Photo by Faith Willinger
It's an annual appointment I simply can't miss. Peppe Zullo's Festa del Cinghiale--or Wild Boar Festival--a two-day event at his restaurants in Orsara di Puglia. Clients, friends, local dignitaries and restaurateurs make the schlep to this unknown area of Puglia, in the province of Foggia for a series of meals and workshops. Peppe, one of the most generous chefs I know, invites other restaurants to prepare a course for one of the important meals, Sunday lunch for the general public, Monday lunch for restaurateurs and food professionals.
I always meet interesting people, in and out of the food and wine world. Mago Zurli, legendary Italian magician and Andy Luotto, comedian turned chef in past years; this year singer Tony Sant'Agata. The theme for the workshops was "The Magic of the Host," about the role of the restaurant host as a custodian of gastronomic wealth and a cultural and economic animator. It's a profession not taught in schools, culinary or non, but Peppe performs it to perfection.
I took a train to Naples, was met by my pal Vito Santoro and we arrived in Orsara on Sunday evening, in time for the simple dinner at the restaurant--we missed the opening workshop and lunch for 500 guests at Villa Jamele--huge reception hall and conference center flanked by Peppe's organic garden, vineyard, orchard of "forgotten" fruit, villa with rooms, and cooking school with wood-burning oven. A nearby stone mill is in the process of being restored so Peppe can grind his own wheat. Home-made salumi, rustic bread and vegetable soup, wild boar two ways, and, after dinner, my introduction to Tony Sant'Agata and his music.