Volare!

Volare sing-along

Place: Pulignano a Mare, Puglia, Italy

The True Italy

The pistachio gelato I had just consumed made me sleepy and I headed back to our beautiful white-washed hotel overlooking the ocean. As I turned the corner, a group of young men waving Italian flags gathered in front of a life-size statue of Domenico Modugno, the Italian hero who wrote the iconic song, “Volare.” At first it looked like a political rally until in unison, they all broke out into song and with gusto sang “Volare” for all the town to hear. So moved by this experience, this respect and outpouring of admiration and Italian pride, their voices seemed to silence the waves of the Adriatic Sea, crashing behind them.

This joyful group might have represented the entire country of Italy and their joy of singing and life. Volare is now one of my favorite songs and I never, ever, tire of hearing it and singing along.
Be sure to listen to Domenico belt it out on The Ed Sullivan Show, 1958.

Domenico sings Volare!

Me and Domenico

Ciao for now!




Eating Crudo

Today's catch

Today’s catch

One afternoon in Pulia, our tour host Mick, asked if anyone would like to join him for a “Crudo” dinner. Crudo, in Italian means raw. We all had puzzled looks on our faces. As he explained what it was and how it was prepared, my hand shot up as a participant. When in Rome.

Certain restaurants that have a “Crudo” designation have met all the criteria for cleanliness, freshness and procurement from reputable fishermen. Because I enjoy sushi, I was curious to taste the difference.

French tuna drenched in olive oil. Can fresh be fresher than fresh?

Fresh tuna drenched in olive oil. Can fresh be fresher than fresh?

Several dishes were set at the table to share. Crudo is not like sushi. There is no wasabi, only lemon slices. The Italians prefer to serve their seafood with a dash of high quality (what else?) olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. Some of the dishes did include a flavor, like the octopus with fresh mint and the cooked shrimp with fresh pineapple.

We did have a few cooked dishes like this shrimp with mint.

We did have a few cooked dishes like this shrimp with mint and pineapple.

The most delectable fried calamari my mouth has ever tasted.

The most delectable fried calamari my mouth has ever tasted.

One of my favorite fish to eat crudo was the swordfish. Sliced paper thin and layered on the plate drizzled with olive oil, its only garnish, a smattering of pink peppercorns and a few bits of spring greens. The pretty red dots that lined the curve of the fish revealed that is was unmistakably swordfish. So sweet and tender and mild. It hit my tongue and dissolved with its saltiness. The tuna was also sliced thin, unlike thicker chunks of sashimi.

Decadent swordfish. Warning: My local fish monger advised against eating swordfish raw here. It must be impeccibly fresh.

Decadent swordfish. Warning: My local fish monger advised against eating swordfish raw here. It must be impeccably fresh.

Something I had never seen or eaten before were red shrimp. These vibrant red creatures shimmered on the plate and tasted of a silky brine, the texture at first jello-y, then with a lobster bite.

Seductive red shrimp

Seductive red shrimp. Aren’t they stunning?

The oysters slid down ever so sweetly – the best I have ever had – or was it because I was in Italy? Raw mussels and clams also graced the table.

Seafood crudo galore.

Seafood crudo galore.

We had eaten cuttlefish, a squid like cephalopod, as an antipasti but not crudo. Crunchy and salty is the best way to describe the experience. The texture is similar to octopus and squid. A delicious side dish of black rice, tiny cubed carrots and corn were the accompaniment to the crudo.

Just enough of a flavor contrast to compliment the raw seafood.

Just enough of a flavor contrast to compliment the raw seafood.

After filling our senses with all the salty flavors of the crudo, we were offered a crudité platter of fresh radishes, Barattino cucumber, sliced in wedges like a cantaloupe, raw fava beans and chicory heart. I had never tasted fresh chicory before. It is unlike what we know as chicory here. The bulb looks like fennel but the flavor is mild and sweet. A perfect palate cleanser. I am researching how to grow it.  After explaining it to one of my dear friends, she purchased some seeds for me from an Italian seed company. They will be planted this fall and I will anxiously await their appearance in my garden.

Refreshing and also raw!

Refreshing and also raw!

Two things capped off this incredible dinner. A very icey, almost liquidy fresh lemon sorbet with just a hint of sweetness, not to be out done by the strawberries it was mingling with. Heavenly.

My mouth waters just looking at this photo!

My mouth waters just looking at this photo!

The owner, acknowledging our extreme pleasure in this meal, treated us to an Italian digestive, Amari Mere, a slightly bitter, herbal flavor that grows on you as you sip.

Per la salute! To your health!

Per la salute! To your health!

With an abundance of wine included in this dinner, the bill was about $40 each. When I return to Pulignano a Mare someday, this restaurant will be at the top of my dining list!

Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture.
-Mark Kurlansky (1948 – present)

Ciao Bella!

Maria




La Dolce Vita

Pulignano a Mare. The name rolls off my tongue like a song. This sweet little town, perched on the Adriatic Sea in southern Italy, is a kaleidoscope of colors, textures, and flavors. There is a reason this place is called The Italian Pearl.

My mom and I are on holiday together exploring the best of this unique part of Italy called Pulia which means “stony lane”. Pulia’s rich history of ancient civilizations and status as a Land of Invasions has created an artisan culture made up of a melange of Mesopotamian, Roman, Greek and Turkish influences.
Mom and I smiling the vacation smile.
Art surrounds us and limestone walls serve as the back drop.

With over 20 gelato shops in Pugliano alone, you can be assured of never being too far away from a sweet treat.

The main piazza.
The people of Pulia live in an agricultural arena of tastes and are passionate about the preparation of food.

An antipasti tasting lovingly prepared with all local ingredients and liberal use of local olive oil. Fresh white sardines marinated and fried, mint marinated octopus and shrimp, local yellow potatoes, grilled eggplant, zucchini and peppers, freshly made creamy burrata ( a personal favorite), fresh prawns, cuttlefish, focaccia and more. Everything is served with jugs of the local wine which is always great.

Puglia’s Mediterranean landscape is a colorful composition of shoulder to shoulder olive trees – over 60 million in Puglia alone- short limestone walls, deep mandarin-colored poppies interspersed with prickly pear cactus and scatterings of ancient dwellings.

This photo was taken from the bus but shows the typical coastal terrain.

Crystal clear infusions of the Adriatic’s blue and green waters nudge up against craggy, snaking cliffs forming pools of white sand beaches. Today is a holiday bringing families and friends to the sun.

 

More later on our Pulia adventure.

 

Until then,

Ciao Bella!