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Feb 7, 2012 04:32 AM

BASILICATA--Bernalda, Pisticci, Senise (??)

Wondering if any Hounds have traveled in this corner of Basilicata, just over the Pugliese border. Looking for tips on restaurants, agriturismi or hotels with great food, for a possible visit in late summer/early fall.

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  1. Erica, the closest I can come is a fairly well-publicized ristorante in Terranova del Pollino, Luna Rossa, some miles south of Pisticci, etc, and hard by the Calabria border. Saw a segment on the chef's very local cuisine (cruschi, of course) on an RAI travel show a while back. Not been there, but would like to.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bob96

      Bob, Many thanks! the consensus seems to place Luna Rossa among the best restaurant in the far south, along with Locanda d'Alia in Castrovillari. Wish we had time to visit Pollino Park!

      I am trying to formulate a 9-day itinerary that will close with 4 nights near Fasano and will allow me to dip into Basilicata for peperoni di Senise. Of course, good eating is the determining factor!
      Considering an overnight, or two, in or near Bernalda as there seem to be a couple of good eating spots in that area, and proximity to the archeological sites on the coast as well as to Matera. And if I fail to find the peppers, I can drive to Senise:

    2. The agriturismo Acaccia (Agriturimo Acaccia San Costantino Albanese (PZ) Basilicata
      0973.91084) is AMAZING. We filmed there when doing Diary of a Foodie and I'm still dreaming of Angela's cooking. The entire family is warm and wonderful and it makes a great base.

      The newest addition to Bernalda will be Villa Margerita (Francis Ford Coppola's hotel) but the opening has now been pushed back till at least April.

      Since you're in that area, make sure you do make it to Matera.

      6 Replies
      1. re: minchilli

        Elizabeth: Many thanks. I did visit Matera last year and fell in love!

        A friend of mine, a chef in the Bay Area, read the Kleiman article and was so captivated drove to that azienda (from Rome!) to stay overnight so she could watch the chef prepare a type of bread (??) that was discussed in the article! I would have loved to read the story and, in fact, hunted for it in vain. I am SO glad you mentioned it again as I now see that there is a link on your (wonderful) site.


        Not sure if I can make it that far west on this trip but I have found this agriturismo that looks lovely:

        1. re: erica

          Both of these spots look amazing.

          1. re: erica

            Yup, that is the place Evan wrote about. We both heard about it from the same person who owns a wonderful hotel in Matera.

            Thanks for the nice words about my blog!

            1. re: minchilli

              You're welcome, Elizabeth! I read quite a bit of your blog after my last post yesterday, and I see that you spend time in the Ugento area. I'm planning a couple of days there as well (Masseria Don Cirillo) and wonder if you would mind offering up the names of your favorite restaurants in the general vicinity. We will have a car. I would be very grateful to you!

              1. re: erica

                Hoping that this will catch the eye of ElizabethM, or anyone else familiar with the area around Ugento, in Salento.

                1. re: erica

                  Hi Erica, Sorry just saw this. We do go to Ugento almost every year. But we stay in an all-inclusive hotel there, and so actually never venture out from there.

        2. Hi Erica, Since you posted this I've actually been down to Bernalda. In addition to the two or three restaurants that are supposed to be very good, the bar/pizzeria in the bar at the newly opened Copola hotel, Palazzo Margherita is very good.

          We also stopped at Castelmezzano, and had a fantastic meal at Al Becco della Civetta. Very much worth going to this perfectly preserved hilltown. Don't be fooled by the modern looking interior (which has been recently done up) the food is 100% local and slow foodish. I"m attaching a photo I took of the mixed antipasto which features many of their cured meats which they are known for. Make sure you order it!

          18 Replies
          1. re: minchilli

            Elizabeth thanks for the responses. I'm not sure if I will have time to visit Castelmezzano, since we are headed for Salento after Bernalda, but I do have Al Becco on my list for a future visit. I'll do my best to dig up good eating around Ugento and report back after my September trip.

