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Trip Report: Campagna, Basilicata, Puglia

shtinky | Jan 21, 201112:36 PM

I thought I'd post my thoughts on this area of Italy. Our trip was late Sept 2010 - early Oct 2010. We flew into Rome and drove straight to our first destination, Calitri which is a hill town in the mountainous interior of Campagna. It took about 3 - 4 hours in the pouring rain. There is only one restaurant that I'd recommend in the town and it's called Gato di Cenerentola where we had lunch that day.

While in this area the best place we dined was Locanda di Bu in Norca. We opted for the tasting menu. We had veal Carpaccio with local black truffles - it was very briny and good. Next, fried ricotta on zucchini sauce with bits of salami - next a surprisingly good boiled potato with anchovies and egg sauce - very yellow - there was a garlicky fried porcini mushroom with it. Then spaghetti in zucchini sauce with truffles artfully served spun around a fork with sun dried tomatoes. Then soft homemade pasta in a pure very intense tomato sauce with soft cheese. Next lamb several ways - meatballs, chops, tenderloin and a soup with liver and sides of mashed potatoes and eggplant. The last course defeated me. Dessert was vanilla gelato with peach puree. For wines we had a nice Greco di Tuffo to start and a really nice Taurasi to finish. Expressi around. Yum.

We left Campagna and traveled to Mattera in Basilicata. Mattera was amazing with it's Stassi a World Heritage Site. We had decided to eat in a Locanda choice right in the Stassi called Le Botteghe. It was excellent. We ordered the antipasti tasting menu to share and 2 pastas. The tasting menu was pretty large and very good. We had capponata, a grilled bacon-y thing, mushrooms, what looked like meatballs in tomato sauce but they were really like very dense cornbread inside, fresh mozzarella with greens, a square of pizza or focaccia, some fried balls with maybe eggplant inside (?), a little bowl of greens with cooked black eyed peas and finally our primi. I had homemade pasta which was kind like penne but twisted with grilled veggies and my husband got orecchiette with tomatoes and cheese in a little brown pottery dish. We had glasses of white and a bottle of Falcone - red - and expressi. We were good and full.

We traveled to Puglia next. I was ready for some seafood now! The best meal there was in a town called Lecce. The restaurant was called il Due Corte from our Slow Food book coupled with our tour guide. The food was good and not too much. We both had pasta with tomato sauce - they were big, wide noodles. Then I had octopus cooked in a pot and my husband had sausages.

We traveled the eastern coast along the Adriatic heading for the Gargano Peninsula. We stopped in Manfredonia - a coastal town. We ate at Trattoria Il Baracchio and we shared a seafood antipasti - it had everything! Sardines, snails, octopus, cockles, anchovies, a mussel cooked in its shell surrounded by cornbread like polenta and other things that were unknown. It was excellent. Then we both had grilled seafood which consisted of 2 little fishes, a giant prawn and what may have been cuttlefish. It was great too.

We stayed in Monte Sant' Angelo but were unsuccessful in finding decent places to eat in this town. Two days later we traveled around the peninsula and stopped for lunch in a town called Peschi. We were headed for Porto di Basso which was supposed to have great food and views but, alas, it was closed. So we just winged it and were very lucky to find Restaurante Fra' Stephano. The people were so welcoming there. I was still on my seafood bent (it's just so good there!) They brought us bread and anchovies while we looked at the menu. My husband ordered a red wine. I ordered Carpaccio of seafood and orecchiette with vongole - little sweet clams. My husband got a big bowl of mussels and then spaghetti with mussels. When I ordered the Carpaccio the chef brought out a beautiful fresh fish for me to see what my lunch was coming from. He also suggested I get half fish and half octopus which I happily did.

The Carpaccio was served on a long white rectangular plate. The seafood lined up along it with a drizzle of olive oil and a lemon wedge. It was exquisite. Before we left they brought out what looked like donuts but were very hard and crisp. Then we had expressi and they brought some sweet wine to finish. It was VERY nice. I dream of it often.

Our final stop was Orvietto. We drove straight there - about 5 1/2 hours. We stopped once for lunch at the Autogrill. We had great paninis with mozarella, arugula and proscuitto - Now that's my idea of fast food!

In our one day in Orvietto we had a nice lunch. We chose Da Maurizio just randomly. It looked nice with pretty white linens in a vaulted space. Lunch consisted of antipasti plate for my husband (huge!) and Prosciutto with melon for me (4 huge pieces of melon). Then agnolotti for my husband with truffles and I had taglietella with pesto and tomatoes - the pasta was heaven.

So that's the trip. The food is on the whole really good, presented nicely and a LOT less expensive that northern Italy. I'll go back again, especially to Puglia. There is still a lot to explore there and a lot of seafood to sample. Oh and the local wines were divine! you just need to educate yourself a little on them before you go.

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