On our first night in Europe, which was also my birthday, I wanted something special that was not too taxing for a jetlagged couple. Podere Rega was the perfect choice.
It took several calls from Canada before I could reach the owner: this is a small operation and in the off-season the staff may be minimal. When I reached the owner/ chef, she offered options for dinner. I took the simplest: "antipasti, frutta e dolce" for 35E p.p. including wine.
When we arrived at their lovely rural property -- access is along a cypress-lined lane -- we were warmly welcomed by their server and seated in a room in which, for the first hour, we were the only guests.
Without further ado, we were brought bread, then an astonishing progression of "small plates". Two local products were featured over and over: bufala mozzarella and various forms of pork -- salumi, guanciale and other home-made products. Everything but the salumi was freshly made -- prepared just moments before. Even the bread appeared to be straight from the oven.
Traditional recipes prepared with a keen eye to preserving authenticity, using only local materials yet given a stylish personal touch but the inventive chef, whom we were pleased to meet later in the dinner.
Though the dishes were very abundant -- indeed, an incredible bargain at the fixed price -- we never felt sated or overwhelmed and never felt we had crossed the line from gastronomy to gluttony. It was perfect, ending with a light dessert and -- if I recall correctly -- a small digestif.
From my notes, here were the dishes:
1. Two different pains de brioche, some crostini with herbs and a rice-filled bread made with smoked bufala mozzarella
2. Rustico "nests" filled with cheese and a phyllo pastry with zucchini and mozzarella
3. Mozzarella in carrozze -- fried, breaded mozzarella with a light herb sauce
4. Single vegetarian polpetta with a tomato sauce
5. Fried zucchini blossoms filled with ricotta
6. Three ample platters of salumi, all produced at the podere: Sorpressata di maiale, pancetta and mortadella
7. Toasts with guanciale di maiale (pork cheek) and walnuts
8. A platter of three individual mozzarella balls
9. Pureed eggplant with fried bread crumbs and strips of eggplant skin
10. A tower of zucchini strips mixed -- of course -- with bufala mozzarella
At this point the server offered us another dish, which we declined, going straight to:
11. Whipped ricotta and fig marmalade in a phyllo shell