Clara and Stefano affectionately represent the two poles of Puglia, Italy’s most underrated (and somewhat envied) enogastronomic pillar – from the lush and mostly unspoilt Gargano Promontory in the north to the dramatic and mysterious Salento Peninsula further south, the husband and wife duo have made it their mission to share ‘a piece of Puglia’ with the curious and adventurous Melbourne food and wine aficionados.
Clara grew up in her nonna’s pizzeria Bella Italia in the town of Foce Varano, where she would stand on a pile of old bricks to reach the coffee machine. It was there she directly inherited the magic of Apulian cuisine whilst hand-making traditional food with her nonna, mum and aunties. Stefano was born in Melbourne, but spent many summers as a child in Corigliano d’Otranto where he was proverbially ‘bitten by the taranta’ and has been on a journey of cultural transposition ever since, through music and wine.
Whilst extremely proud to call Melbourne home, the pair feel a strong sense of nostalgia and have tried very hard to fill some of the void of the ‘little things’ that we just aren’t privy to in our cosmopolitan city. Acknowledging the outstanding efforts of Melbourne’s hospitality industry, they felt many of the ingredients were accessible but imagined them being stitched together in a different way. They describe this project as being ‘purpose driven’. “We would find ourselves sprinting around on a weekend for a stand-up espresso in Carlton, to an Italian deli in Brunswick, back home to roll some orecchiette, and then out for an aperitivo with friends. It was exhausting!” says Stefano. “So we tried to list the few things we stand-for that we just can’t live without, and over a glass of primitivo wondered whether they could exist under one roof. By the end of the bottle ‘iPugliesi’ was born”.
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