• The World's 50 Best Restaurants
No.36

Reale

Castel di Sangro, Italy

No.36

Italian flavour complexities 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 underrated 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' filled with Parmigiano cheese. Another creation involves roasting savoy cabbage and ripening it for weeks in foil, before serving slices with a cabbage sauce and 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 trattoria with his sister Cristiana, who oversees the front of house operation.

What else? The former Casadonna monastery includes different culinary laboratories for researching techniques in baking, as well as an experimental vineyward at 800 metres above sea level, gardens and orchards. It is also the base for the Accademia Niko Romito – 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. More recently, he also worked with Bulgari Hotels to develop their restaurants' offer in new properties in Beijing, Dubai, Shanghai and soon in Milan and Moscow.

On the pass

  • Chef patron Niko Romito (pictured) with Berardino Como

Pastry chef

Style of food

  • Modern Italian

Standout dish

  • Gratiné cauliflower

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