Where the food is the star
Grottaglie is known for its world famous ceramics. It has interesting street art (Grottaglie is home to an art school) in its small and attractive historic centre. But for us the glazed icing on the ceramic cake is eating at Trattoria la Luna nel Pozzo.
In a region where superlatives are often the starting point, we hesitate using them repeatedly, for fear of watering down their meaning. But where else can we turn when we come across somewhere like Trattoria la Luna nel Pozzo, on the face of it an unassuming rather ordinary looking trattoria on the edge of Grottaglie’s ceramic quarter.
Here we return to the comforting basics of no-frills cooking focussing on the food rather than the “experience” around it, in contrast to the white minimal spaces of most contemporary Masserie where authenticity is dressed in a modern manner and service can seem functional, clinical - even corporate.
At la Luna nel Pozzo the basics include cooking the food in local ceramics. Not out of slavish adherence to tradition. Rather it is the time tested best way of cooking certain dishes, such as cutturidd a speciality of the Altra Murgia (pecora alla pignata, slow cooked lamb) and pasta al forno.
It is also a commitment to promoting the ceramics produced by Grottaglie’s artisan potters for use in the kitchen and on table. La Luna nel Pozzo are members of the Slow Food Community for the enhancement of Grottaglie ceramics whose members include potters, farmers, wine producers and other restaurateurs.
“We are passionate about food” has become something of a standard, especially in the age when everything is branded for social media. But in the case of the husband and wife team behind la Luna nel Pozzo, Manolo Ghionna and Maria Carmela d’Acunto, it is their reality.
A belief in their vision meant that they gave up respective “safe” careers as a psychologist and accountant to express their creativity front of house and in the kitchen.
They use locally sourced ingredients that adhere to the Allenza Slow Food, a pact between chefs and local producers whose underlying ethos is the right to healthy food, to the defence of biodiversity and ecosystems and levelling-up social and economic inequities.
The dishes served are traditional Pugliese standards. But Maria Carmela is unafraid to draw on her Campania roots. Anchovy and breadcrumbs are often used to flavour the sautée for orecchiette in Puglia. Maria’s version uses traditional colatura di Cetara anchovies.
Another creation is orecchiette nella nchiosce (the dialect word for the alleys of Grottaglie’s historic centre) with caper pesto, olives, yellow tomato and tarallo powder.
Run, with obvious pride in the ingredients they use and the dishes they serve, be in no doubt. This is an absolute treasure of a find. Dovete mangiare qui.