by Rocco Verrigni
My first full day in Puglia continues the familiar theme set from the beginning of my trip; that is a day full of great food, conversation and conviviality. I continue to be made aware of the importance and goodness of great quality food, from the land, prepared simply and with heart. Interestingly enough, Peppe Zullo’s credo, business model and slogan is “From the Land to the Table”. Not just a marketing slogan, it is quite evident to me that he walks his talk. As he guided me around his compound, complete with a vineyard, a winery, meticulously-kept gardens, livestock, banquet facilities and restaurant, I knew I was with someone who has true passion for what he does and who epitomizes Slow Food. His place is located on via Paradiso. After my tour I felt like I was in paradise. This was only the beginning of my day and the first of several days that I will remain in “paradiso”.
Not only did I get to spend the whole day in the kitchen and observe preparation and service of the days meals, in between all the action, I sat at a table straddling the open kitchen and a small dining room, and tasted each of the courses as they were served to the quests. I lost track somewhere around 8. Every once in a while Peppe would appear from nowhere to make sure I was not only observing everything in the kitchen but that I was trying every single course that went to the dining room. His energy and presence is infectious. I was not only treated like a valued guest but also as a colleague and friend.
Peppe’s model for his restaurants and to live by “dalla terra alla tavola”, from “the land to the table” is evident as one walks around his vast properties. It can be seen at his school, where there are banquet facilities, gardens, cultivated farmland, wooded areas that are full of wild herbs, and greens, as well as at his restaurant with vineyards, an extensive underground cantina, gardens and production area for preserving fruit and vegetables for off-season use, and curing his pork products.