Sunday 31 July 2011

Trattoria delle Ruote, via Monticello, near Martina Franca, Puglia, Italy

With a cultivated rustic look and feel, revolving around wagon wheels, the Trattoria delle Ruote is a self-consciously old-fashioned restaurant. From the outside, it looks a bit naff, but the interior is more appealing, thanks to the conical stone roof and the jagged stone walls, decorated with ancient tools and faded photos of farmers. Only the checked table cloths seem a bit contrived. The very simple menus have pictures of the dishes and are listed in several languages, but don't let that put you off. This place does authentic food. The antipasti includes baby mozzarella, ricotta, vegetables, salami and meat balls. It is okay, but nothing special. More memorable is the excellent orecchiette pasta (6 euros) served with a local cheese and tomato sauce, as is the creamy butter bean mash in olive oil. Another standout dish is the mixed grill (12 euros), which includes spicy sausages, liver, lamb on the bone and other meaty morsels. Carnivores will also enjoy the big roll of beef in tomato sauce (12 euros), which is succulent and juicy. The house red wine is full bodied, smooth and very good for just 8 euros a litre. For just 2.5 euros a head, you can round off the evening with some liquors and almond biscuits. They arrive in four unmarked glass bottles. One seems to be limoncello, while the others are flavoured with coffee and cherry. Service is 10 per cent, but is smooth, serene and welcoming. Although it seems to be targeting tourists, Trattoria delle Ruote is justifiably popular with locals.  8/10