Lunch at Il Cortiletto in Speziale, Puglia
In Italy, Sunday is traditionally a big day for families to go out to eat for lunch. At 1:30pm, the tiny dining room of Il Cortiletto, which has only five or six tables, is already full. On the covered patio out back we’re offered our choice of tables with only other table occupied. Within twenty minutes it’s almost full so clearly Sunday lunch is a late event in these parts.
The patio has white washed stucco walls and is mostly covered by an arched solid roof so we’re protected once a warm rain starts. Plates are chipped in an unapologetic, shabby-chic kind of way, but nice glasses are used with good bottles of wine. The staff appears to be mostly in their 20′s and 30′s, and the young chef appears a couple of times to speak with the obvious regulars; he in chef’s coat, bushy hipster beard, and baggy chefs pants with a loud print the kind of which I have not seen since I was a chef the late 90′s. The servers, all female, are dressed in jeans and deftly juggle armloads of dishes while trying not to slip on wet pavement between the covered patio and the kitchen’s open back door.
While we don’t really know what to expect with the food, it turns out to be a refreshing take on the regional cuisine, using local organic produce with updated plate presentations from the more traditional fare we encounter later in the trip.
A small bowl of warm fried olives arrives at the table before our order is even taken. I’d never eaten fried olives before in the Pugliese style (these are not battered or stuffed, just fried) and they have a very soft texture and more subtle flavor. This article…