Last summer my dear friends, Stefania and Francesco, invited me to a lunch in the cult Osteria Antichi Sapori, located in Montegrosso, a bucolic village in Murgia countryside of Apulia region. At the time I was spending my summer holiday in Ostuni, 200 km away from that place, but despite the distance I didn’t hesitate to reach my friends for the lunch, and it was totally worth it.
When we were approaching the restaurant, we were surrounded by the silence that characterises this peculiar countryside, where olive trees stretch for hundreds of meters, interrupted just by vineyards and bounded by long dry-stone walls. In this area the most widespread cultivations are the Coratina olive trees, of which the unique “gold of Apulia” extra-virgin olive oil is made. In addition to that, it is worth mentioning the ancient grapevine Uva di Troia that produces the distinctive Nero di Troia red wine, one of the most known and typical wine of Apulia.
As soon as we arrived at the restaurant we were immediately hooked with this cozy place. We were welcomed by our friends and the cook-owner of the restaurant, Pietro Zito, who told us the story of his Osteria. He proudly wished to mention that he is not a chef but a cook and that he grew up in that village where the restaurant is located, feeling himself part of the landscape.
His philosophy is that “Antichi Sapori kitchen is managed by few simple rules: the love for the traditions, the respect for raw materials, seasonality and the excellence of the ingredients. You can watch the cooks work through a large window overlooking the hall or decide to personally visit the kitchen. Simplicity and genuineness are skills not to be hidden” (cit. Antichi Sapori).
Pietro let us enter his garden which is a biodynamic vegetable garden with Mediterranean scents of thyme and oregano, sage and marjoram and much, much more. This corner of northern Murgia is like a mosaic of biodiversity which he intends to preserve.
The lunch we got to eat was simply delicious, every dish was genuine and tasty. We ended the lunch eating one of the most delicious dessert we ever had: Ricotta and Almond paste Cassatina.
At the end of the day, Pietro gave the children a small bag of homemade caramelised almonds, and we received two of his valuable recipes.
Thanks Pietro and our dear friends, Stefania and Francesco, for inviting us to a such unforgettable day!
If you wish to continue this imaginary journey to Apulia with us, give “Antichi Sapori” recipes a try, without forgetting to pair them with two local wines: Rosè Wine CALAFURIA Tormaresca and Organic Red Wine ALMAGIA di Giancarlo Ceci.
Dish 1: Tiella di Orzo Patate e Cozze alla Barese –Bari Style Mussels, Pearl Barley and Potatoes
INGREDIENTS for 6 servings:
500 g potatoes, peeled and sliced
500 g red tomatoes, sliced
1 kg mussels, rinsed many times
300 g pearl barley
2 medium zucchini, sliced
2 medium onions, peeled and finely sliced
1 handful of basil leaves
1 handful freshly grated Pecorino cheese
extra virgin olive oil
Open the mussels and throw away the shell without the mollusk and reserve the water inside. Filter this water and keep aside. You’ll use this water during the cooking process. If you can’t open the raw mussels, follow this method: steam the mussels in a pan with a tight-fitting lid just until they open. Remove half the shell of each mussel, reserve the water and throw away the mollusk that did not open.
Preheat the oven to 220 °C.
In a ∼ 30 cm Ø deep baking tin, (better if a terracotta pan) assemble the ingredients as follows: on the bottom make a layer of onions, then place on it a layer of zucchini and then place a layer of potatoes. Spread the shells with the mussels on the top, distribute the pearl barley over and pour the reserved water on. Continue making a layer of tomatoes, one with zucchini and the last one with onions. Season with freshly grated Pecorino, basil, oil, salt and pepper.
Bake for 45 minutes, and then set the oven on grill function and bake for other 10 minutes until the top is brown and crunchy. Test with fork if potatoes are cooked enough.
You can either serve this dish hot or cold.
Wine Pairing: Rosè Wine CALAFURIA Tormaresca
Wine cellar: Tormaresca – Antinori – Minervino Murge – Apulia
Grape variety: Negroamaro 100%
– Color: pink
– Smell: Delicate floral notes of rose and lavender, with a delicate hint of fruity
– Taste: Soft and cool, comfortable and stylish, confirmed the floral and fruity scents
– Aging: Steel and next 4 months in bottle.
Dish 2: Trocoli Pasta with Aubergines Tomatoes al Filo, Wild Fennel and Hard Ricotta Cheese.
Trocoli is a typical homemade pasta of the Apulian and Lucanian cuisines. They are similar to spaghetti but thicker and with an oval or circular section.
Tomatoes al filo are traditional from Apulia region. July is the month when tipically tomatoes are harvested. Part of them are hanged and linked to each other on cotton threads and stored in cool room, ready to be eaten during the winter time. They can be consumed either raw or cooked.
INGREDIENTS for 4 servings:
300 g Trocoli
2 long aubergines with a few seeds, peeled and sliced
50 g fresh stem and leaves wild fennel
20 fresh local tomatoes al filo
1 garlic clove
Ricotta stagionata cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Pour the oil into a frying pot (we recommend to use a small and deep pot).
Fry the aubergine slices on high heat until golden brown on both sides. Then put the slices on kitchen paper to remove the extra oil, and then cut them into strips.
Peel the tomatoes by dipping them into boiling water for a few seconds. In a wok pan heat 2-3 tbsp of oil, then add the garlic and the wild fennel stem. Let them sauté for a few minutes. Add the peeled tomatoes and salt. Let sauté for a few minutes stirring with a wooden spoon.
Fill a big pot with water and bring it to a boil. When it is boiling, add salt and drop in the Trocoli. Stir the pasta and cook it until they are “al dente”. Drain the Trocoli and place them into the wok pan. Add the fried aubergines and let cook for a few minutes, stirring with a spoon. Top the dish with some wild fennel leaves and freshly grated Ricotta Stagionata.
Wine pairing: Organic Red Wine ALMAGIA di Giancarlo Ceci
Wine cellar: Giancarlo Ceci Castel del Monte – Apulia – Italy
Grape variety: Organic Uva di Troia 60% – Montepulciano 40%
– Color: red
– Smell: scent of ripe red fruit and spiced notes typical of the grape blend
– Fermentazione: soft crushing, controlled-temperature fermentation at 25-26°C, pumping-over and delestage, maceration on skins for 15-18 days.
– Aging: ageing and stabilization in stainless steel containers with repeated racking. It is further aged in the bottle for several more months
Serving Temperature: 16-18°C
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