Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Puglia: Let's eat in Trani (BA)


We ate two fantastic meals in Trani (BA) that deserve their very own post.

Both restaurants appear in the Gambero Rosso restaurant guide, and both meals were truly precious -- the types of meals one hopes to eat when traveling to Italy. Both places served not only outstanding local cuisine, but also provided that high level of service we so infrequently find in restaurants. Making us happy was what the staff were there to do, and we did not have to spend $500 to be treated so.

Ok, one at a time.

The first restaurant is called Corte in Fiore. It's located at Via Ognissanti, 18. My old roommate from Florence, the wonderful Irene, took us there our first night in town. She was in Barletta, which is nearby, visiting her parents.

A word about the decor...or how do I put it? The architecture? What I am saying is, there was a back garden inside the restaurant that made you feel as though you were outside. Not the first time I had that sensation on this trip; Picton in Lecce was similar, with a mini-arboretum inside.

Let's begin: We ate raw fish at Corte in Fiore. Might seem totally normal, given the universal love of sushi but it was the first fish entree I'd ever eaten in Italy that was completely raw (I suppose I am skipping the sea urchin Rosario caught but that's in its own extremely special category!).

Looking at the photo, you can see calamari (in the little glass bowl), mussels and scampi (which, while I was in Puglia, I learned are actually distinct from shrimp. You probably knew that, right? Sapientone!). There were also some fantastic raw shrimp that were wonderfully sweet and tender.

We also enjoyed a cooked seafood antipasto, and the two starters together were so plentiful we actually skipped the second dishes. We finished the meal off with Moscato di Trani, a lovely sweet wine made (obviously) in Trani and considered a special regional product.

Special note to Irene: grazie di cuore per averci portato a mangiare lì. L'osteria era davvero buona, e la sera con te davvero speciale. Spero che ci vediamo presto....forse in USA!

The second restaurant, sempre a Trani, is Da Miana, which is not far from the synagogue (in fact the address is Via Sinagoga, 54. Now you know the word for synagogue!).

You've actually already seen something I ate there, and I will shamelessly republish the photo because I believe it alone can tell you why Italian food is fantastic!

There it is in all of its glory....il raviolone (fatto in casa) di spinaci e ricotta con un sugo di crema di sedano e gamberetti. I made the notation "ottimo" in my little notebook.

So what does that mean? It's large homemade ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta cheese in a creamy sauce of celery essence and baby shrimp. It was as good as it looks!

But I'm actually putting the cart before the horse. To start, we had a lovely mixed antipasto that included the novel little item in the top photo (shown with the fantastic Pugliese wine we had, Vigna Pedale Castel Rosso Riserva 2003 DOC Torrevento). What is it? Right. Slightly hard to explain. A filling of baby shrimp encased in what I think was fried pasta. The consistency and form were not unlike the cereal Shredded Wheat. But better. Way better!

The antipasto also included stuffed baked cuttlefish and a soufle of peppers and salmon.

A word about the wine. The grape is called Uve di Troia, which if you know Il Nostro Inviato, is a bit funny (Troia=Troy; of course it actually means puttana, but that's another story). It's a grape that grows mostly in Puglia but is not widely available in the U.S. If you like robust red wines, see if you can't find it at a wine store near you.

For a second, we shared orata ai ferri. Translation: Grilled sea bass.

The restaurant is first-rate in every way. They treated us like we were the most important guests they had ever had, and indeed because it was a slow night, we essentially had the waiter and the host all to ourselves. Oh and we lingered. Where's the fire? We came to eat, and we very leisurely ambled through the meal.

How were we able to score two first-class meals in one small city on the Adriatic? Here's a thought.....Trani is part of Italy's Slow Food movement. You know: the opposite of fast food...?

By now, you've surely heard of localism: cultivate and prize local fruits, vegetables and other food products, and protect the means to produce these items. The movement's actually gaining ground in America!

But people in Italy began to fear back in the 1980s that traditional products and methods of food and wine preparation were losing their cache with the proliferation of fast food. Hence Slow Food was born. There are chapters in the U.S., in case you're interested (www.slowfood.com).

To conclude: Please please please visit these restaurants if you ever find yourself in Trani. Oh and tell them Ciambellina sent you!

Grazie per averci seguito! More to come....

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