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FROM PETTOLE TO PASTICIOTTi—A WEEK IN SOUTHERN PUGLIA

FROM PETTOLE TO PASTICIOTTi—A WEEK IN SOUTHERN PUGLIA

Old Oct 14th, 2010, 05:59 AM
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I am so glad you found it because yours was one of the reports that inspired me in the first place! I am already planning a return trip that will include Trani and Matera. I even put a query up about those two places; I am going to top it for you to get your ideas...
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Old Oct 14th, 2010, 02:48 PM
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Hi EK...you reports are always impatiently awaited for in this household. And this one is no exception. After all, we had the good fortune to follow you to one of life's most delicious dinners in Shanghai. Has it really been more than three years?

For we who are not foodies, per se, if anyone could convert us, you're the one. Your guidance began the process last October-November in Piemonte. Your mere mention of the a tagliatelle-like dish pureed with chickpeas, jogged my recall to the tantalizing tajarin offerings in Alba and vicinity!

So happy that you enjoyed Puglia, so much. Of course, it made me feel worse that we were "bumped" on our proposed visit there in '04, when our overnight ferry was cancelled out of Dubrovnik, bound for Bari. I still think the Captain wanted to stay home in Dubrovnik for that Easter weekend, so the "heavy seas" bit was from his clever imagination!
Keep on truckin' and travelin'..E and J !

stu
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Old Oct 15th, 2010, 02:56 PM
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eks, great reporting. We're looking for a new destination. sounds like Pulia could make the list. Glad you were able to score some goat. All sounds wonderful.
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Old Oct 15th, 2010, 03:44 PM
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I'm always ready for a trip report (food report?) by ekscrunchy . . .
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Old Oct 15th, 2010, 04:54 PM
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What a delicious beginning - your descriptions are always mouth watering!!!
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Old Oct 15th, 2010, 05:48 PM
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eks,

Your trip reports are fabulous. Thanks for letting me travel vicariously through you. Now, I have to decide whether my next trip is going to be the long-planned Sicily/Aeolian Islands, or the heel of the boot!!
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Old Oct 15th, 2010, 07:56 PM
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will keep in mind when I go to visit our friends in Puglia
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Old Oct 16th, 2010, 02:23 AM
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I am thrilled that you are all enjoying. There is a discussion on another board (Lounge) of how one person cannot understand how someone can spend so much time thinking about food and how could they place so much importance on food on a trip. Guilty as charged!

Stu--you are too kind. It IS hard to believe it has been almost FOUR years since we met in Shanghai. (I like the sound of that!)

More soon..
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Old Oct 16th, 2010, 06:38 AM
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"There is a discussion on another board (Lounge) of how one person cannot understand how someone can spend so much time thinking about food and how could they place so much importance on food on a trip."

I guess I've chosen my traveling companions well. As we leave our lunch restaurant, one of them is sure to remark, "Where are we going for dinner?"
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Old Oct 16th, 2010, 11:23 AM
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Ellenem: I would be one of those asking, you can be certain!! Sometimes I have to remind myself that not everyone thinks this way!


We had planned to have the following morning in Lecce but, instead, had to drive back to Masseria Montelauro to retrieve my left-behind camera items. So, after an excellent buffet breakfast at the Risorgamento Resort, we headed out of Lecce, back to Otranto, and then north to our next overnight destination at the edge of the trulli area, Villa Cenci.

We had flown over this area during the descent of the plane a few days before and I was struck by the dazzling white hill towns which seemed to be arranged in a concentrical pattern. Sure enough, after leaving the Brindisi-Bari autostrada, we saw the white mound of Ostuni looming up ahead like a shimmering mirage. We would return here to explore, but for the moment we pressed on, through Ceglie Messapica, named for the Messapians, who are thought to have arrived in Puglia from Illyria, across the Adriatic sometime around 1500 to 1000 BC and who built thriving city states in Ceglie, Ostuni, Otranto, and Brindisi, among others. Today Ceglie is considered a gourmet capital of Puglia and there are at least two restaurants in that town that have garnered a fair amount of acclaim. Unfortunately, the one I wanted to try, Il Fornello da Ricci, would be closed for vacation during the time of our visit.


