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Alberobello: Il Poeta Contadino

Reviewed by: Navyfrank from NJ, review #1942

When: 2006

Worst value of entire 3 week trip!

We lived near here 33 years ago and visited Alberobello many times. On two previous return visits to the area, we always visited Alberobello and found the restaurants great. This time, with a more focused search, we noticed that both Frommers and Fodors as well as several internet sites recommended a restaurant "Il Poeta Contadino" that we had not visited. So we decided to give it a try on this return (5/06).

For lunch, my wife and I each had a pasta for the first course and fish for the second, 1 bottle of wine (near the lowest price on the wine menu), 2 bottles of aqua minerale and a bill for 120 euros!

There are too many fine restaurants in this area to spend this kind of money, the food was not worth the money.

We've eaten at many of the top restaurants in New York City and spent that sort of money with a much better dining experience. We should have realized when only one other table was occupied that the locals had figured this out long ago.

Reviewed by: Kim (moderator) from NJ, review #1440

When: 2005

If you're in the area, go. If you're not in the area, plan a trip there.

Directions: On main road leading into Alborobello (from Martina Franca) on your left.

We chose this restaurant because it's a "Buon Ricordo" place, but now, having eaten there, even if it weren't I'd still say go.

We head inside the restaurant and are greeted immediately by the tuxedo-clad staff; two other couples sit in the cavernous room but no one else. Again, like other Buon Ricordo establishments, large restaurant small lunch business and I wonder what dinner is like.

We’re seated in the back of the room, not far from the other couples and presented with menus. They start us with an aperitif (sparkling wine) -- very refreshing -- and an amuse bouche consisting of a zucchini soufflé cut into small squares, tiny pieces of toast topped with smoked salmon and foccacia bread with roasted veggies atop.

We order the house red and while Chris makes a pit stop, they present it and decant it; you know you’re in trouble when the house wine is “decantable.” I like it, a primitivo cabernet blend, interesting and smooth and later we find out costs 30€. Another regret, we forgot to write down the name of this wine. Chris enjoys the wine so much, he tells me while we’re eating, “You have six things to remember: first gear, second gear…” Yeah right, as if there’s any chance I’m driving Claudio home. With the wine we’re each served a small plate of breads, a Pugliese bread, an olive roll, a sun-dried tomato roll and a red onion roll (all good for mopping up sauces).

Our server asks if we’d like menus in Italian or English. We opt for the Italian because we usually find it easier to understand than trying to figure out the English translation of dishes. I find it a bit disconcerting that my menu has no prices and when I think no one is looking, I make Chris switch with me. Luckily they have the Buon Ricordo specialty for 29€ but there’s also an option to get both the old and new plate for 49€ and I'm game for an extra plate.

We share an antipasti of tiny shrimp wrapped in phyllo cigars topped with crispy zucchini; very good -- reminds me of a spring roll or egg roll. For my main course I have the branzino with tomatoes and olives (the Buon Ricordo dish). I didn’t expect much from what others had said about this dish but I am pleasantly surprised; it’s tasty, light and delicious. Chris enjoys a "lick your plate clean" dish of Strascinate con funghi Cardoncelli (an egg pasta with local mushrooms); the pasta is shaped like round saucers and holds the sauce well. For dessert Chris orders a Gran Marnier soufflé, which isn’t what he expects, it’s more a chilled mousse than a soufflé, and I have thin crisp pastry squares layered with apples and Chantilly cream served on a plate drizzled with caramel sauce – absolutely wonderful. With caffe, the bill comes to 143€ but more than half of that are my two plates (49€), cover (10€) and wine (30€).

Chris and I both agree: this is a three star establishment (plan a special trip to dine here).

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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