PUGLIA AND MATERA: A Report
This is the first installment of a report on the meals (dinners with the exception of two lunches) consumed during a recent trip to Puglia and Basilicata.
We spent two nights at an agriturismo (Lama di Luna) outside Andria; two nights in Matera; and three nights in a masseria near Fasano. Thanks to all who were so patient in offering suggestions during the research phase. And yes, I did find Senise peppers in Matera. Apologies for misspellings of the Italian.
MASSERIA BARBERA, Minervino Murge, Puglia
Passing through the giant doorway we entered one of a series of rambling dining rooms to encounter a festive celebration in full force. Long tables packed to the brim with chattering diners, flotillas of baby carriages along the walls, toddlers racing about underfoot, waiters pouring forth from the kitchen bearing aloft platters laden with enticements. This was Sunday lunch on the first of May at Masseria Barbera, but our waiter later told us that this was the usual scene on Sundays.
We were shown to one of the smallest tables, where two lonely-looking diners were already seated. Together with our two dining companions, we looked to be the only other non-locals in the house on that day. We saw no menu, just a printed sheet with a brief description of the courses that began to arrive soon after we sat down. ON the table already were water, a basket of superb bread and taralli, and a bottle of the house wine, Rubino di Murgia
This was our second trip to Puglia so we were already accustomed to the lavish display that constitutes the typical Pugliese antipasti spread. Nevertheless, we were astounded by the goodness and the plethora of courses. Among the antipasti dishes were the following:
Fried fava beans; pettole, the Pugliese spheres of fried dough mixed, in this case, with lampascioni, or Muscari racemosum, wild hyacinth bulbs; fresh ricotta; nodino, or knots, of mozzarella; focaccia di grano arso (grano arso is the grain left in the fields after the seasonal burning and was a staple of the poor in this wheat-growing area of Puglia; see Katie Parla’s blog for more info: http://www.parlafood.com/grano-arso-prodotto-tipico/);
Cardoncelli mushrooms baked with bread crumbs; baccala with tomato sauce and black olives and a platter of Minervino sausage (salciccia di Minervino) with ricotta salata and aged ricotta.
Once the (empty in most cases) antipasti dishes were cleared from the table, two pastas appeared:
The first: “Maritati in Crudiola di Melanzane con pesto di basilico,” (a mix, or “marriage” of white orechiette and cavatelli di grano arso, with eggplant cubes, cherry tomatoes and basil pesto.
The second: “Troccoli alla Campagnola con Formaggio dei Poveri,” a long, thick pasta with oven-roasted tomatoes and bread crumbs.
The two secondi were as follows: A platter of mixed meats—tiny baby lamb chops and grilled strips of donkey which was tender and sweeter than beef. Incredibly delicious. The second main course was Salciccia in Cartoccio, a paper parcel that opened to reveal sausage in a light meat broth with a spicy kick. Along with the meats, we had Patate sotto Cenere, or roast potatoes cooked in the ashes of a fire.
Once the meat platters had been demolished, a plate of raw vegetables—carrots and baby fennel—took their place, as per local custom. Then came a bowl of mixed fresh fruits—melon, strawberries, and kiwi.
And finally: House-made cookies, glazed strips of orange rind, and candied almonds.
The total for this feast was 80 euro for two persons. Next year the owner, Sr. Barbera, plans to open rooms for overnight guests.
Closed Sunday night and Monday. No English spoken and no English menu. A SlowFood pick.
Highly recommended for anyone seeking a quintessential Pugliese masseria feast. Worth the detour.
State road 97, km 5,850, Minervino Murge, Puglia 70055, IT
We're spending a week in Puglia next month and we've found the recommendations of Erica and others so helpful. Based on Erica rec we've booked Parco di Castro, but someone else suggested Osteria Piazzetta Cattedrale, or Caffe Cavour. Wonder if anyone can provide any feedback (no pun intended) on the last two or all three? Thanks
Cathy: It is a gorgeous renovation of a traditional masseria with many elements from the original left in place. Beautiful view from the pool/breakfast terrace. It was too cold in early May to even think about the pool, though. It seemed to be cooler there than on the nearby coastline.
