Bar Trattoria Quaranta
Friday, June 23
Since there is a particularly large amount of fresh vegetables to buy in Grottole in summer, Christoph and I cooked a lot at home during our time in the village. Although the village is quite small, Grottole also has a few restaurants, of which “Bar Quaranta” was our favourite. So whenever we weren’t cooking we would go to Bar Quaranta for dinner.
The restaurant is located down in the village and is owned by the lovely couple Elena and Tonio. In the morning you can comfortably drink a good Italian espresso on the small covered terrace in front of the house, and in the evening you can get an amazing dinner here. Bar Quaranta is open all day apart from a few hours in the afternoon for siesta and is a central meeting point in the village for a coffee or a beer. Inside, the Bar Quaranta consists of two large rooms.
In the first room there is the actual bar with a big Italian coffee machine, cash register and refrigerator with drinks. This is also the place where you order your drink and then sit down at one of the simple, square café style tables. However, if you come to Bar Quaranta for dinner, you quickly tell the person behind the bar that you would like to eat dinner here, you cross the first room, enter the second room and sit down at one of the tables there.
The second room is furnished as we would imagine the living room of an Italian grandma. The walls are covered with pink wallpaper and decorated with images of the Virgin Mary and wooden crosses. Wall units made of dark wood, in which glasses and decanters are kept, line the walls. The tables are lovingly laid – napkins, cutlery and colorful plates are laid out on two tablecloths in blue and light green with a floral pattern.
As soon as you sit down, Tonio comes running, takes your drink order (only in Italian, of course) and brings a bowl of olives and some salty pastries to the table. Then you get to the the most challenging part of the whole evening: there is no menu in Bar Quaranta. The menu here is the owner Elena herself, who comes to every table and tells what’s for dinner today. Of course only in Italian. So you can imagine how difficult it was for us to first understand Elena’s enumeration in Italian and then spontaneously decide on one of the dishes! We always quickly chose one of the dishes, but with every order there was still a remaining risk of accidentally ordering something completely different than what we had expected!
Basically, Elena everyday offers mixed antipasti, two or three different pasta dishes and two different meat courses to choose from every evening. It would probably have been traditionally Italian to order all three courses (antipasti, pasta and meat course) and, as is customary in Italy, to eat one after the other. However, that always seemed a bit too much for us, which is why we usually ordered antipasti and “primo” (pasta) or pasta and the “secondi”, i.e. the meat course. All the dishes we tried there were super tasty and freshly made. The selection of antipasti was different on each of our visits, but mostly consisted of different cold cuts, different cheeses, fresh mozzarella balls and pickled vegetables. Since we already suspected that dinner at Elena’s means the same as having dinner at my Swabian grandmothers’ (= there is far too much food every time and you are constantly asked to eat another plate), we were smart enough to only order one sharing plate of antipasti instead of everyone ordering their own plate of antipasti as usual. Elena took our order, but she reacted in the same way my grandmothers would: instead of two plates of antipasti, she really brought us only one plate of antipasti, but this one plate was all the more generously loaded!
However, our culinary highlight in Grottole was Elena’s fresh pasta. These are available in Bar Quaranta every evening, usually with two different sauces to choose from. Whether you order the pasta with crispy fried peppers and good olive oil or the classic: fresh tomato sauce and perfectly seasoned meatballs – every pasta dish in Bar Quaranta is a hit! In our opinion, it is worth making the trip to Grottole just because of Elena’s delicious pasta, topped with freshly grated parmesan!