Last year we visited Basilicata for the first time. We loved the landscape, history, people, food and wine. Between Christmas and New Years we spent three days in Matera. Many know it as the city where Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “The Gospel According to St. Matthew” were filmed. It’s not a surprise that it is a UNESCO world heritage site. It’s a magical place with many stairs. After climbing up and down the never-ending paths, visiting Rupestrian Churches and the sassi, we wanted to warm up and fuel up on hearty local food. We strolled down streets lined with inviting restaurants, trattoria and bars and read endless reviews of where to eat in Matera. Here’s where we happily nourished ourselves. Enjoy!
Terrazza Rivelli – This cozy restaurant with hand carved wooden cabinets, shelves and tables offers many traditional cucina lucana dishes. Orecchiette pasta with turnip greens, breadcrumbs and peperoni cruschi (sun-dried, fried sweet red peppers) and the tagliata di manzo (grilled sliced sirloin) were comforting and delicious. We were in the mood for a savory dessert. The helpful owners were more than happy to oblige with a cheese plate. They spent time answering our questions and talking about local cheese including caciocavallo podolico (an aged cheese produced using only milk from the Podolica cattle). We left here feeling as if we had eaten lunch with friends.
Le Botteghe – We ate here twice during our stay. The waiters went out of their way to fulfill every request. The restaurant was packed full of Italian families and some tourists. The house appetizer was a good introduction to typical dishes from Matera. The savory fava bean puree and bitter chicory topped with olive oil was delicious. Be warned, the pasta dishes are two portions in one. I highly recommend the cavatelli alla salsiccia “pezzente“ (hand rolled cavatelli pasta with sausage pieces and tomato sauce cooked to perfection and the orecchiette al tegamino (oven baked orecchiette pasta with meat sauce). If you’re in the mood for a main course order off the grill. The mixed meat platter and potatoes sliced in half and drizzled with olive oil and salt hit the spot.
La Talpa – Our last night we were craving pizza and took a chance with La Talpa. I’m glad that we did. The restaurant-pizzeria is spread across three levels of a cave dwelling excavated in tufo (calcareous rock). The wood-fired pizza was Neapolitan style. We had pizza margherita with mozzarella di bufala cheese. The dough was soft, elastic and fragrant. The service was excellent.
Ristorante Osteria Pico – Set in an excavated dwelling, Ristorante Osteria Pico offers a vast menu. Chef and owner Enza Leone is at the helm. She prides herself on using traditional ingredients with a creative flair. The stewed wild boar in a tomato and porcini mushroom sauce and podolico beef slices were good but it was the side dish and dessert that I’d like to eat again. If you love potatoes like I do be sure to order the simple crisp potatoes, tropea onions and peperoni cruschi. For something sweet indulge in the dessert trio of creamy cheesecake, nutty chocolate mousse and silky cow’s milk ricotta topped with black cherry sauce
Have you been to Matera? Do you have a favorite restaurant recommendation to share? I’d love to hear from you.