Part iii, the heel: Sea change

More than a week straight of being land- and city-locked and stuffing ourselves with all manner of farm animal, and we were hankering for a view of the ocean.

As well as all of the tasty things to be found within it. Gallipoli sits on the inside of the heel in Puglia. It’s got to be a total mess in summer months, as the city was already packed around New Year’s — not considered optimal beach time there, which is why most Italians and Germans go. Nevertheless, we stayed the night, saw the views, and had a wonderful dinner at Le Puritate. All of the antipasti on this plate were delicious, even the gloppy, mayonnaise-covered stuff in the middle, but we were most excited about the crudi, like the shrimp and palamita (a kind of bonito that they’ve got all over the menu).

But the best dish by far — maybe better than Pompiere’s bucatini, maybe the best of the entire trip — were these shrimp cooked in salt, which I was instructed to clean off with olive oil. I don’t know how they did it, but these were all tender, sweet meatiness, the flesh barely set, not firm (as in overcooked), but on this side of toothsome. Plus, best shrimp heads EVER. We considered returning the next day just for those shrimp, but they were unfortunately closed for New Year’s Eve. So we drove instead down around the heel, stopping at Santa Maria di Leuca, the southeasternmost tip of the Boot, and then headed up through Lecce, back to Ostuni. Which is really beautiful, by the way:

But we actually spent most of our time in Ostuni at Il Frantoio. Besides the acres of gnarled olive trees, there’s a citrus grove, tastefully appointed rooms (difficult to find in a country that inexplicably veers between trashy and chintzily cheap), gardens everywhere, and, most importantly, aperitivo service. A few times a week, they make these seven-course dinners from all the stuff they produce themselves, including their olive oils, or get from neighboring farmers and cheesemakers. And true to la cucina pugliese, the food is heavy on vegetables, like orzotto con zucchine, cabbage involtini, served with a tangle of wild greens (borage, cicoria, etc.), and pasta with beans and mushrooms.

It was the perfect place to spend New Year’s Eve, but I’d go back any time.

And now, back to more domestic matters.


2 Responses to “Part iii, the heel: Sea change”

  1. 1 dobianchi January 14, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    What kind of salt do you think they used? Just coarse sea salt? Great post… the shrimp are amazing…

  2. 2 winyang January 14, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Yeah, I think just coarse sea salt. But, of course, the Pugliese olive oil was crazy good.

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