Italy's Finest Visits Port Plums

“There’s no such thing as bad pasta,
just bad people...”

...jokes Silvestro Silvestori, the owner, founder, and director of Italy’s incredibly special cookery school, The Awaiting Table in Lecce, Italy. Silvestro joined us in our Demo Kitchen earlier this month to introduce to us what he knows best, Pugliese cuisine. As he broadened the knowledge of our locals on Southern Italian food, he emphasized to us what exactly makes it different from other regional cooking in Italy.

 


via The Awaiting Table


via The Awaiting Table

via The Awaiting Table


Silvestro has spent the past 17 years teaching the food and wine of Puglia, the Southeastern region of Italy you may recognize as the heel of Italy’s famous “boot.” Earlier on, he spent his time working in the food industry and studying humanities, giving him the tools necessary to be the renowned teacher he is today. Not only is he an expert in food, Silvestro is also a nationally-certified sommelier in Italy, allowing him to share his wine expertise alongside his delectable dishes.

His 12 unique classes take place in either his 16th century palace-converted home in Lecce, a castle just south of Lecce or even on wheels, as you bike through a traditional Italian village. This specific class, “Bicycling, Cooking, and Wine,” demonstrates how the land and sea around you affects the food and wine you’ll consume later that evening in the school’s castle.


via The Awaiting Table

His school has caught the attention of many, only to leave them understanding more than just how to cook a traditional Pugliese dish. When Silvestro’s students step into his class, they’re taken on a journey. They learn the “why” rather than just the “how.” They uncover the story behind the ingredient they’re holding, and how it affects just about everything else sitting in front of them, reinventing the way his students view their food. “Putting Italy into a very pin-pointed regional map is another thing that we spend more time on,” Silvestro explained to us when describing the importance of regional cooking in Italy. “People think they already know it, so first you kind of have to knock that down and build it back up again.”

Our co-owner, Karen Shernan, learned just this when she attended one of Silvestro’s classes in Southern Italy months back. There, she and the class visited fish and produce markets to select just about every ingredient for what they were making that day.

Chef Silvestro Visits Port Plums

Months pass by Karen's visit and Silvestro is here in the States conducting two sold-out classes in our Demo Kitchen for locals itching to learn the same lessons he teaches at The Awaiting Table in Lecce.

Recipes throughout the class included the following:

la pasta salentina (Pugliese Pasta in 5 Shapes)
fave e cicoria (Fava Beans and Chicory)
la Sopratavola and il negroamaro (Wine with Raw Vegetables)

Those two nights, Silvestro focused on what exactly sets Southeastern Italian cuisine apart from other regional Italian cooking, such as essential cooking. While a dish might only require three ingredients, they are “pristine, absolutely fantastic,” as Silvestro said. “Find good things, don’t screw them up,” he advised us.

The students left with more than what they were expecting. With 4 new recipes and a deeper insight into Pugliese cuisine, the students grasped more than just how to make pasta. They gained a rare understanding of olive oil, including how to taste it correctly. A mild intensity olive oil and a robust intensity olive oil were even sampled, demonstrating the vast difference between the two. Silvestro also explained to us the unfamiliarity people have with olive oil. “Olive oil is like a computer to me…the second I have to take one apart, I wouldn’t know anything at all. So, I have a false sense of familiarity when it comes to computers and I think most people have a false sense of familiarity when it comes to olive oil.”

Hear it from the students themselves!

Silvestro Silvestori (left), Karen Shernan (middle), Pam Older (right)

"Silvestro imparted all sorts of unusual knowledge and the dishes, all native to his beloved Puglia, were all interesting and healthy."
Pam Older, local business owner and friend of Karen

"I liked learning so much about that region…different parts of Italy and Puglia…It was very educational, the food was delicious and the wine was wonderful. It felt like a very cultural experience…"
– Kerri, customer and Newburyport local

"Loved the class! Not only did Silvestro demonstrate and share some easy and delicious recipes but also interesting details about olive oils and wines from the region."
- Joanne Szahun, customer and Newburyport local

Silvestro’s cookery school, The Awaiting Table, can be found here, where you can browse his different classes, buy olive oil, or simply learn.

Interested in signing up for future classes at our Demo Kitchen? Take a look at our offerings here. We can’t wait for you to join us!

Photos by Maggie Griffin, unless otherwise noted