Erm, that title is a bit misleading. The longest I’ve spent in Ostuni is a little over a week, so this is certainly not the definitive tale of life there. And, unusually for me when ensconced in Italia, this time I barely skimmed the surface of what Ostuni has to offer food-wise. So think of this instead as the taster, the nibbles, the (cough) antipasti.
As I explained here, I made the decision in May that I needed to spend some time in Ostuni before committing to buying property there. Sensible? Well, yes. Obvious? Well, yeah alright, that too. Puglia trip #2 was therefore to become a reconnaissance mission.
This time I didn’t hire a car, something I would insist any other visitor to Puglia do by the way, because I had no real need to see the sights. My mission was simply to look at properties and get a feel for the city. Traipsing around all week to the stunning dual coastlines of Puglia, exploring ancient villages and playing spot the Trullo as I trundled through the Valle d’Itria were distractions that would just have to wait till next time.
After seeing properties in the mornings, I set about trying out the things I imagined I’d be doing if I lived in Ostuni part of the year. Mostly this involved sitting on the rooftop terrace, soaking up the sounds of the city which wafted up from the streets and out the many open windows of the houses surrounding me. Happily, it also allowed me to soak up the late September sunshine, leaving me enough of a tan to last at least half way through the fast approaching, long, cold UK winter.
Each day, when I reached the point where I might be risking skin cancer, or worse – boredom – I came down and wandered around the old town, searching for gelato and photo opportunities. Separately that is, I don’t mean that I was looking for nice places to take pictures of ice cream. Although, there was this…
Surprisingly, no – sacrilegiously – it took me three goes to find a truly amazing Gelateria in Ostuni. I know! I won’t tell you the name of the first one, lest they get their feelings hurt. But I will tell you it’s on the main road into the old town, half way up the hill on the right, with muscular guys behind the counter who obviously think they’re too good to be scooping gelato for tourists.
The second, Cremeria Alla Scala, was a marked improvement and, had I not found Amado Mio, you would certainly have found me there for the rest of the week, happily handing over my small change in exchange for an afternoon pick (lick?)-me-up. For me, Amado Mio just had that something extra; extra flavour, extra charm, extra tradition. I chatted with the guy behind the counter who told me their ice cream is all handmade, using an ancient recipe and absolutely no machinery at any stage of the process. It shows. Or I should say, it tastes. I shall definitely be going back next time and dedicating a full post to them.
When it came time to eat a meal, I somehow turned into a wuss. It’s silly, but I felt slightly weird about eating eating alone in a restaurant in Italy. It’s bad enough that we foreigners insist on eating our evening meal before 10pm. Wouldn’t eating alone before 10pm cast me as a social misfit? Wouldn’t I be looked at with pity as I walked the streets of Ostuni the next day, hushed explanations whispered to those who didn’t yet know I was that sad, lonely girl who dines alone?
But don’t cry for me Galatina (see what I did there) yet. I did manage one restaurant lunch with Caroline (who I met on Puglia Trip #1) and two Australian clients of hers. Tragically (yes, tragically) none of us were impressed with the food. We all had the antipasti, which at 16 Euros each was nowhere near as good as what I’ve had before. And that’s the trouble with world travel right there isn’t it? Once you’ve had the best of something it sets standards and you’ll never be satisfied again unless these standards are met, or, god help us, bettered . Actually you could say the same applies for many things in life couldn’t you; sex, drugs, gorgeous offspring. Oh OK, maybe that’s not entirely true. I’m sure in time you could learn to love a child who’s not as good looking as your other kids.
But I think I shall go back and have a proper meal at this restaurant before making my final report. I mean, the antipasti may have been lacklustre, but there was a kitten.
But then again, this particular restaurant failed the panna cotta test. Never a good sign.
I came to panna cotta late in life, but my first taste was in Florence four years ago and it was simply divine. Now I’m constantly ordering panna cotta to try to replicate that perfection. And I’m constantly being let down. It’s like some kind of culinary self-flagellation; I know I’m going to be hurt, but I risk the pain anyway because the small chance of finding such rare pleasure is too much to resist.
You know what, reading this back I think I’ve done Ostuni and its food a disservice. Hopefully you haven’t been as disappointed as we were with our 16 Euro antipasti. If you want to read about some other (successful) food finds in Puglia, just click here, here or here. And I promise to make Puglia trip #3’s mission – the search for Ostuni’s amazing main courses.
Note to self – bring friend to dine with…