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23 June 2005

Alle due Corti *****

When, in April, I was planning our holiday to Puglia for mid-June, it didn't cross my mind that the weather would be anything other than scorchio.  I was wrong.  For two of our seven days it rained and was overcast.  With sitting by the pool ruled out, we decided on road trips and with the grim weather on Thursday we decided the trip down to Lecce the next day would be well worth it.  So full of high expectations for bad weather, we awoke on Friday to glorious sun shine and by 9am it was in the high 20s.  Not to be bowed by this turn of events we decided to go anyway.  The town itself is beautiful, which is why it's described as the Florence of the South and was great to wander round and stop off for an espresso here, a granita there.

With food never too far from my mind I decided to find somewhere decent to eat.  I thought I'd found a half decent pizzeria but despite the door being wide open it was totally empty - not a sole, not even a waiter.  So turning round I spotted the sign for Alle due Corti and bells rang loudly in my head that this had been highly recommended on egullet.  When we walked in, we were greeted warmly but apologetically told that the kitchens weren't quite ready (it was 12.30) so could we wait?  The dining room was large, white and had the domed roof common throughout Puglia - all of this ensuring it was cool, a relief from the sun, and so no, we didn't mind waiting.

FaveMy heart almost skipped a beat when I noticed that the card and paper menu, printed on a dodgy printer, clearly came from the same school of menu design as Osteria del Tempo Perso's, and therefore we must be in for a treat.  I was right, but I was also slightly surprised to see (badly) translated English below each dish and the odd ® sign dotting the menu. Anyway, the antipasti arrived and I was in heaven.  It wasn't the stodgy fried rubbish that seemed to be prevalent in the touristy places, this was fresh, juicy and life-affirming stuff.  The roasted tomatoes were so sweet and were only garnished with some onion, garlic and of course olive oil.  Similarly, some yellow peppers that seemed to have been marinated in wine vinegar were brilliantly tangy.  Also delivered to the table were some stuffed mushrooms that smelled great, but unfortunately were stuffed with some sort of meat.  We had tried to ask for nothing except for vegetables, but our Italian was as bad as their English and so the mushrooms went back to the kitchen untouched.  Somewhat stuffed from this feast, mopped up with copious quantities of bread I started to rock slowly in my chair - exercise was required before the next course.

Rc One of the many things that surprised me about Puglia was that the food is not particularly light, in fact a lot of it is downright stodgy our primi piatti being a good example: Fave nette cu le cicureddhe and Ricciareddhe® culipummitoriscattariciati.  Now, for the sake of bandwidth I won't repeat the name of the latter dish, here on in it will be RC.  I can't believe that the second word is all one word, I think they forgot to put in a space, especially as scattariciati is a local cheese, not dissimilar to mozzarella.  Anyway fave is a local speciality and it was served with what they described as chicory, but looked to me more like spinach, and olive oil.  It was thick, gloopy and delicious.  The chicory/spinach added a lightness to it, the olive oil thinned it out.  The more I ate, the more I wanted. 

The RC was similarly delicious, it was basically thick sheets of pasta with a thick sauce of tomato and liberally sprinkled with scattarciati.  I have to be honest that in some ways the sauce reminded me in flavour of some of the better pizza sauces you get in the States.  Although this might sound like sacrilege it really is meant as a compliment.  After all, this was little more than tomatoes, the sauces over there are no doubt full of E numbers up the kazoo and other preservatives and additives.  To be able to achieve such taste with so few ingredients is testament to their quality.

Alle due Corti was the meal I'd been looking for all holiday.  The food was fantastic, the staff friendly and the surroundings peaceful.  If you're in Puglia, no if you're in Italy, go there.

Alle due Corti, Corte dei Guigni 1, Lecce, 73100, Italy
Tel: +39 0832 242 223

What others think
I haven't been able to find any decent reviews on it, when I do I'll post them here.

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This place had come highly recommended and I was bitterly disappointed. I was here 2 weeks ago and the service was REALLY slow, although friendly. Maybe they were just too busy (every table was booked) it was August afterall but that shouldn't be an excuse!!

The food was not of good quality, for Italy, and the so called local dishes seemed to be kind of "adapted", I almost felt that as their main clientele were non-locals, ie not from Lecce, they "made do" with the easier version of the dishes...I also had the Fave e Cicoria...one of my favourite dishes made from mashed broad beans and wild "chicory"...only the chicory was not the wild version and the fave was tasteless. Don't even think about having the house red wine...yuck!

TJ, sorry to hear you had such a bad experience. As you suggest, it could well be because of the summer tourist crush - although if that is the reason, it seems they're shooting themselves in the foot.

Nonetheless, I did enjoy myself there, it was a great meal.

hi,I'm italian and my girlfriend, she comes from Lecce, is a properly expert of salento's dishes. I only wish to make the point on "scattariciati" word. this word refers to tomatos; it's a method for cocking little tomatos called "pomodori invernali" (winter tomatos) that have a very thin skin. The cheese you told about is called "Ricotta Scansa" and is an affumicated version of the "ricotta".
bye bye

Crampo, thanks for the clarification.

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