Arriving in Puglia makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. The region is one beautiful landscape after another and it is filled with generous people. My friend Peppe Zullo welcomed us with open arms at Sala Paradiso. Appropriately named, the charming accommodation is located above a wine cellar in a small vineyard overlooking the nearby historic city. Needless to say, it was heavenly.
During our stay, my travel companion and I were able to tour Villa Jamele, eat a sumptuous meal and even go for a 10K walk with Chef Peppe. Details will follow in another post. I would like to dedicate this particular article to the wonderful local artisans who opened their kitchens and homes to us.
Our first lesson was during the closing hours of a local Macelleria (butcher shop). We were escorted by one of the sous chefs from Sala Paradiso, Antonio. He helped clear up my broken Italian vocabulary and explained some local lingo and jokes. Mr. Terlizzi Michele, a man with a smile reminiscent of old Hollywood, pulled out his knife and got to work. Before long we were watching his blade slide between meat and bones while learning the names and uses of Italian cuts.
The next day, Peppe’s gardener, Biago “Grande”, drove us over a winding road to meet Concetta. We began the morning with an espresso, served in a small cup with ‘Costa Rica’ written on it and a smooth shot of limoncello. This hard working woman took us to her cheese kitchen where we watched her make caciocavallo, one of my new favorite cheeses. Her friend, Maddalena arrived and taught us Ricotta 101. Between hand gestures, laughs, communication failures and cultural exchange we also witnessed the making of mozzarella. Filled with cheese, pages of notes and smiles, we headed to our next destination.
That afternoon we visited a friendly gentleman named Angelo. His pride and joy is a bread oven that dates back to the year 1520 at Pane e Salute. He demonstrated how it worked, let us sample bread he had made and then invited us to sit down in front of the oven for lunch. Midway through the delicious home-style meal of uovo pomodoro, olive fritti and assorted sauteed vegetables, we were joined by two travelers who were sent his way by his son. The newcomers much to my content caused a new round of fresh wine and bread to be passed around.
Staying in Paradise was wonderful and there is so much more to tell. I learned so much about food from Peppe’s wonderful friends, but I learned even more about life and lifestyles. It was a visit to remember and I met many people I hope to cross paths with again. I would like to send a special ‘Grazie!’ to Terlizzi, Concetta, Maddalena and Angelo. Our visit would not have been the same without you and when I leave Italy, I will leave richer because of your kindness.
Until next time…