chip, ricotta and Frangelico.
We have only tried four dishes at Gallura, hardly enough to write a decent review, but enough to plan a return visit. Yes, there are other great Italian restaurants on the coast offering seafood, but Gallura did not disappoint with either its unique menu items, quality or service.
One thing our lunch experience did was to put Sardinia on our travel map, maybe not soon, but it’s there. We want to learn and absorb more of this unique island and its lifestyle.
As one Sardinian said: “To sit and enjoy your red wine, to breathe in the air, to touch the earth, to feel time pass, untethered to the digital fury of the world. These are the secrets to a long and happy life.”
Gallura Italian, 1/20 Stuart St, Tweed Heads Ph: 07 5536 2011
Open: Wed – Thurs 5 – 9pm, Fri & Sat Lunch 12 – 2:30pm, 5 – 9pm, Sun 12-3:30pm