            I'm also looking for a good lunch stop en route from Bernalda to Ugento, and so far have 3 places marked, so if anyone has any experience with one of these, or another suggestion for a Sunday lunch, please let me know!

            1. La Puritate, Gallipoli

            2. Art Nouveau, Santa Maria al Bagno

            3. Da Cosimino (Hotel Falli), Porto Cesareo

            1. re: erica

              Bringing this thread up again to see if anyone has opinions or info on my last question, from April 30.......

              1. re: erica

                I just returned from a trip to Basilicata and Puglia that included a two-night stay outside Marconia, about a 20-minute drive from Bernalda. I wanted to add my comments to this thread, in case anyone else is heading to this untouristed corner of southern Italy.

                We had what would prove to be one of the best meals of our 9-day vacation at La Locandiera, a family-run SlowFood restaurant in the center of Bernalda, a handsome hill town in the Basento Valley whose main street is strung with edifices that hint at a prosperous past.

                Despite their listing in Gambero Rosso, Michelin and SlowFood, the restaurant was empty save for one other occupied table on a Friday evening in September. Service was efficient, congenial, and informative.

                We began with an oder of the house antipasto (10 euro) that included a friittata of potatoes and onions; ciambotta, a stewed vegetable dish commonly found in the far south which reminds me of ratatouille--here it was served in individual glass jars and was extraordinarily flavorful. Also exceptionally good were the peperoni in agrodolce, with yellow peppers, raisins,and "anchovy cream," and the Fagiioli di Sarconi, D.O.P white beans from the region, prepared with onions baked in a slow oven and sprayed with vin cot to (from a spray bottle).

                To the progression of dishes, I requested one addition, meatballs made of horse meat.
                Horsemeat is a staple of this region, and of Puglia's Salento as well, and we would pass quite a few restaurants and butchers announcing "carne equina," and carne di cavallo.
                The meatballs were coarsely textured and mild in flavor, and served in a tomato sauce.

                After revealing to the waiter that I was a big fan of the D.O.P. peppers from nearby Senise, we were presented with a platter of dried peppers, fried and salted, which are known locally as "cruschi."

                Well sated by this time, we forged ahead with a selection of three pastas, (8 euro each) from a long list recited by our waiter, Fernando:

                Ferricelli with cream di ceci (chick peas), cherry tomatoes, and finely ground bread crumbs. The essence of simplicity but exceptionally flavorful. This was,in fact, one of my favorite pastas of the trip.

                Tripolini (long pasta with a frilled curl along one edge) with peperoni cruschi. The dried peppers were crushed very finely and in fact, I thought that the dish missed its usual its textural component due to their tiny size.

                Paparadelle al sugo di pezzente, or "beggar's sauce," made with finely cut pork, tomatoes, and fresh ricotta. Excellent.

                We had to pass on secondi, as we were not only full, but exhausted after having arrived only that morning after flying from New York. After the pasta, we were presented with triangles of bread from Laterza, one of the area's three bread meccas, topped with a marmelade of red onion, fennel, and Amaro Lucano, aged pecorino, and truffled honey.

                With water, and one glass of Paternoster Sensi spumante, from an impressive list, the bill for two totalled 55 euro.


                Corso Unberto, 194, Bernalda, (Matera)

                1. re: erica

                  Many thanks, Erica, for a wonderful report. Yours was a meal I would order exactly dish by dish--it sings of the south. Maybe a bottle of Aglianico, but otherwise...More reports, I hope coming from your trip. Cheers.

                  1. re: erica

                    I had to look up ferricelli to see what it was and saw that it is sold on Amazon in case you get an urge to recreate that dish. Were the bread crumbs fried? How were the cherry tomatoes incorporated?

                    Another translation of pezzente is "tramp".

                    Looking forward to more. I would like to go back to Basilicata.

