It is said that great things come to those who wait. I find this to be true maybe fifty-two percent of the time. The other forty-eight percent? No comment.
Puglia, located in Southern Italy, falls in the fifty-two percent bracket. I’ve wanted to visit this region for quite some time. I finally made to Puglia this fall with Erin Lewis’s Eat, Pray, Move yoga retreat.
We took several day trips from our base at the Masseria Fumarola, including the trulli-heavy town of Alberobello. One of the highlights of that day was the dinner we had at EVO Ristorante. It’s tucked away in a quiet corner near the Basilica, on the other hill, away from the main tourist street.
It’s an intimate space. Usually there are just four tables inside and about six in the small garden. We had a fixed menu for our dinner and wine pairing but the dishes seem to be moderately priced, slightly higher for the area. Our meal was vegetarian but they do serve meat and fish. The portions are small. This is not a trattoria. It’s a restaurant with white tablecloths and excellent service but not stuffy. The wine list is not the deepest, thirty, but well selected from local producers.
Chef Gianvito Matarrese has an interesting take on local cuisine. He was born and raised in Alberobello. He’s young, only 32. Chef Matarrese formerly worked for a family owned business. He’s always been passionate about cooking and being in the kitchen. He decided to make a career change, eventually opening his restaurant on October 3rd, 2015. His cuisine was the Puglia episode winner on the SkyUno TV program “4Ristoranti”.
The bread was warm and delicious. I was not ready for the starter, Nero. It was super fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomato, carrot, cooked broccoli and cabbage. That itself is lovely but nothing too groundbreaking. Then the sauce was poured, mozzarella water with active carbon. I’ve never had a dish with this type of sauce before. I asked Chef Matarrese about it. This dish is very important to him. He wanted to bring out the umami flavor. It was outstanding. Some of my fellow dinners were skeptical and I get it. The word carbon gave me pause too.
Our main dish was pumpkin and thyme tortelloni pasta with Canestrato cheese fondue, black truffles, and sparkling tomatoes. The table went silent. This pasta was the business. The tortelloni were substantial yet light at the same time. I realize that sentence makes zero sense. I don’t know how the Chef created such a dish. I’m just glad he did.
For dessert there was a mascarpone mousse, topped with a coffee cookie/biscuit, and pieces of dark chocolate. They also brought out some chestnuts. Sorry that I don’t have a picture of this dish. I was caught up in the moment.
Chef Matarrese told me he loves his town. Alberobello is his home, his heart. “Alberobello is me!” I could tell from the moment I walked into his restaurant and had my first sip of wine.
Chef Matarrese has created a menu that strikes a nice balance between traditional and innovative cuisine. If you find yourself in Alberobello, EVO Ristorante is a wonderful place for lunch or dinner. Reservations strongly suggested.
Arlene Gibbs is a decorator, writer, and recovering Hollywood film executive.
Born in New York City to parents from the French/Dutch Caribbean island of St. Martin, Arlene (and her French passport) has found her home in Rome.
Arlene co-wrote the hit Hollywood film JUMPING THE BROOM (aka Amore e Altri Guai in Italian) and was VP of production and development for several high profile actors/directors. She has written travel articles about Italy and the Caribbean for FATHOM magazine.
Arlene is currently working on interior design projects in Rome, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Anguilla, British West Indies.