We became a bit befuddled after passing Ceglie, as I had somehow forgotten exactly where our next masseria was located. When we reached the outskirts of Martina Franca without seeing any signs, I knew we were on the wrong road. Happily, I spied a police car and sought official help.

This officer was not so adept with my map (at one point he was holding it upside down) but we finally figured out together that Villa Cenci is off the Cisternino-Ostuni road and not the road we had just traversed. (We should have continued along SS 16 until the Pezzi di Greco exit, where we would have seen signs for the masseria) Finally we sorted things out and in due time we arrived at Villa Cenci, where we would spend one night before moving on to our last hotel near Fasano.

Villa Cenci, which I had booked through Venere.com, was another gorgeous restored masseria and, befitting its location, incorporates several restored trulli dwellings in its design. (More on the trulli later!)


http://www.villacenci.it/

Wanting to economize, we had selected the least expensive room category which meant that we were not in a trulli, but it hardly mattered. The place is a dream, and the location is excellent for exploring the trulli zone and nearby towns.

After checking in, our first order of business was to decide where to have dinner that evening. I had come armed with the name of a local trattoria that received good reports online, but the lovely owner of the masseria quickly nixed that idea in favor of Il Ritrovo degli Amici, a SlowFood restaurant in Martina Franca. When she phoned and got no answer at the restaurant, she simply phoned the chef/owner on her private cell phone and booked a table for us for dinner.

Dinner arranged, we set off to explore, heading first for Locorotondo.


En route, we began to see thickets of trulli—the round whitewashed limestone dwellings crowned with tapering conical roofs paved with weathered gray stones. Projecting from some of the rooflines are crescents and mystical symbols. The trulli are enchanting and they pop up everywhere along the roadside, in varying states of repair. I was swept away!

The enchantment continued in Locorotondo which rightfully ranks among “I Borghi Piu Belli d”Italia,” the most beautiful towns of Italy. (Cisternino, which we would visit a few days later, and Otranto, also bear this designation). We parked the car and spent about two hours wandering aimlessly along the gleaming narrow streets paved with polished ivory stone and hemmed in by whitewashed buildings and flowering pocket gardens. The scene bears resemblance to the white towns of Andalucia, but the rooflines here, called cummerse, are gabled and sheathed with gray chiancarelle stone rather than red tiles. Enchanting! Viewpoints at the edge of town offer a sweeping vista of the Valle d’Itria, to the east as far as the Adriatic.

Here are some photos:



http://www.borghitalia.it/html/borgo...dice_borgo=400



Locorotondo is famous for its white wines, which we would sample during the week. Had we more time, we could have visited the Cantina de Locorotondo:


http://www.locorotondodoc.com/eng/eng.htm


Locorotondo is one of the most beautiful towns I’ve ever visited and I will long remember that brief visit.


http://www.borghitalia.it/html/borgo...dice_borgo=400




Our next stop was Alberobello, the trulli capital with the densest concentration of the structures as well as a dense concentration of tourists. The hotel owner told us that she advises guests to skip a visit but we were curious and, indeed, were glad we took the time even though we were finished after 20 minutes. There are over 1,000 trulli here but most of them now house B&Bs, souvenir shops and restaurants in two distinct neighborhoods. Alberobello is not at all garish, but since trulli sprout throughout this area, there was no need to linger.



http://www.worldheritagesite.org/sites/alberobello.html
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Old Oct 17th, 2010, 03:46 AM
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As I mentioned above, I had planned to dine that evening at Trattoria Le Ruote. But when I mentioned the idea to the proprietress of our hotel, she suggested that a better option would be Il Ritrovo degli Amici, the SlowFood-listed restaurant in the center of Martina Franca. And so, off we went. ( This was not the only time that hotel staff would steer us to more upscale places than we might have chosen on our own)



