One of my favorite little towns in Puglia is the fishing port of Gallipoli on the Golfo di Taranto south of Nardo. It's quiet. Off the tourist radar, but gracious to guests. You're welcome to visit. But, noone courts your business. They're busy living the daily life of a working fishing port.
We arrived at about noon and decided to wander around for awhile before finding a spot for lunch. Street after narrow street was free of traffic. If you had been in a US neighborhood, you would have assumed that everyone was away at work. No housewives here, right?
Wrong, as we past open window after open window, we evesdropped on lively conversations and tried to identify the tempting aromas as women prepared the big midday meal for their hard working fisherman.
At that time of day, those fisherman were already back to shore and were mending their nets, preparing them for the next trip out. Pay attention to that blue vespa in the far upper left corner of the picture, and the shirtless fisherman in the bottom middle. You'll be hearing about both of them later.
The wall the scooter is leaning against is the same wall, 20 some odd feet up, we walk beside as we head for our chosen restaurant.
Inside the restaurant we looked over the fresh fish. Fish that had been swimming only a few hours before.
It did look appealing, but I wanted mussels. I never pass up fresh mussels. And,I was soon to learn what fresh means in Gallipoli. I ordered the Mussel Soup. The waiter went back to the kitchen to place the order. Then he came back out. Walked past us and out the front door. Walked across the street. Leaned over the wall and shouted to someone below.
Two minutes later that same blue vespa with that same shirtless guy, putted up to the door. He handed a net bag, dripping with seawater to the waiter, who carried it, drips and all into the kitchen. Five minutes after than, our meals were served.
My mussel soup was nothing more than a foil pouch full of steamed mussels, floating in the sea water they released when they opened, tossed with a bit of cheese and fresh parsley.
Pure. Simple. The best mussels I've ever eaten. Ever.