We had a beautiful "Murgia Rossa" double room with perhaps the most beautiful (vaulted, stone) ceiling I've ever seen in a hotel. There are at least 4 reportedly excellent restaurants (we had a chance to try only 2 of these) within a 15 minute drive, and Antichi Sapori is onlyl about a 3 minute drive. Easy to make a visit to Trani from there. So in short, I think it is a fine choice and will be happy to answer any and all questions related to my stay there.
we too stayed at Lama di Luna--just one night in early june 2012. worth visiting for the stunning simplicity of the renovation. did not eat there (pietro zito instead) but wish we'd tried it since the organic aesthetic seems so thoroughly authentic. bought some mele cotone preserves to bring home (to chianti). loved breakfast room tables made from (i assume) ends of wine barriques.
lama di luna is very near castel del monte, which should be visited. and trani.
re: Henrietta Stackpole
re: jen kalb
No I did not find them..seems like Eataly would have them but no.....
Now and then I see them on sites like Taylors Market etc.. but they are either out of stock or soo expensive..
If I ever find a source for them to sell in my store, I will post it on this site. I'm always looking
I've not found any here, either. I think DiPalo (Manhattan) has all but given up on importing them, as they have had lots of trouble in the past. I did see these fried ones just now on their website (marked out of stock).
I was fortunate that my sister brought me a good-sized bag from Matera last September. I will probably get the shakes when I finish the last of them. (I was in Maratea (Basilicata) at the same time and found only a closed bag of similar dried peppers but w/o the seal designating the Senise IGP product. bought but did not try yet.
Teresa did you see that I made it to Castrovillari and had a marvelous lunch at Locanda d'Alia? MUST go back to that area!
Oh! So happy to hear of your report about Locanda d"Alia. When will you be going back to Itlay?
I love the DiPalo site. I order Tutto Calabria Hot Pepper spread from there and it is to die for. Those Calabrian peppers are the BEST. Just the right heat.
Not being able to enjoy the peppers from Matera is a harsh fact of life...
We may go back to Italy in a couple of years and I will plan it in time for the peppers and bring ALOT of them back. Wonder why it is so difficult to get them to the states?
Teresa let me know if you want me to give you the contact information on the pepper strings..in case you try to import them yourself. I will try that hot pepper spread next time I shop in DiPalo. Thanks for that tip! I brought home a jar of nduja but have not yet tried it; I also found that we can buy a domestic version here in New York at Buon Italia in Chelsea market; DiPalo might also carry it.
I hope to return to southern Italy next fall..will keep you posted!
Teresa: Nduja is a soft Calabrian pork salami imbued with hot red pepper paste. I first tasted it mixed with pasta at Locanda d'Alia and I immediately fell in love. You can mix it into recipes like pasta or beans, or spread it onto bread.
You can read more about it in the My Calabria book; also take a look at the recipe I linked above from the NYTimes. Here is a good photo:
There is even a nduja website! They seem to a a bit overzealous with t he claim of nduja being good for the heart, but who knows!
I will post the info from Senise later today..
There's an online source for prodotti tipici lucani, including the dried peperoni cruschi:
I have no idea if they ship to the US. Rosetta Costantino, in her wonderful cookbook My Calabria and on her website, has instructions for drying your own--she's admittedly skeptical of the quality and flavor of all commercial versions.
erica, thanks for the information about the market in Matera. We visited twice for produce, and also for cheese and bread. Holy smokes: that Matera bread is wonderful! We also loved the fresh cheese, and were given two balls of mozarella as a sample just for showing up. I have fond memories of our delicious picnics in the sassi!
I'll be in Matera and Puglia for 3-4 days in September. I have Le Botteghe, Lucanerie, and Osteria Antichi Sapori on my list.
Does anyone know of a latticeria or cheese shop/factory that gives tours and/or let's you watch burrata being made?
Osteria Antichi Sapori
Piazza Sant'Isidoro,9, Montegrosso d'Andria, Puglia , IT
via Santo Stefano 61, Matera, Basilicata 75100, IT
piazza San Pietro Barisano 22, Matera, Basilicata 75100, IT
This is only a guess,but I suspect that many if not most local cheese shops would allow you to watch the process. I know that we were invited to do so by the folks at Crovace in Speziale, which I would recommend if you will be near the Ostuni/Fasano area.
