So you’ve heard about Monopoli and Polignano a Mare, where we basically spent our days hopping between restaurants and cafes (with a couple of beaches thrown in). Puglia truly puts you in a constant state of delirious joy.
I still wish every meal would start with a complimentary bread basket, bruschetta, olives and pasta – all before the main course event. There’s absolutely no chance of that ever happening in London, although I must admit, a lovely Italian restaurant in London called Ciao Bella comes close to it.
I’ve really been looking forward to writing this food post, and sharing with you how spectacular the food is at Masseria il Frantoio, all 8 courses of it. It was by far the best meal we had during our entire trip. And that’s really saying something, considering the amount of food we managed to consume in 10 days.
A masseria is basically a farm or country house found in southern Italy. A lot of them tend to have working farms, growing olives, wine or vegetables.
Many have been renovated as luxury accommodation, giving you a real taste of Italian rustic charm, home-grown Italian cooking and a more personal service.
The biggest draw is without a doubt the food. They celebrate meal times spectacularly, with a huge emphasis on fresh, organic ingredients, grown just metres from your communal dining table.
The grounds at Masseria il Frantoio are beautiful. Exactly as I had hoped. You’re first taken through a luscious green garden…
..before entering the main grounds. I felt like I’d stepped inside the glossy pages of a Homes & Garden magazine – complete with luscious green vines, hanging ceramic flower pots and even it’s very own little church! I’m sure I wasn’t the only one taking mental notes for my future dream garden.
To build up our appetite, we were taken on a grand tour of the grounds, from where they grow their own vegetables to the cellar where they store their wine.
Following the tour, and with eager stomachs, we were seated at our table. I do love a meal with no menu. The mystery of it really does create a far more special dining experience.
To kick off, we were served what might have been the tastiest little bits of mini pizza I could ever dream of, more appropriately called Pizzelle con sughetto. Serious mouth-watering bites of heaven. Who knew fried bread pasta and home-made tomato paste could taste so good.
It’s funny how the smallest parts of the meal can stand out for you the most, just like the seaweed butter had at Le Cinq in Paris.
The next course was a light and very pretty Gamberi “in verde” con maggioriana – shrimps fried in flour and organic oil. I’m definitely going to try re-creating this at home.
Next up was Spuma di carote gialle e rosse. Another incredibly tasty combination of carrots and beetroot, formed into a surprising looking dish with a delightfully creamy texture.
Fava beans are very popular in Puglia, so I was delighted to see our next course was Pure di fave con cornaletti e cipolla rossa di Acquaviva. A comforting fava bean purée with Cornaletti pepper and red onions from Acquaviva.
This pasta course was called Pasta alla contadina con melanzane bianche. Exactly how pasta should be served – a no-frills farmers pasta flavoured with home-grown aubergines and a generous sprinkle of cheese.
I was even more delighted when I saw sausages were up next. It’s worth mentioning that Puglian cuisine is mostly vegetarian due to the region’s agricultural tradition, so I wasn’t expecting this one.
The Salsiccia gratinata ai peperoni con patate al pepe was a hearty combination of sausages ‘au gratin’ with peppers and potato rosti.
At this point I was very glad I decided to wear a stretchy, giving dress. A piece of advice would be to avoid wearing tight trousers whatever you do!
We didn’t come all this way to skip dessert though. The Quando la ricotta e stregata was beautifully presented, an intriguing dish of sweet ricotta lightly scattered with almonds and baby pears.
To top off the afternoon, we decided to try the olive oil and orange flower liqueur, at 50% alc. most definitely not for the faint-hearted. It was a great way to round off a truly spectacular culinary experience.
I actually couldn’t physically move until about 20 minutes after eating (they are extremely generous with food portions), so if you decide to go, don’t plan on scooting off in a hurry afterwards!
Since it’s a very popular masseria in Puglia, make sure you find out which days they host lunch, and book ahead here.
Have you ever eaten here too? I’d love to hear your thoughts.