After a few hair-raising minutes driving into Martina Franca, we found parking near the center, and spent the next hour or so wandering around this beautiful small Baroque city. I had read that the evening passegiata around the Piazza XX Settembre was particularly lively here and that turned out to be the case. As it turned dark, we passed the restaurant and, although we had booked for 8pm, we found that it was open a half hour earlier so we decided to enter earlier than planned. (We did not do justice to Martina Franca, which looked like it would made an excellent place to stay for a night or two; I believe it is the largest of the towns we visited on this trip, with a population of almost 50,000)

http://www.martinafrancatour.it/ingl...troduzione.asp



http://en.comuni-italiani.it/073/013/foto/index.html



IL RITROVO DEGLI AMICI comprises two tiny dining areas on two different levels. Chef-Owner Anna Ancona has created an enchanting all-white setting where every glance reveals another gorgeous visual vignette. Massive silvery mirrors, dramatic arrangements of white-painted branches, wine and spirits bottles artfully displayed on a burnished walnut table, chunky white ceramic pieces, ..the place is worthy of a design magazine. We normally shun decorated-to-the nines spots in Italy, fearing that the artistry will not be replicated on the plate, but this was not the case here.

There was only one other table of diners on that evening—a table of visitors from Germany. There was no written menu. The amiable young woman who comprised the entire front-of-the-house staff recited a very brief list of choices, in English.

We chose to skip the antipasti, but if you have not sampled the famous capicollo from Martina, made from pigs who feed largely on acorns, this would probably be a good place to do so. (We had had this luscious meat earlier in the trip and would have it again as it appears on many antipasti spreads throughout the area; because of its altitude, Martina Franca receives the breezes necessary for curing salumi and is one of the only areas of Puglia that is known for these products).


We both selected the same primi: Pasta (I forget which type) with eggplant, basil, tomatoes, and smoked scamorza. Superb! Perfectly textured pasta with just a sprinkling of cubed eggplants and tiny tomatoes. Feathery light. Not in the last bit oily (in other words, not in the least bit like the pasta/eggplant dishes made in the erica household).

For secondi, we were offered a choice of beef, lamb, or pork. My partner chose the tagliata di manzo, served over arugula with parmesan shavings (15 euro) I had what just may have been the best baby lamb rib chops I’ve ever eaten (15euro) (The lamb is usually offered for two persons; they accommodated me with the rib chops, scotaditto di agnello, because my dining partner does not like lamb).

For dessert: An order of an incredibly rich and incredibly delicious molten chocolate cake infused with orange.

Service was charming, the restaurant is beautiful, and the bill for two of us with water and two glasses of wine for me (none for the driver, alas) amounted to 65 euro.

Highly recommended.
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Old Oct 17th, 2010, 07:13 AM
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<< Sometimes I have to remind myself that not everyone thinks this way! >>

It is truly their loss indeed!
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Old Oct 17th, 2010, 12:07 PM
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ek: I'm in Milan and flying to Puglia (Brindisi) tomorrow. Not great weather for the first days but we should have sun on Wednesday and after.

I've copied this and turned it into a Word doc to read on my NotePad on the plane.

I've just glanced... but you make Puglia sound "incantevole" (entrancing)
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Old Oct 17th, 2010, 12:36 PM
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Tedgale: I hope that you will send us some notes from the road! Please!
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Old Oct 17th, 2010, 01:41 PM
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thanks for sharing your nice experience.
just wanted to correct one thing, you mentioned a dish which you called: "Parmigiano di melanzane"
It's called ParmigianA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parmigiana
ParmigianO instead is the cheese we all put on our pasta!

Anyways one of my favorite dishes!
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Old Oct 17th, 2010, 03:02 PM
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eks- I just LOVE your trip reports. As a matter of fact, I think it was one of your reports from years ago that led me to a desire to hit the area of Pienza/Montepulciano.

Another poster asked, but I didn't see you reply... Do you speak fluent Italian? I can't think that I would be able to stop someone on the street in this area and ask where another bakery might be. Did the citizen you stop speak English? Or was this all communicated in Italian?

Love your report. Can't wait to read more. Must go fix myself some pasta. hahaha
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Old Oct 18th, 2010, 02:23 AM
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Mangiacrauti: Many thanks for the correction, I fear that I made quite a few mistakes in Italian food terms up above. Please let me know if you find other errors.