I believe I mentioned the shop in my report from fall, 2010; their website no longer works but the shop is still there, and still fine! They make the cheeses in the mornings, in the rear of the sales room:
Near Martina Franca, I would recommend that you try this azienda; I visted their tiny shop in Alberobello where I received a very warm welcome and I suspect they would be happy to let you watch their cheese-making:
But those are only two of many many options. I would put your question to the people in the cheese shops, who often make the cheeses behind the shop, or nearby.
Andria is the burrata center; if you stay at an agriturismo near there, I am sure they can recommend places to watch the process.
if you come to Puglia most of the cheese shops will be happy to show you how they make the mozzarella or burrata. You just have to be there not too late in the morning as most of the production is made a bit early.
Any little town in Puglia would have a mozzarella cheese shop....or a farm outside of town. You are coming to the mozzarella & burrata paradise.....
I am so glad you joined in, StileM; your school sounds quite marvelous! I hope you will consider joining the discussions here when the subject turns to Puglia.
I had to laugh the other day when my loca cheese shop in New York placed a sign out front announcing "fresh burrata from italy." When I inquired, they told me that it was very fresh--they had just received the shipment---almost two days before! Keeping in mind the travel time, the cheese must have been at least three-four days old.
I imagine that burrata or mozzarella as old as that would not be eaten in Puglia.
ANTICHI SAPORI (Montegrosso di Andria) (Be aware that there are two Slow Food restaurants of this name in the Bari region; the other is also well reviewed and is located in Torre a Mare, closer to Bari itself)
Montegrosso is a tiny (two streets) hamlet set amidst olive groves and rolling farmland that lies at the edge of the sprawling trading center of Andria, just off the main Andria-Canosa road. But it has garnered considerable fame in Italian food circles because of this restaurant. Bookings must be made weeks in advance, or so we were told by the owner of our agriturismo, located a convenient 3.5 kms distant. From the SlowFood (English) guide: “Eating here, you’ll really appreciate the quality and freshness of the raw ingredients that are used.” Simply put, and completely accurate.
The first thing that greets diners upon entering the small, rustically appointed dining room, is a blackboard highlighting ingredients from the orchard of Owner Pietro Zito that will be used in the night’s menu.
There is a tasting menu, which I believe cost 35 euro, and a la carte options.
We chose the a la carte, opting to begin the meal with the house antipasti misti, and what followed was simply fabulous. The importance of impeccable materie prime, simply prepared, shone forth in a manner that I’ve rarely experienced before. I was especially glad to see both artichokes and cardoons featured prominently both in the antipasti and in the primi; I had never tasted cardoons, which have now joined artichokes at the top of my vegetable pantheon.
These were some of the dishes that arrived at our table; for 12 euro per person, this has to be one of the better restaurant values in Italy:
Bruschetta with mixed herbs
Salciccia di Minervino Murge
Insalata di sedano=a sweet slaw-type celery confection that was a standout
Riccotine di mucca=cow milk ricotta, and local mozzarella
Cardoons with shreds of goat cheese (cardi con formaggio di capra)
Fava beans with the house olive oil
Carciofi sotto olio-artichokes “under oil,” or preserved in olive oil
Carciofi sotto Cenere=artichokes cooked in the ashes of the fire
Cippolotti di Margherita=baked onion halves topped with oregano-spiked bread crumbs
Focaccia di grano arso, made from the “burned grain,” that I described in the last review.
For primi, I asked for the waiter’s recommendation and was served “Grano Duro del Tavoliere con piselli freschi, carciofi, and fave novelle e tanto amore,” which turned out to be a dish of semolina grains with fresh peas, fava beans, and artichokes. I had never tasted this grain before; it was shaped like orzo, but had a texture vaguely reminiscent of very soft farro.
My partner was in culinary heaven with mezzemaniche with a ragu of mixed meats, passata of tomato, “spices,” and pecorino canestrato, the sought-after local sheep cheese.
We shared one second course, but were actually sated long before the arrival of the tiny chops of Murge lamb, grilled over almond wood and served with a simple arugula salad and roast potatoes.
