6:30 a.m. and the alarm had just rang. There was no need for an alarm. I hadn’t sleep a wink, too nervous and excited knowing that in a few hours I would meet my production team for the first time in person. I dipped my “cornetto” (croissant) in my too short espresso and got ready to start the day.
It’s 8 a.m. and we headed straight for Matera, Basilicata to officially start Day 1 of our shoot. First stop: the colorful central fruit and vegetable market named “mercato di “Piccianello” of Matera. We quickly attracted the attention of the merchants as well as their clients. Artichokes are in season. I was convinced by the merchant to buy at least ten for only 1 euro. Rapini, fava beans, and dandelions were everywhere, presented naturally, beautifully ready to be cooked for lunch “pranzo” in just a few hours.
An older woman examining the rapini at a stand decided not to buy them because they were too expensive. Instead, she explained how easy making “pasta e rapini” was. Looking at me with incredulous eyes, as if to say: “you don’t know how to make these?” “Le rapes” or “rapini” are a flowery, bitter-to-the taste version of the North-American broccoli. They are a gift to ordinary pasta.
The old woman’s receipe: Simply add the rapini to boiling salt water. Cook for 5 minutes, remove and drain. Add a little olive oil and garlic and stir-fry the rapini while you add the pasta of your choice into boiling water. While the pasta cooks, roast pieces of bread that you have naturally crumbled between your hands.
In the meantime, drain your pasta, stir in the rapini and some parmigiano cheese and decorate with roasted bread crumbs. There “ecco” she said: “Nothing to it” and then left almost abrubtly.
We then delved into the phenomenal Sassi di Matera, right into “Il Vecchio Frantoio” a restaurant hidden in the rocky dwellings typical of Matera. I don’t eat much meat, but I couldn’t help savor these veal and goat specialties of the region. Cook, butcher and owner of the restaurant, Pasquale, re created for us the traditional “pignanta di Matera”. Pasquale uses only fine organic produce of the region.
During the late hours of the night, we discovered the famous “Cialledda” reinvented by Nando Irene owner of a bar situated in the heart of the rocky Sassi di Matera. Nightlife here begins at midnight. So does dinner on a Saturday night. In a few minutes Nando makes a local bread salad, typical of Matera with the renown “pane de Matera” Matera bread, cherry tomatoes, olive oil and oregano, accompanied with a glass of red aglianico wine and local music.
It’s now almost 1 a.m. and one can’t miss the Matera’s Sassi belveder by night. Still not ready for bed and with the taste of that special midnight salad, we head to the panificio Pane & Pace to witness the miracle of Matera’s infamous bread making technique. It’s almost 3 a.m. and after more than 14 hours of shooting we all stare in pure amazement at the solitary profession of the bread makers. Their technique, grace and facility with which they make bread, is simply astounding.