Sarge: I do not speak Italian but because I do speak Spanish pretty well, I can stumble along. I also know a lot of the words in Italian. So I would have asked the man something like " Scusi signore...Questa paneficio chiuso...dove e una paneficio aperto? " (Italian speakers, please refrain from snickering!)

I seem to be able to discuss food terms in a vague way, and I am also good with place names, so the conversation can move on even though I am missing most of what the other person is saying. It is a testament to how nice everyone was that I got so far. Also, and this is pure speculation on my part, the people we met seemed to speak a very clear Italian. (They also spoke in dialect, but not to me.) Maybe I am just getting used to hearing it after quite a few trips to Italy.
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Old Oct 18th, 2010, 03:42 AM
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We began the next day with another delightful breakfast (like the other places we stayed, the Villa Cenci offers a buffet breakfast heavy on the pastries and cakes, but also containing breads, cheese and jams; eggs were available at all the places we stayed—sometimes on the table or sometimes by request.) And then we packed the car and were off to Ostuni. I had been worried about leaving all my luggage in the car but was reassured by the delightful owner of villa Cenci (whose name I have neglected to write down) that we would be perfectly safe.)


We drove into Ostuni and I was so worried about taking the car into the historic center that we parked at the first likely place we found on the Piazza Curatone, near a small supermarket. From there is took us about ten minutes to walk to the Piazza Liberta, the edge of the historic center. From there, we walked uphill on streets paved with gleaming ivory stone to the summit, where there is another plaza and the imposing late 15th Century Gothic Romanesque cathedral with a glorious rose window. Ostuni is a gem. Narrow lanes lead from the main artery, the Via Cattedrale, to lookout points at the edge of the hill that offer a sweeping vista of the patchwork of green fields and the Adriatic beyond. This photo will give you an idea:


http://www.comune.ostuni.br.it/




Because of its proximity to the seashore, and to the trulli zone, Ostuni would be a terrific base and there are many masseria in the surrounding countryside (we would visit two of these for dinner that week). I wandered into a few of the many food shops offering artisanal pasta in myriad interesting shapes; jars of marinated eggplants, peppers and lampascioni, the roasted hyacinth bulbs which are a Puglian delicacy, and a hundred other items.


http://www.parlafood.com/lampascioni...ian-specialty/


http://blog.italian-connection.com/l...hyacinth-bulbs


There are also several shops belonging to olive oil producers where cans and bottles of oil are sold at very reasonable prices. Much of this was off limits to me due to the restrictions which had been placed on me by my travel partner, who had insisted on “carry on only.” (I did manage to bring home a few bags of pasta and quite a few bags of taralli and friselline and quite a lot of cheese (more about the cheese later).

http://www.babbonyc.com/dolci-taralli.html


Please note that some of the offerings of these specialty shops can be found at the local markets; after our walk through Ostuni we picked up a few bags of taralli for the road at the market on the Piazza Curatone where we had parked our car. We snacked on a lot of taralli that week!

Although we only spent about two hours there, Ostuni was one of our favorite stops of the week and I would like to return to stay in or near there so I could explore further.


From Ostuni, our route took us along the SS 16, a beautiful two lane road hemmed in by tall evergreens and vast tracts of gnarled olive trees. We would pass this way again and again in the days remaining but that morning we were headed, through Fasano, to our next and last stop, the splurge of the week, Masseria Torre Maizza.
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Old Oct 18th, 2010, 01:19 PM
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So far it seems like such a wonderful trip. I'm pining to visit the south at some point.

I guess I'm holding out for the hope that I'll be possibly moving to the Catania area next year. The one person we have working there is considering leaving next summer and I'd jump on the opportunity to move there.

BTW - Torre dell’ Orso looks amazing. I wonder how busy it is there during the summer months.
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Old Oct 18th, 2010, 01:54 PM
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hi eck,

so glad I jsut found this. was "le zie" the restaurant that you started the e-mail thread for? was it worth the effort? were they surprised when you spoke to them in Italish? [or shoudl that be Spanien?]

BTW, we met some spaniards at dinner in Rome one night; they spoke english but no italian. they were getting round this problem by just shouting in spanish until someone understood them. does that remind you of what the British used to do when they were abroad?

great report, thank you.
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