Next: complimentary limoncello and a liqueur made from walnuts, liquorice, and coffee, followed by:
Baba au Rhum
And a cassata encased in chocolate that was the single best dessert of the week and one I will be yearning for for a very long time.
Along with the dessert, a glass of local Moscato di Trani
We drank the house wine, an IGT 2009 Castel del Monte from Conte Onofrio Spagnoletti Zeuli made from Bombino and Nero di Troia grapes.
The price for this feast for two persons, with water and wine, plus a bag of orechiette di grano duro from the small selection of house-brand food items on display: 60 euro.
A Slow Food restaurant worth a long detour. Closed Saturday dinner and Sunday. Highest recommendation.
Osteria Antichi Sapori
Piazza Sant'Isidoro,9, Montegrosso d'Andria, Puglia , IT
The celery dish at Antichi Sapori is "mostarda di sedano;" it was served with sheep's milk ricotta. The recipe is in Lidia Bastianich's cookbook, Lidia's Italy, which is a very good thing because I plan to attempt a replication very soon:
There are several other recipes from this restaurant in the book. The owner of the agriturismo where we stayed told us that the author had twice been a guest there.
LE BOTTEGHE (Matera, Basilicata)
A handsome white restaurant built into the rock in the sassi Barisano (one of two sassi districts in Matera), Le Botteghe is the source of the recipe that first kindled my interest in visiting Matera and that has since become my favorite pasta to make at home.
The crucial ingredient in the dish are the DOP dried red peppers from Senise, a lake side town about an hour to the south of Matera. Although I had purchased them at DiPalo in New York in years past, this year the scheduled shipment did not arrive at the store due to a frustrating holdup at JFK customs. . And so my visit to Matera took the form of a quest to buy a supply of peperoni di Senise, along with the Materese bread that is renowned throughout Italy.
The restaurant’s location in the heart of the most “gentrified” of the two sassi districts, near many hotels, draws many tourists. Yet while most of the tables were occupied by tourists at the time of our visit (8:30 dinner reservation) we did not get the feeling that this SlowFood pick was a “tourist restaurant.” I do not recall seeing an English menu (although the website lists the menu in English.) A massive wood-burning hearth dominates the front room; beside it: A display of meats attest to the restaurant’s focus. For those interested in sampling the locally famed steaks of the Podolica breed, Le Botteghe would probably be an ideal place.
We began our meal with one order of the house vegetable antipasti mix, (13.50 euro) which included on that evening:
Pettole of eggplant and of lampascioni—these were highlights (for more on lampascioni, see the first report in this series)
Eggplant stuffed with fresh ricotta (melanzane ripieni). Another standout.
Polpetti di pane (meatballs made from bread, bathed in a light tomato sauce) Like many other dishes in the Lucanian repertoire, this typifies the “cuisine of poverty” in a land where most families were too destitute to consume meat more than a couple of times a year. These were delicious, as were all of the dishes in the spread.
Tortino di zucchini con uova—a flan-like custard of zucchini and egg, this was a highlight for me
Carciofi Gratinata, or gratineed artichoke
Cardoncelli alla Griglia, meaty grilled cardoncelli mushrooms, a regional staple
My primi had been decided months ahead: “Fusilli mollica e crusco” (11 euro). The difference between this original rendition and my adaptation is that here the toasted bread crumbs are ground very fine. The resulting dish lacks the texture that my much more coarsely ground, fried in olive oil crumbs, offer. Nevertheless, the pasta was excellent.
My partner was equally pleased with his orecchiette al tegamino (10 euro), which had been bathed in a tomato and cheese sauce and baked in a terra cotta casserole.
Too sated to sample the steaks, we opted to share an order of mixed, grilled cheeses (13.50 euro), formaggio alla Piastra. Pecorino, caciocavallo, and scamorza, drizzled with local olive oil. Excellent and certainly a dish to attempt to master, again, at home.
