Francesco e Vincenzo Montaruli

Credit Brambilla-Serrani

Credit Brambilla-Serrani

Mezza Pagnotta

via Rosario 11, Ruvo di Puglia (Bari). Tel. +39 347 9996475

There’s a corner of Apulia that is off the tourist track. There’s no sea and the holiday industry hasn’t found where to settle yet. There’s only long and mild hills, silence, forests and animals pasturing. The area is called Murgia, the Apulian equivalent of Barbagia in Sardinia. In this wild land, brothers Francesco and Vincenzo Montaruli feed on science and knowledge, working in the dining room and kitchen at Mezza Pagnotta in Ruvo di Puglia (Bari). The former was born in 1986, the latter in 1988, they are non-digital millennials, unique, rather than atypical, and not out of a Luddite fury, nor because of a sly approach to fashion. For both, foraging – a word that is obviously not included in their dictionary – follows a primitive instinct, the same that guides them in the discovery of lost seeds, ancient pulses and basic cooking techniques which leave the powerful vegetables they pick outside free to express themselves, with minimal and essential manipulation.

They both start their days early in the morning, first in the countryside, no matter the weather. They don’t go to the vegetable garden, but in the wildness, looking for their daily harvest. They walk down parallel paths, and then meet at lunchtime in the kitchen, when they shape the clandestine content of their baskets through basic and primitive techniques. Open fire, cooking in a jar, or below the ashes, or in a vacuum. «Our father, a farmer with large hands, taught us not to crash what’s under our feet. That’s how our grandparents overcame starvation», says the second-born by the stove.

At lunchtime the restaurant, which is only open in the evening, turns into a sort of People’s House where local old people meet to judge the harvest. Edible grass and people are observed with the same curious attitude, a human source that is part of the spirit of the place, just like the producers, some 50 people scattered in the most secluded areas of the region. Farmers, cheese producers, pickers of wild capers and farmers of tomatoes under extinction.

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