As promised in my recent review of Alberobello, I had lunch at an excellent restaurant recommended by our Puglitaly guide: L’Aratro. L’Aratro means “the plow” in English, and that is is an appropriate name for this essentially “farm to table” restaurant. To wit, L’Aratro is part of the Slow Italy movement and it sources almost all of its menu items from the local area, and certainly from within Puglia. Look for local delicacies highlighted on the menu!
Located on one of Alberobello’s main tourist streets, L’Aratro is located inside a beautifully decorated trullo, with both indoor and outdoor seating. Its not uncommon to see the main chef hanging around outside the restaurant in his signature brightly colored chef pants! We sat in L’Aratro’s open air courtyard overlooking a few trulli domes. The views from the courtyard are not fantastic, but certainly good enough. The interior, however, is beautiful. I would have sat inside were it not for COVID-19.
Now moving on to the best part of L’Aratro, the food! Before diving in, you should know that the plates are truly delicious and large, and incorporate loads of local produce and meat. You will not find any touristy Italian dishes here! Every meal begins with a plate local starters that change daily; it was a Barese focaccia for me and Dan (i.e. local Puglian focaccia from Bari with tomatoes baked into the bread). A very good start to our meal!
We also ordered an absolutely delicious bottle of Aglianico wine to pair with lunch. Aglianico is an inky red from Southern Italy, mostly grown and produced in Campania and Basilicata (the region bordering Puglia). Aglianico is not difficult to find in Puglia and is a real treat! This Codalunga was 14% and described as “shattering to the palate.” It was absolutely delightful. We decanted it, which Dan recommends.
After our starters and wine, we ordered mains. I went with a local pasta called Cavatelli, which was topped with a red sauce made from local tomatoes and a really good local white cheese. It was delicious, especially the red sauce. This portion was more than plenty for one person and can be shared. Everything was good, but the red sauce really shined. I may have used the Barese focaccia to soak up some of the sauce…
Dan went with huge piece of grilled lamb. While I think my pasta was better, he seemed to enjoy the lamb and finished the plate (I mean we had already had tons of pasta on this trip…). The lamb was served with a few dots of red sauce and a tiny spring of green leaf and purple cabbage.
As is typical in Italy, mains are served exclusively as 1 main dish at L’Aratro. Meaning, no sides. Rather, sides are ordered separately and called “contori.” We opted for two contori: chicory and fried potatoes. Chicory is a bitter plant that is indigenous to Europe, but grown many places, including North America. It’s often served as a side in Italy with olive oil and garlic, as L’Aratro did. The fried potatoes were a little less “exotic,” but they were delicious, paired with the perfect amount of sea salt, and served on a paper towel to soak up the grease. = )
Having had too large of a lunch already, we ended the meal senza dessert. Instead, with a handful of sweet nuts from the restaurant and a single espresso. The nuts were amazing – don’t skip them!
STEAL OUR TRIP
L’Aratro: Via Monte San Michele, 25-29 – Alberobello Bari – Puglia. Reservations recommended in high season, especially for lunch when all the day trippers are in town.
Puglialy: We did a private tour to Alberobello and two wineries with Puglialy. Pietro was our guide and he was great! He also recommended L’Aratro. Puglialy offers tours around the Northern Puglia region. Contact them directly for their offerings – some sample tours are online but they are willing to customize.
ON A BUDGET
L’Aratro was not budget-breaking, but there are certainly less expensive restaurants in Alberobello if you are on a strict budget, including many tourist-friendly take-away and pizza restaurants.