We drank a bottle (6 euro) of the house Aglianico (the restaurant has an extensive list of Lucanian and Pugliese wines)
Dinner for two persons totalled 60 euro. Le Botteghe is a SlowFood restaurant. We had an excellent meal and while it did not, perhaps, ascend to the heights of the previous two meals, I would recommend.
piazza San Pietro Barisano 22, Matera, Basilicata 75100, IT
LATTERIA RIZZI (Matera)
Rizzi is a much acclaimed latteria/salumeria on Via Duni in Matera’s “new” section. A small room in the rear of the shop holds about 10 tables that were filled mostly with members of an American walking tour group when we entered on a weekday afternoon early this month. (The only Americans we encountered during this week were members of several bicycling or walking tours).
We followed the suggestion of the genial Sr. Emanuele Rizzi, three-time winner of the SlowFood cheese competition, and ordered a selection of local salumi and cheeses, along with a quarter-liter of the house red wine. The salumi plate featured two types of pancetta—one plain and one spiced; capocollo; salami picante; and peppercorn-studded salami.
On the cheese plate: Mozzarella; canestrato; aged goat cheese; young percorino; and smoked scamorza. These are served with a fragrant olive oil from Frantoio Lacertosa that I would have liked to bring home. An additional plate bore a grilled canestrato drizzled with honey that was simply wonderful.
With the wine, and water,, and a plate of delicious biscotti, the total for two of us was 28 euro. While you could probably put together a sampling from the shop for quite a bit less, this makes a comfortable stop for a light lunch, as well as an opportunity to learn more about the estimable food products of the immediate area.
The front-room shop offers a wide selection of dried pastas, olive oils, wines, and other local products, along with the cheeses. Via Duni, 2.
In contrast to the rustic, whitewashed restaurants typical of the sassi districts, Lucanerie is slightly more elegant, as befitting, perhaps, its location in the new city, at the edge of the sassi. Although we had booked for 8:30pm, most of our fellow diners appeared to be locals, rather than tourists. We received a very warm welcome and were given an table for two partially cordoned off from the dining room behind a ruched fabric screen.
We began our dinner, as per custom, with the mixed antipasti, ordered that night for one person only.
The parade included excellent cold beef slices accompanied by chicory, a piquant dish of braised pork, and another of braised boar. The spread also featured: Fave e Chicorie, or pureed fava beans topped with braised dark greens. Much as I have tried, I cannot work up much enthusiasm for this staple of the Pugliese and apparently, of Lucanian, table. Much better was the strawberry puree with fresh ricotta, the tangle of asparagus and egg, and the bruschetta with pureed ceci beans. And finally, another staple which I have come to like very much: A cold grain salad (I think the grains that night were farro and buckwheat), tossed with cooked green beans.
Opting for “primi as secondi,” I selected the Strascinati with Pepperoni Cruschi and Salso di Pomodoro.” I did not like this rendition nearly as much as the one the previous night. The dried red peppers were crushed to bits so tiny as to be all but indiscernible. I thought the pasta was slightly overcooked, and the tomato sauce lacked any sweetness, verging on the acidic. (Perhaps this is a function of the time of year?)
While the dish would have been up to par, perhaps, in a good neighborhood restaurant in New York, I must admit that I was disappointed.
My partner fared much better with his pasta, which had been recommended by the owner, who was given the stipulation “no fish, no mushrooms.” His Schiacciatella con Crema di Arugula featured long, thick strands of pasta tossed with pencil-thin asparagus in an arugla pesto, topped by tiny leaves of fresh arugula. Quite delicious.
Desserts were mixed: My chocolate cake was good; the lemon semi-freddo was superb.
We drank a 2008 Rosso from the region (the house wine); with water, the bill totalled 62 euro for two.
I think this is a good restaurant, despite my dissatisfaction with my pasta course. A SlowFood pick. Via Santa Stefano, 61, at the edge of the sassi in the “new” city. Closed Sunday dinner and Monday.
PANE E PACE (Antica Forno a Legna Perone)
A few doors down from the restaurant at Via Santa Stefano, 37, this incredible bakery is open from 7am to 2:30pm. From 4:30pm to 9:30pm, the products are sold at another address, Via Cererie, 49/E.
