I went for the first time to In Via Roma a little over two weeks ago - the day before the opening of this pastificio/restaurant.(1) I was greeted first by a group of busy looking people preparing for the big day, and then her, Paola Gigante. She was visibly tired, yet smiling and full of enthusiasm. With her was Gabriele, her lifelong "travelling companion", at her side in this extraordinary venture as well. And it was in fact she who spoke to me of her creation - as children belong first and foremost to their mother. She told me the story of how the the idea, much like the beloved method of roasting meat in Valle d'Itria, had come to life from the ashes of the ancient country style oven.
In this location where during the dark days of the war you got your food with a ration card, there is now a pastificio which is also a restaurant. Though separate, the two are connected by a door so that you can buy fresh pasta to take out, or you can enjoy it right on the spot in the restaurant next door, where it's possible to savor it in any one of a thousand variations that the chef or staff might suggest. There you have it: you choose the type of pasta, they prepare it for you the way you like it best!
My curiousity aroused by this first exploratory visit, I decided to return and try out the experience. Saturday evening. A veil of fog. That atmosphere we know so well of one of those autumns that's struggling to get underway. In the background the imposing Palace of the Duke on the main piazza of Cavallino. Upon entering the reataurant I am immediately soothed by a welcoming and hospitable atmosphere created by the warm lighting. The rustic furnishings and architecture harmonize nicely. Nothing seems left to chance: from the candleholders set in little paper bread bags to the background music selections. Everything recalls the culture of country folk, rendered in modern tones. Salentine traditions in particular deeply influence the restaurant's cuisine, from the antipasti to the first courses, on through the main dishes and desserts and, of course, the wines.
The excellence reveals itself in the pages of the menu - almost embarassingly rich and varied. My eyes wander the list and come to rest on the salumi selection accompanied with a vegetable and burratina(2) flan, after which they stumble upon the durum wheat lasagnette with black cabbage on a bed of melted farm-fresh pecorino, only to be distracted by the risotto with asparagus tips and stracciatella(3). They then seek out a bottle of Negroamaro rosé and then finally I raise them to meet the server's inquisitive look.
"This works for me!"
The rest is ecstasy .
(1) pastificio - a store specialized in selling pasta
(2) burratina - a Pugliese specialty. A type of artisanal mozarrella, shaped into small balls, filled with light cream
(3) stracciatella - a variety of soft, stretched curd cheese also invented in Puglia.
Reservations: +39 0832 613011
Translated by WILL DOUGLAS