Italy Food Diary: Li Jalantuùmene, Monte Sant’Angelo, Gargano

Last year’s big holiday was in Italy, like the year before. We did some of the famous cities closer to Rome like Siena and Orvieto, before heading across Abruzzo (beautiful and natural) to spend some days in the Gargano peninsula, at the very north of Puglia. We’d read some travel articles about it being off the beaten path, and gorgeous, and indeed, it was. Monte Sant’Angelo was such a charming town, I wish we’d spent longer in it. It was all overcast and cloudy when we were there, so it would been good to catch it in nicer weather, but it was all very cosy with its narrow pathways and hills and many museums and palaces.

My husband had stumbled across the name of this restaurant, thinking it would be a good place for a special meal. Li Jalantuùmene means ‘the Gentlemen’ and also has a few rooms to stay in, which we would have, except they were booked out when we wanted to pass through.

We were having a look at it around lunchtime, worried that it might not be open, as so much of Italy seemed to be shutting down at the end of September and this was the first days in October. And lo and behold, the chef, Gegé, wanders out and invites us in. So, we made a reservation to come back that evening.

While we had a few memorable and wonderful meals that holidays, this one was my favourite. We were a little worried as we were the only ones in the restaurant! But Gegé seemed to be so honestly happy to share his beautiful cooking with us, and welcome us, and make our experience a special one, it was basically being invited to his home to eat, though not many home chefs could do what he does.

We left our choices in his hands, and he served up two local pasta, the famous orecchiete from the region and paccheri, plated in the most elegant way possible.

Our mains were a melt-in-your-mouth red meat, though it was so long ago, I can’t remember if it was beef or lamb.

And an amazing chicken dish.

For dessert, a delicious spumante, probably the most elegant version that I’ve ever had.

We washed it all down with a very beautiful (and expensive, ahem) local bottle of red wine.

It’s a bit of an injustice that I can’t describe in more detailed how much we liked the food. It was elegant but not fussy, full of flavour, and the dishes were of the region, made by a local expert.

The restaurant has one a new designation from Michelin, I think they’re calling it a ‘plate’ rather than stars, to recognise a very good restaurant. In any case, we loved it.

If you are anywhere in the vicinity, I highly recommend that you treat yourself for a special night there.

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