The Outstanding Gastronomical Delights of Vignacastrisi

Gastronomical Delights in Ortelle

Siobhain McConnell writes: Julius Caesar may have been forewarned to “beware the ides of March” but had the soothsayer known about the annual Salento cuisine sampling, held on 1st March at the picturesque resort of Vignacastrisi di Ortelle, South Italy, he may have advised differently.

The event is organised by the region’s tourist association ( to promote the gastronomical delights of the region – and it certainly does so with incredible gusto. Over thirty traditionally prepared dishes are on offer, including slow roasted pork, rice frittatas, mixed legumes, stone-baked breads, oven-roasted meats and vegetables, salads and various cheeses; as well as traditional Salento dessert platters of ricotta, sweet almond biscuits and delicious handmade pastries.

This year, the amazing array of gastronomical delights was prepared by head chef Luigi Fiorentino, owner of the nearby Cico restaurant and pizzeria in Diso. The seven meter long table of culinary brilliance was a food lover’s dream – a glorious medley of colours, textures and tastes, all particular to the sunny climates of the Mediterranean and served outdoors under the warm sun on a typical 18°C Salento spring day.

 “We use the yellow tomato (a typical tomato of the region)  to give flavour  and density to the vegetable dishes, whereas the more common red tomato is used to best effect in the juicer and richer meat dishes” said Luigi.

Pasta and Pancetta Salad

One of the favourites of the day was the “cavolfiore fritto”, an amazingly tender cauliflower fritter cooked in a wonderfully light and tasty batter. Other favourites included Grano con Verdura (a baked bean dish with aubergine and peppers), Cavolo con Uovo (a local green leaf vegetable served with eggs), Insalata di Cipolla (fresh salad with roasted spring onions), Peperonata di Pomodoro Gialla (an oven baked meat casserole flavoured with yellow tomatoes).

The mouth watering dishes were further complimented by a selection of fine Salento wines produced from the famous Negroamaro and Malvasia grapes of the region. “Many wine lovers are attracted to the Salento region because local production means a really good red wine costs so little here in Salento compared to elsewhere in the world” said Mauro Malizia, a local wine enthusiast.

Also in attendance at the tasting event was the Mayor of Ortelle and a number of esteemed hoteliers. “This event shows Vignacastrisi di Ortelle not just as a gastronomical center of excellence, but also demonstrates its proximity to the Adriatic sea” said Sergio Positano, owner of the charming 18th century Palazzo Guglielmo, a popular boutique hotel in Vignacastrisi. 

Ricotta Cheese with Walnut

Following the food tasting, guests were invited to stroll through the delightful olive groves of the region and finish the day with a coffee at the scenic Castro Marina, enjoying wonderful views across the crystal clear sea of the Adriatic.

Hand made pastries

If you would like to sample the gastronomical delights of the region, walk through delightful olive groves, or spend a few days relaxing by the incredibly scenic Castro Marina, please talk to Helen who will put you in touch with Siobhain who lives in the area and offers superb tours of the region.

Accommodation available at Palazzo Guglielmo in Vignacastrisi.