(We visited the main location the following morning, buying a large pane di Matera, taralli, and biscotti to tote back too New York. The Pane Alto di Matera has a long shelf life and is still feeding us 12 days after purchase. (The lovely bakery staff recommended keeping bread in cloth bags)
via Santo Stefano 61, Matera, Basilicata 75100, IT
Thanks, Katie! The orecchiette that I bought home from Antichi Sapori was from grano arso, not grano duro.
Your blog and your comments here were so helpful to me in planning this trip, which I hope will be far from the last time that I visit these regions, as I fell head over heels for them.
I am puzzled about that pasta at Lucanerie; I think they were trying to make a slightly refined version of the original. But what I like so much about the original recipe is the contrasting textures between the springy pasta and the crunchy peppers and bread crumbs. Grinding the peppers so fine lost that aspect of the dish. But that's just my take and I would not mind returning for a few meals just to try others things on their menu. My partner's pasta was great, and they were very congenial.
Barb: For meat, especially, I think Le Botteghe would be good. It was kind of shame that we did not sample any meats, as they clearly focus on them. It is a very attractive restaurant and the food was excellent.
And Lucanerie is very highly regarded among locals, or so it would appear from what I read and saw on that evening. What I would do next time, though, is to ask around and see what other ideas turn up from, for example, proprietors of food stores, vendors, and perhaps hotel staff. Honestly, I doubt if one can go too far wrong in that city as far as eating goes. The standard seems very high.
I should also mention that I was downcast when, on the first morning, I went to the market (near Plaza V. Veneto in the new city) and asked for Senise peppers, only to be told that they were not around anymore and "no one here" would have them. So because the season is in late summer, I should have realized that they would not be fresh at the market. I did find, and buy, a bag of "dried sweet peppers," at one market shop, but they were not the DOP Senise peppers. But one of the market vendors, who were exceptionally friendly, told me that if anyone had them, it would be Il Buongustaio, on the Plaza V.Veneto, and sure enough, the first thing that I noticed when I entered that gorgeous shop was a string of the peppers hanging on the wall.
I highly recommend a visit, not only for peppers, but for cheeses, meats, wines, and other Lucanian bounty, as well as products from other regions. Come to think of it, I would ask THEM where else to eat in town!
IL BUONGUSTAIO di Rosa e Samuele Olivieri Plaza Vittorio Veneto 1/2 Matera
Tel: 0835 331982
They have a second location on Via Lucana, not far from the castle, where they also serve food, but I did not have time to visit with only two days in the city.
Thanks so much for all your help.
From reading your alter-ego on Tripadvisor, it appears that you revisited the Masseria Torre Maizza (hope it doesn't feel like I'm stalking you. Just checking current recommendations as we have 4 nights of our trip committed there).
Will you be reviewing their restaurant?
re: Oakland Barb
Barb: I adore that hotel, as you can see. We did have one meal there. The dining rooms--one large indoor room with fireplace and one sheltered outdoor room--is romantic and design-magazine worth, as is the entire hotel.
I was not planning to review it but will be happy to discuss. We were given a complimentary dinner as part of our early booking package (I booked the hotel just after returning from the first trip last fall; they take a deposit from your cc when you do that)., so we had a couple of caveats as far as ordering (Whole fish selection was limited).
The menu is quite long, with various categories. They have a section on Pugliese traditional cooking which I feel is their strength based only on the limited numbers of dishes we sampled that night.
I can answer more specific questions about the hotel through the TripAdvisor function that lets you send me a message. Why not do that?
I will be reviewing two more places, both within an easy drive of the masseria. One (Parco di Castro) them will be a revisit; see the last trip report I wrote on the area:
DA RENZINA (Savelletri di Fasano)
Da Renzina occupies a prominent waterfront location in miniscule Savelletri. Entering the vast dining room (the restaurant seats 300), we confronted a piano, a sea of chairs upholstered in a mayonnaise-hued vinyl, most of which were empty at the time of our arrival at 8:30 on a Friday night, décor rife with curlicues and flounces reminiscent of a wedding hall in a New York City suburb, and a wall of windows facing the Adriatic. We were shown to a window table, booked ahead, where the waves pounding against the glass reminded me of being on a ship.