                    1. re: barberinibee

                      I'd like to return to Basilicata, too! I've touched in the food, but the landscape around that area is staggeringly beautiful as well. Unfortunately, this was our sole restaurant meal in the area, as we stayed only two nights and on the second of these, we ate at our agriturismo, see below.

                      We did spend a most enjoyable few hours at Giuseppe Pennella's azienda outside Senise (we would have had time for another meal had we not gotten so lost trying to find the place based on a Google map!). Sr. Pennella not only is a delightful person, but he is also the producer of some of the best regarded I.G.P. Senise peppers, of which I am a tremendous fan. For anyone else who is intent on visiting, the farm is on the south side of SS653,, between Senise and Francavilla. When I finish using the long strands of peppers that I schlepped home, I will have to make a restocking trip!


                      BB: The breadcrumbs were ground very finely (finer than I grind them at home!) and fried in oil; the cherry tomatoes are (my guess) added to the pan and cooked until they have caved in, lost some of their juice, and begun to disintegrate.

                      I am afraid that, while the agriturismo we chose, San Teodoro, was lovely and the rooms (they gave us a suite) were very comfortable, the dinner they served us (and one other table of guests) was disappointing. This may have something to do with the fact that we ate there on a Saturday night and there was a wedding in the "palazzo" of the estate. I would certainly stay there again but plan to have my meals outside, which unfortunately, means driving, and having to forego all but a taste of that delicious Aglianico!

                      1. re: erica

                        I'd probably stay right in Bernalda (although not at Casa Coppola) so I could eat where you ate and have the Aglianico too. I'd like to dip down to the coast from there for lunch, and would also like to spend some time Venosa and touring the Aglianico wine regions around it.


                        I would like to see the lake near Senise too.

                        In my experience, it is generally a disaster to end up competing with an "event" at large rural restaurant or lodging in Italy. That really is their bread-and-butter, and they cannot risk displeasure and a bad rep, so one is just left to fend for oneself. I have occasionally found a place with the bandwidth to attend to individuals plus a group, but usually I just walk out if I arrive and find out that's the scene. Harder to do that, however, if you are sleeping there and booked half-board.

                        Thanks for the breakdown on the pasta with ceci. I'm beginning to think ceci are my all time favorite food.

                        1. re: barberinibee

                          I'm with you on that route plan! I agree that Bernalda would be a good choice for a base from which one could venture to Senise, Craco, and even Matera, as well as to the coast.
                          In addition to La Locandiera, there were a few simple trattorie in the center including at least two specializing in horse meat. There was a lively evening passegiata, a wealth of attractive architecture, and a daily market in the morning (which we did not have time to visit).

                          Coppola's hotel fits discreetly into the scene; we passed the handsome, unmarked and obviously recently restored building several times before I noticed what appeared to be an upscale bar whose walls were plastered with photos of film stars. I confirmed with the young woman behind the bar that this was, indeed, Palazzo Margherita and no, I was not allowed to take a peek any further than the bar area, which was open to the public. We will probably hear the name in the coming months, as we were told that Justin Timberlake is to be married there this month or next.

                          I think one key to success of the peppers and pasta dishes is to leave the both "mollica di pane" and the fried and crushed dried peppers fairly large to contribute to the texture of the final product. This would hold true for the ceci dishes that use bread crumbs, too.

                          On the topic of ceci, one of my winter staples is a thick soup with tomato, saffron, ceci, and rosemary. I believe that this is an Abruzzese dish, and it has sparked in me a desire to visit that region as well. (Let others plan trips around viewing masterworks of art and architecture; my motivating factors always seem to involve food!) Maybe combine Abruzzo and Basilicata? I will have to re-read your Molise adventures again laster today!

