Trip Report: One Week in Puglia
I got so many suggestions on where to eat during our week in Puglia, I thought I'd share our experiences. We had a wonderful time, and had some really special experiences and no regrets.
First, we cooked a large majority of our meals. The masseria we stayed at was so beautiful - one of the most beautiful places I have ever stayed - and its pool was so inviting, we never wanted to leave for dinner, and we rarely did. I love to cook in Italy. It never fails to amaze me how wonderful the ingredients are - even the simplest dish earns me plaudits. Its large herb garden was inspiring; I'm hoping to plant some herbs at our home. As a result, I only have reviews of three restaurants, plus a cheese making demonstration (where we were fed so much we had no room for a meal) and a cooking course at a family's home.
We ate at three restaurants and enjoyed all three of them. In all three we were the only (non-Italian) tourists there. In general though I was surprised how few tourists we encountered outside of the main attractions. We had learned a little Italian before our trip, and thank goodness we did!
Cielo, Ostuni - Delicious, and very affordable for the quality. The setting, a private terrace, was lovely. My husband loved his tuna main course - it remains one of his culinary highlights of our three-week trip. I think our total bill was around $25 a person.
Bina, Locorotondo - Also delicious. We ordered a "small" version of their antipasti, which is fortunate because it was so much food. I remember a selection of meats, cheeses, a zucchini omlette, these fried cheese balls, and more. I can't remember the sauce but I loved the pasta I had - the chewy texture was perfect.
Donna Gina, Polignano a Mare - We didn't intend to eat here but fell into it by happenstance. The waiter nearly keeled over when we, obviously Americans and in a hurry to get our kids, ordered only one course - the scampi risotto - but I'm glad we forged ahead. It was outstanding - the chewiness and texture the risotto set a new standard for us. When we waiter appeared to forgive our transgression, a little, when we commented on how perfect that dish was.
Cheese Making Tour - Denise Ostuni, who was assisting the parents of children attending the Arte Al Sole camp, organized a trip for both parents and children to Putignano to a farm/cheesemaking operation called Agriconea. The owner gave us a thorough tour of his operation, which has about 100 cows, and made three cheeses that we sampled while still warm. The mozzarella squeaked when chewed. He actually fed us so much cheese that we gave up on the prospect of dinner - I later found out that we were supposed to eat six more types! I purchased the farm's raw milk and a cacioricotta. People had told me the milk would be revelatory and they were right - it far surpassed the Straus milk I get at home. I loved the cacioricotta; I tried to get more in Rome and was told that it is very specific to Puglia.
Cooking Class - Gina Tringali, a Rome food blogger, had recommended we contact Yelena Sambati, who arranged a cooking class for us with Momma Anna at her home with her family. It was more than a class - it was a warm, cultural experience. The afternoon started with her husband giving the kids a brief spin on his Vespa on a non-trafficked street. Many of her family was waiting for us - her grandsons played with our son and her friendly husband chatted with us while we cooked. We learned so much just talking and being with them for those hours. The food was simple, but delicious - several types of foccacia, tomatoes, fried anchovies, mashed fava beans and potatoes. My daughter loved Momma Anna - it was very difficult for her to leave. She and my daughter are still exchanging emails now. They are the nicest family.
Wow, I went on forever! Looking back, I'm surprised how much I enjoyed everything - if you read my Paris post you'll see I'm not always so positive. I'm so glad we visited this beautiful region and thank you for letting me share.
I echo the thanks! I adore that area of the south, and am so pleased that you seem to share my positive opinion. I, too, would like to know where you stayed. I've had three visits, but stayed only at hotels, so have not had a chance to cook with local produce. I hope to have the opportunity on my next visit!!
Thank you again for your report!!
Thank you for plowing through all of that! The place we stayed is called Masseria Pepenofio, which apparently was originally a farmhouse built in the 16th century. The web site photos do not do it justice at all - poor lighting choices plus the photos were taken before the landscaping, which is breathtaking, had grown in. (I've tried to attach a photo below.) I should note that that it is a self-serve kind of place. The lovely housekeeper is fantastic - the place is absolutely spotless - but she only speaks Italian.
You can reach Ylena at email@example.com. She was very helpful. Enjoy!