Here is the first in a section of three brief dining reports following a late September week in Puglia. It was my first visit to the region and hopefully will not be the last. I will follow this section with reports on 4 dinners further north, near Cisternino/Fasano.
MASSERIA GATTAMORA, Uggiano la Chiesa
On the outskirts of the stately Salentine town of Uggiano la Chiesa, about a 15 minute drive from Otranto, Masseria Gattamora was the scene of one of the finest meals of a week in Puglia. The masseria is a bit tricky to find—follow the signs along a somewhat circuitous route from the town center to the area near the campo sportivo, and you eventually will come upon this hotel/restaurant, housed in a converted masseria and listed in the SlowFood Osterie guide. The restaurant occupies a vast stone-arched dining room—the former stables— and adjacent outdoor terrace. The welcome is warm, the service is excellent, and the food is superb.
We began our first Pugliese meal with a spread of mixed antipasti that included thin slices of the vaunted capicollo from Martina Franca; stratiacella cheese that was so creamy and so flavorful that I was reduced to swoons; carpaccio of tuna topped with puree of borlotti beans and shreds of red cabbage; wedges of smokey eggplant parmesan, sans tomato; rather ordinary green beans; speidini of fried alici (anchovy) with mixed red peppers; a croquette of potato and swordfish; and the classic Pugliese pairing of pureed fava beans and boiled chicory—fave e ciccoria--a dish that I could not learn to love although I sampled it several times during the week.
Completing the assemblage were addictive balls of fried dough known as “pettole” which would appear in various guises at almost every meal in the coming week.
Pastas here were the finest of the week: My partner ordered the orichiette with a ragu of goat meat and melted caciocavallo cheese. Curious about the region’s “ricotta forte” cheese, I ordered the maccheroncini with ricotta forte, sun dried tomatoes, and meatballs (polpettine). Both were outstanding in flavor and mix of textures and were probably the two finest pastas of the week, along with those we enjoyed at Cucina Cassareccia in Lecce (report to follow). I now understand why this ricotta is known as "forte!" I loved the flavor. The fragrance? Not so much!
Unable to continue after these riches, we closed the meal with the excellent complimentary almond and chocolate cookies and a glass of house-made liqueur made from myrtle berries, grown nearby in Porto Badisco.
With a half bottle of the house red, Campirossi primitivo, and water the bill totalled 66 euro. Highly recommended. Closed Monday. The location of the masseria would make it an excellent base from which to explore the Salento peninsula and the idyllic nearby beaches.