Puglia and Pulia: First night in Monopoli (four years ago)
This being the third year in a row to Puglia, it has to be said getting here from London is always very easy: Train, plane, train. We're heading to Monopoli - a seaside fishing town nestling next to the Adriatic.
We are on holiday - not a care in the world. all we really need to think about is our next meal!
Unpacked, showered and ready to go. Its 7.30 and our bellies are rumbling. A short stroll ( if you stick to the old town, everything is only a short stroll away) through the maze of narrow white painted streets, we find ourself in Sotto Coperto. Two Negroni cocktails each later and both Jonathan and I are a little squiffy!
We decide to eat in the Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi at La Dolce Vita
"You learn to cook so that you don't have to be a slave to recipes. You get what's in season and you know what to do with it"
We are both so very excited and, as mentioned before, a little drunk! Jonathan's eyes are bigger than his belly, he suggests that we order the house starter selection for two. It doesn't mention what will arrive on the table, but we know it would be substantial as it is 24Euro.
Starter taken care of, we order our pizzas. I go for the marinara and Jonathan the provenzale, a pizza with roast potatoes, sausage and loads of mozzarella!
Negroamaro (Puglian pink wine) on the table and the starters arrive: Mussels, always a pleasure to see on the table; Octopus, (Jonathan's favourite) and local cheese. We are both very patient, enjoying the drama of the service. The plates arrive fast but when the local cheese lands on the table we both simultaneously dive in. It is beautiful. Something new and intriguing. I love how we both get excited about new flavours. The local cheese is just a very fresh riccota, delicate, light and savoury.
Then the salmon arrives. I can only describe it as the most delicately lemon cured salmon, fresh and clean tasting. Two more dishes come to the table. More mussels, but this time bread-crumbed and roasted and the most beautiful deep fried king prawns with a almond batter. Then to finish us off , the most beautiful cheese dish ever arrives. The waiter calls it a "cheese flan" it tastes like a parmesan panacotta; wobbly, delicate, tiny and packed with cheesy, caramelised, savoury flavours. This dish could be my new stallion of starters.
Now we are a little worried, we are getting full and the pizzas haven't arrived.
I always believe that you can judge a restaurant by its pizza marinara. It's a easy one to get wrong. It has to have a punch of flavour that satisfies all the taste buds - sweet, salty, bitter, sour. This marinara hits the spot. It is just what is needed to cut through the pizza provenzale, with its soft roasted potatoes and lashings of mozzarella. Heaven if you like carbs on carbs. Luckily, being Scottish, I love it.
This is the first time we've eaten here but I hope not the last. Service was energetic and attentive.
To our surprise, at the bottom of our road, there was a rock concert! If you have ever been to sleepy Monopoli, I am sure you will be surprised as well. To be honest, we weren't entirely sure if this was going to a particularly nice surprise but, if you can't beat them join them.
So we finished the evening off with a few beers, swaying with the crowd, the band playing against a thrilling backdrop of a massive electric storm miles out over the Adriatic sea.
Perfect first night in Monopoli.