This is the first installment of a report on the meals (dinners with the exception of two lunches) consumed during a recent trip to Puglia and Basilicata.
We spent two nights at an agriturismo (Lama di Luna) outside Andria; two nights in Matera; and three nights in a masseria near Fasano. Thanks to all who were so patient in offering suggestions during the research phase. And yes, I did find Senise peppers in Matera. Apologies for misspellings of the Italian.
MASSERIA BARBERA, Minervino Murge, Puglia
Passing through the giant doorway we entered one of a series of rambling dining rooms to encounter a festive celebration in full force. Long tables packed to the brim with chattering diners, flotillas of baby carriages along the walls, toddlers racing about underfoot, waiters pouring forth from the kitchen bearing aloft platters laden with enticements. This was Sunday lunch on the first of May at Masseria Barbera, but our waiter later told us that this was the usual scene on Sundays.
We were shown to one of the smallest tables, where two lonely-looking diners were already seated. Together with our two dining companions, we looked to be the only other non-locals in the house on that day. We saw no menu, just a printed sheet with a brief description of the courses that began to arrive soon after we sat down. ON the table already were water, a basket of superb bread and taralli, and a bottle of the house wine, Rubino di Murgia
This was our second trip to Puglia so we were already accustomed to the lavish display that constitutes the typical Pugliese antipasti spread. Nevertheless, we were astounded by the goodness and the plethora of courses. Among the antipasti dishes were the following:
Fried fava beans; pettole, the Pugliese spheres of fried dough mixed, in this case, with lampascioni, or Muscari racemosum, wild hyacinth bulbs; fresh ricotta; nodino, or knots, of mozzarella; focaccia di grano arso (grano arso is the grain left in the fields after the seasonal burning and was a staple of the poor in this wheat-growing area of Puglia; see Katie Parla’s blog for more info: http://www.parlafood.com/grano-arso-p...);
Cardoncelli mushrooms baked with bread crumbs; baccala with tomato sauce and black olives and a platter of Minervino sausage (salciccia di Minervino) with ricotta salata and aged ricotta.
Once the (empty in most cases) antipasti dishes were cleared from the table, two pastas appeared:
The first: “Maritati in Crudiola di Melanzane con pesto di basilico,” (a mix, or “marriage” of white orechiette and cavatelli di grano arso, with eggplant cubes, cherry tomatoes and basil pesto.
The second: “Troccoli alla Campagnola con Formaggio dei Poveri,” a long, thick pasta with oven-roasted tomatoes and bread crumbs.
The two secondi were as follows: A platter of mixed meats—tiny baby lamb chops and grilled strips of donkey which was tender and sweeter than beef. Incredibly delicious. The second main course was Salciccia in Cartoccio, a paper parcel that opened to reveal sausage in a light meat broth with a spicy kick. Along with the meats, we had Patate sotto Cenere, or roast potatoes cooked in the ashes of a fire.
Once the meat platters had been demolished, a plate of raw vegetables—carrots and baby fennel—took their place, as per local custom. Then came a bowl of mixed fresh fruits—melon, strawberries, and kiwi.
And finally: House-made cookies, glazed strips of orange rind, and candied almonds.
The total for this feast was 80 euro for two persons. Next year the owner, Sr. Barbera, plans to open rooms for overnight guests.
Closed Sunday night and Monday. No English spoken and no English menu. A SlowFood pick.
Highly recommended for anyone seeking a quintessential Pugliese masseria feast. Worth the detour.
State road 97, km 5,850, Minervino Murge, Puglia 70055, IT