A few days ago, after a long day driving around Salento with Julie, Dion and Orso, wine tasting and mozzarella making, we decided to go and have dinner to Arete’. Hostaria Arete’ is a beautiful restored farmhouse converted into an equally beautiful retaurant. Although in winter, it is very cosy and romantic dining in front of the big fireplace, I prefer it in summertime when the tables are set outside under the inspiring veranda.
But, let’s not beat around the bush, you go to Arete’ for the meat, lots of it and some more.
I had been to Arete’ a couple of weeks earlier as well and finally mastered the menu’ – the secret is actually not to order the best and biggest cut, the Fiorentina or the Chianina cut – they are too big and in my opinion they don’t cook well and get cold very quickly while you eat them. Try instead the Angus which is equally tasty but without the bone and it cooks perfectly on the lavic stone they serve it on on the table and stays well warm until you finish it (if you can finish it). But I am getting ahead of myself…
Let me give you a few tips to make sure you enjoy your meal at Arete’:
1 – Don’t go on weekends if you can. Arete’ is very popular and you risk that your meal will run forever. On weekdays, there will still be a lot of people and a nice atmosphere but the waiters won’t be running like headless chickens.
2 – As I was saying above, try the Angus to enjoy one of their signature dishes. They serve it only half cooked on the table on a lavic stone and there you continue the cooking yourself. Get them to slice it for you before they serve it on the table. You’ll probably want to share it as it’s a 500gr steak.
3 – Ask for the salt before the beef arrives. I go mad in many restaurants when you have to wait for the salt and it arrives after the main course (it seems to be trendy these days not to have salt on the table). At Arete’ they have a selection of different types of flavoured salts, black, pink and other types. Whatever, regular salt would do the trick.
4 – Here I discovered Il Lemos, a very interesting red wine from Leone de Castris, one of the main winemakers in the region. Il Lemos is typical only in part as it’s a blend of Negroamaro and Primitivo (the two main local grapes) but also contains Merlot and Montepulciano. I think it’s a very good wine.
5 – Don’t stuff yourself with the antipasti. Julie and Dion made this mistake as they were eager to try all of them and could not resist to the wonderful burrata, the meatballs, the baked courgettes, the aubergines, the pittule, and so on (who cuold blame them). Order less than one plate of antipasti for every two people, trust me. Or you won’t enjoy your meat afterwards.
As main course, Julie and Dion wanted to taste both the home made pasta with tomato sauce, mini-meat balls and cacio ricotta (fresh salty grated cheese) and the fillet. They loved the food but they were so stuffed in the end they could not walk properly or make much sense in general. It happens in the land of Salento when you let the food and wine flow.
6 – Make sure you are in good company. This is the main rule when it comes to enjoying your meal.
7 – Leave some space in your stomach for the mini-croissants filled with nutella. I think this was the final blow to my two poor friends. But I am sure they don’t regret trying them.
So, anyway, I think Hostaria Arete’ is a very solid performer in the Salento food scene. When you visit Salento, get someone to take you there and take it all in. I am sure you’ll thank me even if you’ll need someone to carry you home afterwards.
Strada Provinciale Cavallino-Caprarica (Lecce); +39 337 826761; hostariarete.it
Also see my friend Sinan’s photographic account of Arete’