South Italy. Puglia. Ostuni, a few miles outside the white town: Masseria Moroseta, our dinner destination. As we make our way on a rural road, the wry olive trees get thicker and older, the scent of wild herbs in the air, and I expect to see a dog chasing us at any time for trespassing a massero’s property.
We took a wrong turn, we might be lost, but we keep going: the sunset scenery wipes off any doubt and a bit of adventure whets the appetite. I am thinking of Chef Giorgia Eugenia Goggi and the things I read about her cooking, the life at the masseria and the last ice cream creation she posted on her Instagram stories. I really hope there is ice cream tonight.
We are back on the main road, the masseria sign ahead of us, just in time for an aperitif before dinner. We follow a pebbled path through a gap in a white, immaculate, wall: a tranquil courtyard, few young slender trees, the doors of the bedrooms ajar to catch the last sunlight before night. Our eyes run to a french double door and the rustic dining table framed in it, behind a cozy sofa, on the back another double door opening up towards the olive fields and the sea at the horizon.
Everything about this space is magic.
Alessio the manager welcomes us, he asks how we got there, we say we walked from Ostuni and got lost, he thinks we are weirdos and keeps smiling and showing us the masseria.“You can have a drink from the bar before dinner, hang out on the patio or by the pool, or you might want to check out the panorama from the roof terrace”. I want to see everything, we start with the terrace: 360 degrees of olive groves and brick red land, the sea and the white Ostuni towering on a hill. Instagram moment and back to explore the rest.
Masseria Moroseta is at the same time rural simplicity and effortless elegance, a traditional Pulian masseria – the white, the clean lines, the courtyard – and a chic countryside retreat – the spa, the swimming pool, the privacy. The interiors are all off-whites, beiges, natural fabrics, decorative tiles and ceramics. I read they produce their own organic olive oil and chef Goggi cooks with seasonal ingredients from the orto. I wonder what dishes she has prepared for the tasting dinner tonight.
Finally Alessio announces to follow him through a hidden section of the garden. The dining table is an elegant white slab that can seat 20, ending onto the wall with a window on the olive groves. A colourful artisanal stoneware is dressing the communal table, tonight’s menu on the plate reveals ice cream for dessert – ohhhh yeahhh!
I dip the first – of many – slice of bread into a pool of EVOO from the masseria, the wine starts flowing as the conversation with the neighbour diners: a couple, a group of friends from Puglia, different backgrounds, all sharing the same love for food. I am having a great time.
The dishes are an orchestra of flavours, each course is like a page of an Italian passport with stamps from all over the world. The second starter after a summer squash soup is aubergine with black garlic, feta and buckwheat – a punch of umami and smokiness, creamy and crunchy, it’s so delicious that I lick the plate. Handmade ravioli follows with some incredibly fresh red prawns in a fermented tomato sauce, then traditional Pulian bombette – and here I discover that a pork braciola rolled over a piece of canestrato cheese tastes heavenly, even better if paired with figs and hazelnut, and start wondering how I didn’t know about this and regretting the 28 years of my life wasted without bombette.
Finally the dessert is approaching: fruit crumble, bee pollen gelato, miso, caramel. I like to take a bite of each element on a plate and then taste them all together, I start with the ice cream. It’s hard to describe the flavour of bee pollen, I would say it tastes like it smells: intense honey, floral, grassy, waxy, Spring and Christmas – I can’t wait to try the bee pollen garum that is fermenting at home, I wonder if Giorgia read the Noma guide to fermentation? To balance the sweetness of the ice cream, a perfectly executed plum crumble, indulgent and rich, with a distinct savoury note of umami from the miso caramel.
Dinner is over, too soon, I wish we could rewind and do it over again. I am tipsy and happy, full of new flavours and inspiration to bring home with me.
Our new Pulian friends, Dario and Vale, offer us a ride back to Ostuni and a slice of watermelon from Cicinedda, apparently THE fruit spot in town. I will never say no to watermelon. Nicola comes to say goodbye, I am looking around in the hope to see Giorgia, give her a hand shake and ask her to be my best friend and food guru. I can’t see her and I don’t want to make our friends wait for me, we leave and I don’t have the chance to thank Giorgia for the unforgettable dinner. We arrive at Cicinedda, I can’t believe my eyes: mountains of melons, yellow, striped green, some never seen before. We sit on a bench, a perfectly ripe red slice on our laps, a wedge of lime and the end of the night couldn’t be any sweeter.
Since that dinner I have been following Giorgia Eugenia Goggi and her work on Instagram. Everyday I come back home saying – hey Matt, did you see the brown butter ice cream on Giorgia’s stories today? – or – OMG! She made kimchi panettone! Kimchi panettone, do you understand?!? – For your information we are true fermented food nerds, we make our own kimchi, shoyu, miso, kombuchas, sourdough, beer, I was gifted a kimchi fermentation jar for my birthday and last Christmas we made naturally leavened panettone at home, so you can excuse my excitement for Giorgia’s kimchi panettone. Then I see her training at Maos – one of my all time favourite restaurants in London – and I think that I should message her and get a coffee together, but also don’t want to disturb her time here.
Matt thinks I have a, not so small, chef crush and I think he’s right. I see myself in her food: the desire of rediscovering the flavours of my land but also the fun of experimenting with what my palate tasted in my travels and the pleasure of sharing with others.
When I grow up I want to be Giorgia Eugenia Goggi.
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