                          1. re: erica

                            I think I would want to stay in Senise or near abouts. I have a strange desire to take a grueling mountain road trip way off the tourist track looking for good food from Sulmona to Potenza, via Campobasso, and I can't decide if I would rather go through Benevento or Lucera/ Cerignola in Puglia (still yearning for those olives) to get into Basilicata. I think at the end I would want to collapse in Senise before moving on to Policoro and Metaponto for the fish. Still haven't figured out how I would get home. I wouldn't mind revisiting Bari.

                            Here's another report from a Sinese pepper lover


                            Fortunately for me, farinata season has returned to many of the local bakeries, who refuse to make it in summer. So I get to eat chickpea to my heart's content. It is a super-food for me.

                            1. re: barberinibee

                              Yes, and when I gaze, now and then, at the permanent stain lodged inside the two panes of glass in my oven door, I will think of you, fondly, and imagine the gustatory delights that you will be consuming!


                              Meanwhile, and much more fun, I will take out my map and follow your proposed route!
                              Although I did not enter Senise proper, the Monte Cotugno lake is pretty. Apparently the dam that formed it is one of the largest in Europe, or so we were told. I have tried, and failed, to find out much information on it online, though.

                              Senise would be a good base from which to explore the "Albanian" villages of Pollino park. We drove as far as San Constantino Albanese, location of the agriturismo discussed by Elizabeth above. Like all the villages of the region, it was shut up tight in mid-afternoon, but certainly pretty.

                              1. re: erica

                                Now you know why Italians take their kitchen with them when they move.

                                I figured out I should fly to Bari and head south into Basilicata where you were, then skirt a bit of the coast and loop back up through the Pollino Park, Benevento, then Molise and onward until I reach Sulmona, and then train or drive to Rome and go home from there. I hear there is actually some great fish in those mountain streams.

                                1. re: barberinibee

                                  Have you read the book by Matthew Fort, Eating Italy? Recommended. Among the interesting tidbits contained within is an account of good eating in the area of the Monti del Matese, which sounds as if it is off the beaten track.

                                  1. re: erica

                                    Erica, you and Barberinibee are driving me crazy with envy/desire with these great posts. But keep on! Not sure how big either of your loops might be, but I can suggest a stopover in the amazing Morano Calabro (Villa san Domenico hotel) for the Pollino, with easy side trips to the paesi arbereshe and, a little to the NW, the small jewel town of San Donato di Ninea. Also a possible stop just SW of the paesi arbereshe is BisIngnano, home to the master traditional guitar makers (lira, chitarra battente) of Calabria, including the renowned de Bonis workshop. In Campania, just south of the Matese in the Sannio is a wonderful, quirky rural hotel, Il Mesogheo in Melizzano; and west toward Caserta, the area around Roccamonfina is wonderful, as is the agriturismo/hotel La Caveja in Pietravairano. Finally, you've got re-reading Fort's Eating Up Italy, one of the freshest and most evocative food journeys of its kind--and not just because he starts it all in Melito di Porto Salvo and Reggio Calabria and works north. I can see him eatign his lunhc of bread, salami, tomatoes, and pecorino in an olive grove near Nicotera: liberty, lunch, and loafing. Finally, you can, like me, armchair travel to some of these places via the channel, with its programs streaming in full. Here's one on Morano:
                                    Also on is the weekly travel humor show hosted by Paolo Marra, which visits a small town each week, and spends an enormous chunk of its hour on cooking and prodotti tipici, all proudly presented by local folks. It's a charming series and all shows from 2012, 2010, and 2008 are streamed at
                                    Buon soggiorni a voi due!

                                    1. re: erica

                                      I see Eating Up Italy on a Vespa is available on a Kindle version from Amazon. Is that the same book?

                                      Bob, thank you too for the invaluable info and the link to Calabrese TV!

                                      Hard to choose between another trip to northern Spain and another trip to Southern Italy when it comes to eating.

                                      1. re: barberinibee

                                        Same book, published in 2006 in the US by Centro Books. Even his recipes are fine.

                                        1. re: bob96

                                          thanks, bob. I'll get it on Kindle.