This restaurant with antipasti in Puglia, was originally called ‘Mier e Rizzet’, which is ‘Wine and Food’, in local Ceglie Messapica dialect. It changed name a couple of years ago to add clarity, although I preferred the original name which I think was more nuanced. It sits in the heart of Ceglie Messapica, just off from the main piazza. I go there fairly regularly, a few times a year, and I confess, it is my favourite restaurant.
The Ambience 6/10.
The restaurant is difficult to see, let alone find in winter because to look at it is almost nondescript. In summer there are a raft of tables outside. The outside space is on a slight hill, so all the tables slope a bit, which often leads to some comical moments vis-à-vis bottles of wine and very round bread rolls. The restaurant is beneath another restaurant and as Vino Fritti e Cucina has become more successful, so the number of their outdoor tables has grown. Inside the restaurant there are about 6 tables and the space is bijou but not cramped. The walls are lined with old posters and somewhat random pieces of art which I feel all add to the slight peculiarity and individuality of this restaurant
A little explanation needs to be made about the food and how it arrives. Antipasti is generally always served at this restaurant. If you sit down, they will just bring antipasti to you, the only thing they will ask is how many people are eating. Originally the restaurant didn’t even have a menu, but now there is one if you request it. But I recommend going with the flow. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Have the Antipasti and then see if you are still hungry enough to order more courses afterwards.
The Antipasti vary a bit with the seasons and what is available. My wife and I and our two kids went recently. There was roasted olives, battered fried Anchovies, ‘Polpette’, ‘Arancini’, smashed roasted Artichokes, ‘Capocollo’ and salt Cod with mashed potato. My kids don’t really like the olives, which they find too bitter; I love them – especially as I don’t think I have ever seen this in another restaurant I have been to in Puglia. My kids always wolf down the Anchovies, ‘Polpette’ and ‘Arancini’.
When the antipasti are finished you are always presented with an offering of three or four pasta dishes. The other night we were with a group of friends, half of whom ordered a pasta dish. I find it a bit difficult to go the whole hog of Antipasti, Primi and Secondi, so I prefer to skip the pasta and go onto the meat or fish. In this case, we ordered a beef Costata (like a rib/sirloin on the bone, let me know your thoughts!) Ordered for 4, it could have fed 6 at least and we all nearly died of overindulgence.
The dessert was a little cake. We didn’t ask for it, it just arrived. It was moist, good and home-made.
Let’s talk about not just food, but the drinks! This restaurant has a fantastic selection of wine, shelves and shelves of them by the counter inside, so feel free to choose one. I love being lazy in Vino Fritti e Cucina, and am always happy to follow the owner’s recommendation. I have never had a mediocre wine, let alone a bad one. At the end of the meal the staff always bring out a number of bottles of liquors (digestivi) and you are free have as much or little as you want.
The main thing about the service here is the owner, Lino. He is such a character, super friendly, imposing in size, with a great big handlebar moustache! He personally comes to tell each table what the pastas available are (which vary each day), and which meat or fish dishes are available. Warning, he doesn’t speak English, so I have found myself translating ad hoc for tourists sometimes!
In the height of summer the period between the courses can get a little long, as they are always packed, with tourists and locals. The staff don’t bite so feel free to ask for your food, or another bottle of wine whilst you wait. I once had a hankering for something spicy. I asked if I could have a pasta with shellfish ‘arabiata’ (which wasn’t even offered as one of the pastas!) It was fantastic, and just as I like it, very nearly blew my head off! And when you want to pay, go to the counter inside as it can take a while to get the bill otherwise.
My kids are a bit vivacious to say the least. Having been here a few times, the owner knows my kids by name. They run about outside, go inside and talk to the staff and ask for things themselves, so it is a great place to go with the kids. My kids play hide and seek, climb on the steps of the buildings opposite the restaurant and generally have a great time, no questions asked.
The price seems to vary, and I am yet to work out quite what the connection is to what I have consumed. But it is so cheap either way that I don’t care. If you have just the antipasti and a couple of bottles of wine, it is between €12.50-15 a head! If you have a pasta or secondi as well it is around the €20-25 mark. Obviously this is always with dessert, coffee and digestivo included. I think the most I have ever paid here is €30 a head, and there was a lot of wine involved that night!
Why not see this restaurant while staying at the fantastic Villa Lusso; enjoy a truly luxurious holiday in the heart of Puglia.