Savelletri, along with the nearby coastal hamlets of Torre Canne and Forcatella, is sea urchin territory. I have tried pasta dishes with ricci in New York and never liked them much, finding them to be overly fishy. Nevertheless, for primi, I ordered Troccoli con Ricci di Mare. The resultant long, spaghetti like pasta, with a sauce of sea urchin, was the single best seafood pasta dish I have ever tasted and a highlight of a trip filled with great eating. The house-made pasta, with that perfect springiness of texture, would have been outstanding even alone. With the ricci added, the dish was perfection. (12 euro)
My partner, almost inexplicably, chose orecchiette con pomodoro, the traditional Pugliese pasta “ears” with a simple tomato sauce. (6 euro) He pronounced it “stupendous.”
We elected to share a whole fish for the main course. We were invited to select a whole fish from the display on ice that dominated the center of the room. Unfortunately, I know very little about choosing whole fish,or about the various varieties that were on offer. I asked the waiter to recommend a fish and he responded that we should take the orata, prepared al forno. The resulting sea bream, cooked in the oven with black olives, was good, but I wish I had chosen grilling as a method of preparation, rather than having the fish baked. The price for whole fish is 40 euro per kilo and ours ended up costing 34 euro.
The restaurant filled up during the evening; our fellow diners were local families, quite a few with children.
We drank the local DOC Locorotondo Cantina Classico white, a blend of verdeca and blanco d’Alessano. With water, the bill totalled a most reasonable 66 euro. Recommended. Closed Thursdays. Piazza Roma, 6.
Before I write the actual report on our last meal in Puglia, I would like to mention two food stops in the immediate vicinity:
Crovace is widely considered to be the best latticini in the area; we stopped here before dinner to purchase several cheeses, which we had vacuum packed, and a large slice of frittata for the flight home the next day.
Just south of the commercial center of tiny Speziale, Narducci is also very well regarded by locals; unfortunately we did not have time to stop here but will certainly do so next time. They are especially known for the vegetables sott' olio.
MASSERIA PARCO DI CASTRO (Speziale di Fasano)
This is the only repeat visit that we made; more details of the restaurant can be found in my first Puglia report, from late 2010:
Parco di Castro, a SlowFood masseria/restaurant, sits amidst olive groves at the end of an unpaved lane leading west from SS16 at km 868.4.
This is probably the quintessential Pugliese masseria experience. Food is locally sourced, ample, and hearty. Service is warm and welcoming; in contrast to most other places we ate on this trip, some English is spoken.
We opted to begin, yet again, with the house antipasti for two which was priced at a fairly steep (for the area) 20 euro per person. While we waited for the promenade of food, we were given a dish of fried fave.
Among the antipasti:
Fresh mozzarella and fresh ricotta from Caseificio Crovace
Thin-sliced, uncooked, pancetta
Fave e ciccoria, the Pugliese staple; quite good here
Foccacia with tomato, a Barese specialty
Artichoke "under oil," or preserved in oil
Red peppers under oil and topped with toasted bread crumbs; amazing, sweet peppers. I felt that this, and some of the other dishes, was served too cold.
Half-moons of zucchini tossed with oil and mint
Timbale di zucchini baked with cheese. Excellent.
Pizzette with tomato
Salad of grano saraceno, or buckwheat, with diced tomato. This puzzles me, as it did not look like the buckwheat sold in the US, yet the Italian term translates as such. Absolutely wonderful.
A plate of sliced cucumber arrived, as intermezzo, in the Pugliese fashion.
Again we chose "primi per secondi," and were served:
Capalacci ripiene di Melanzane, salsa di pomodoro, pasta stuffed with eggplant in a tomato sauce. Very good.
Also very good: My spinach cicatelli with cardoncelli mushrooms, tomato, and arugula.
We passed on dessert, being too stuffed, but were offered a complimentary plate of the most exquisite almond cantucci from a bakery in nearby Montalbano, along with three digiestivi: wine/sherry; alloro, or bay; and an outstanding limoncello.
With house red, and water, the bill for two was 59 euro.
If you are looking for well-prepared, home-cooked food in a casual setting, I highly recommend this masseria/restaurant, which also offers guest rooms and would make a very well-located spot from which to explore the area. The restaurant is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Masseria Parco di Castro
SS 16, km 868,400, Speziale Fasano, Puglia , IT