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3-9 April 2008

Amsterdam Weekly

Open ‘orecchiette’ Sapori Pugliesi Weteringschans 187D, 320 9200 Open Mon-Sat 09.00-20.00, Sun 10.30-17.00 Cash. Would a tasty trip to sun-brushed Italy be on the cards? To enjoy some really serious homemade pasta, so wonderfully fresh that your very toes curl in pure delight? It had been whispered into my little ears that Sapori Pugliesi, a family-run business conveniently located on the Weteringschans, was worth a lunchtime visit. It started out as a shop selling Italian products (such as orecchiette pugliesi, the small pasta that are shaped like little ears) and offering take-away of mainly Puglian regional specialities. Then friends of the family suggested they have some tables and chairs put in the shop—and the family made it so. ‘Mamma Mia!’ screamed my inner Italian, as I walked into a nose-cudgelling experience of mushrooms being sauteed in garlic, olive oil and herbs. The smell poured from the open kitchen where Papa Matteo, the owner, shook and rattled an enormous pan. Another gentleman, an uncle figure, prepared vegetarian lasagne by winding pasta sheets through a machine to the thinnest transparency. Meanwhile, a tomato sauce simmered on the stove. They laughed at the transfixed expression on my face, which only became more so as the sweet sound of Italian reached my pasta shelled ears. I stared glassy-eyed into the large vitrine to draw inspiration for lunch. La Mama began watching me with interest (or should I maybe say suspicion?), as I began to moan and mumble a litany of combinations.

THE UNDERCOVER GLUTTON I had a veal escalope the size of a Milanese football field. The meat was tender, and a squeeze of lemon convinced me I had died and gone to heaven. After a lengthy decision-making process, I decided to start with peperonata, a cold ratatouille affair with capers, for €3.50. It was simply wonderful. The rustic flavours were concentrat-

ed and very tasty. I mopped up every trace of sauce with bread and La Mama continued to monitor me closely from behind the counter. Next, a mixed antipasto plate had a selection

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of Parma ham, salami, cheese, grilled vegetables and sun-dried tomato in olive oil, for €7.00—a sampling of the best quality products from different regions. I asked for half a portion of the half-moon shaped ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta cheese. They were served in a rich tomato sauce, the basis of Southern Italian cooking, and very tasty. Two days later, I returned to sample something else: the meat lasagne (€4.00). It is one of their most popular items and sells out quickly. Each layer was cooked slowly; the minced beef was finely ground, soft and smooth (I could spread it on bread) and the very thin, tensile homemade pasta sheets were lathered with the fresh tomato sauce Matteo cooks up daily, and topped with mozzarella. Who needs a papal audience to get closer to the Divine? Not the Glutton, I assure you! And my gluttony wasn’t even over yet. I had a large bread-crumbed veal escalope the size of a Milanese football field (€5.50), topped with those fragrant mushrooms (for an extra €2.50). The meat was tender, and a squeeze of lemon made it heavenly. Some nameless—but lovely— cheesecake with coffee topped it all off. But what of the little ears? The orecchiette pugliesi? I bought four packets (€1.75 a unit) to cook up for a bunch of friends. I’ll do the pasta in a rich garlic-herbed tomato sauce with capers, anchovy, green peas and broccoli. And I bought some good olive oil to drizzle over it all, along with sharp pecorino cheese for sprinkling. Would I return to try the other mouth-watering Puglia house specialities? Yes. Yes. Yes. The freshness, passion and dedication to the meals—not to forget the panini sandwich combinations—deserve my utmost respect. And the prices are very reasonable for the high quality standards of Sapori Pugliesi. Do whisper the message on. Ciao!

Amsterdam Weekly: Vol 5 Issue 14, 3-9 April 2008 Complete  

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