So, there was nothing we could do to stop the downpour on day two of our Puglia Bistro Biking trip last September. We found ourselves literally rained in at Hotel Palazzo Papaleo, watching rivers of rainwater cover the steep streets of Otranto.
While this meant our agenda for the day would obviously have to change, my co-guide Luca and I were determined to make sure it didn’t mean the day would be any less special. Starting at 7:30 that morning, Luca I wearily racked our tired little brains (greatly in need of coffee) and finally came up with the option that became the hit of the week: Lunch at chef Roberto Cornacchia‘s Armonia del Sapore, complete with a pasta demo by a kind, motherly signora, and Roberto cooking our pasta right next to the table on his new state-of-the art padellone (pan burner).
I’d already tasted Roberto’s cooking on a previous trip and was blown away by not only the quality of the food but also his character and professionalism. He is easily my favourite person I met in Puglia all year – and I was down there A LOT and had the chance to meet a lot of really nice people! But he won the prize.
So when we had our weather crisis on our Bistro trip, Roberto was one of the first people who came to mind. I called him before 8:30 a.m., hoping not to be too much of a disturbance, but hoping more so that he could help us! I’d struck up a great rapport with him in June so I had a feeling he would be flexible with us, but I never imagined he’d create such an amazing event in such short time—especially when the restaurant was meant to be closed!
He said to me on the phone, “Give me a few hours to round everyone up, and I just need to go to the bank too, so don’t come too early! 12:30 should be fine, is that OK?” “Yes, oh my, yes!!!” I replied. He ended our phone call saying, “Then just leave it with me. It’ll all be OK.”
And it was. His restaurant is always a beautiful setting, and he’d prepared a fabulous unique banquet table with the pasta demo area nearby. Before long, Prosecco was flowing, nibbles were calming growling stomachs, and hands were getting kneedy as pasta was rolled and prepared into an array of different shapes and sizes.
Next to the table, Roberto had placed his huge Pan and once we’d been seated he started to prepare the simple yet tasty tomato sauce that would accompany the typical orecchiette pasta we’d just been making. The pan is quite impressive to see, as you can literally rotate the whole thing so you can swirl the sauce around. Everyone loved it.
In typical Pugliese fashion, he plied us with starter, pasta, meat course and dessert, which gave the skies the time to settle, for clouds to part and for enough sun to shine through for most of the group to get some biking in, with some even reaching the very tip of Italy.
Not bad for a rainy day!
About the Author
In addition to her love for Italy, jazz singer turned B&R Guide Sonia Ter Hovanessian also has a special place in her heart for her motherland, France, and loves introducing travellers to both countries.