Lucky for me, when I travel for wine, I also get to try an awful lot of good food. Puglia is one of those regions where authentic regional cuisine is flourishing. And as if that were not enough, going back to basics, using all natural ingredients or recipes the way grandma made them, is all the rage.
So on a recent jaunt to the heel of the boot, I was able to sample some genuine products: from wood-burning oven-baked bread, to extra virgin olive oil, to a Slow Food trattoria where the ingredients are the freshest, and the cooking methods are plain old old-fashioned.
My first stop was in Laterza, at the Antico Forno Laerte. What a special place! This is the heartland where a brother and sister team have their own flour mill, Molino Bongermino, to grind the local grains they grow, guaranteeing that you get top quality bread, pasta, pizza, everything that is made with their flour, which you can also purchase here at the store.
Take a look at the semola flour for orecchiette pasta (below) or those mostacciuoli, a typical biscuit from Puglia with almonds, chocolate, figs… exquisite!
So whether you want the right artisanal flour to do-it-yourself, or the actual pizza, schiacciata or bread made from the real McCoy, you’ve come to the right place at Antico Forno Laerte.
And what to put on that bread, if not some ‘Puglia gold’ – their special olive oil? Next stop: Le Ferre, a modern, very ‘green’ olive press surrounded by groves and groves of olive trees of every type.
The premises were spotless, an example of Italian design, every detail perfect. Again, a family-run business where pride in excellence was evident in every word, in every gesture. That, and an all-natural approach is the guarantee for the final product. Sara Tanzarella was a delightful, talkative host; and Giuseppe and Luca Esposito are the family behind this operation located in Castellaneta.
Yours truly with Sara T. and Rosanna T. (left) and on a special Vespa (right)
What a pleasure to get to know people who are safeguarding the centuries-old culinary traditions and health of future generations! I learned so much about olive oil, and even participated in a real tasting of native Puglia varieties, everything from Coratina to Leccino to Frantoio. Wow! Talk about a warm welcome – look at the spread they put out…
Serious tasting to the left, delicious local specialties to the right
In an area known as La Murgia, which is basically a plateau, they take food very seriously. One evening I had the good fortune to do a tasting menu at Osteria Botteghe Antiche in Putignano.
Good food also needs a suitable environment. Don’t you love the cozy atmosphere here?
Bread is serious business, once again. All natural grains, different types, all homemade with the freshest ingredients, including lovely olive oil (what else?)
Chef Stefano D’Onghia enchanted me with his story and with his food… Since a picture’s worth a thousand words, I’m going to delight you with visions of heaven… But don’t read on an empty stomach!
My favorite: the green pepper stuffed with puree of fava beans on fried olives. But the orecchiette pasta with greens and a cheese fondue were out of this world too. And what to say of the desserts (see below).
Hats off to the chef, who uses his creativity and originality, mixed with the unwavering traditions of a land rich in culinary heritage. Stefano D’Onghia studied at ALMA in Parma under Gualtiero Marchesi, a true Maestro. Oh, and did I mention this place was certified Slow Food?
A toast to the host! Cin-cin!