Where to eat in Potenza:
Antica Osteria Marconi
Antica Osteria Marconi in Potenza is ambitious though small restaurant based on a creative reinterpretation of local dishes and ingredients.
I had found this restaurant on Michelin’s website, where I always go for restaurant recommendations when visiting new places, and this was our first proper visit to Potenza.
Almost walking distance from the old city centre
Evidently we had also asked our hosts at the Bed and Breakfasts for a recommendation, but their suggestions did not have the right appeal at this particular time. They did , however, warn us that Antica Osteria Marconi was posh and out of walking distance from the old city centre, where we were staying, but according to the GPS we were talking about a distance of one kilometre, so we estimated it could be covered in about 15 minutes.
This turned out to be rather wishful thinking. As the highest regional capital in Italy the centre of Potenza perches on top of a hill with accommodation spilling all the way down to the valley. Antica Osteria Marconi was not quite at the foot of the hill, but it’s hundreds of stairs or numerous hairpin bends from the top, making for a strenuous walk down and up. Especially if you are wearing heels. Still, for this level of culinary achievement I’d gladly do the walk again and again.
Antica Osteria Marconi is a fairly small restaurant squeezed in between a bank, a stadium and a thoroughgoing road. Not the most charming location. But they do have a small garden with five tables, so you can eat outside.
Grapes from Agliano and paprika from Senise
We were received by two very observant and professional waiters and a welcoming basket of five different types of bread served with a tiny bowl of local olive oil. There was a comprehensive wine list with bottles at 60-70 Euros, which is unusual in south Italy. We settled for the local Aglianico grape from 2012 at about 20 euros.
The prices were moderately high with antipasti at 12-15 euro and main courses ranging from 15-20 Euros. We decided to try the Menu Basilicata that promised to modernise tradition at 30 Euros for a complete five course meal.
First serving outside the menu was sea urchin with ricotta cream, a tiny shred of salted lemon rind and a pinch of paprika from Senise. Delicious. Even if sea urchins are an acquired taste, you have to be born and raised in south Italy to fully appreciate.
Baccala with coffee and de-constructed burgers
The first proper starter consisted of incredible moist pieces of baccala or dried cod in a light and crisp, deep fried batter not unlike tempura. The small packages were served with a spoonful of lemon scented brown beans from Sarconi and a sprinkling of freshly ground coffee powder. Innovative and traditional at the same time, and so utterly delicious it qualifies for my personal top ten of the best restaurant dishes ever.
The next starter was a de-constructed hamburger made with minced and almost raw Lucania lamb and served with a spoonful of firm sauce hollandaise and a pesto made from peperoni di Senise – a local version of smoked paprika. Great.
Divine bites of almond pasta and chocolate
After this opening I was already pretty full, but I did taste and enjoy the home-made orechiette in paprika sauce with a crunchy topping of the sun-dried and deep fried bell peppers from Senise.
The meat course was a ‘Tortiera scomposta’ of moist and tender, vacuum cooked lamb fillet with roasted potatoes and impossibly sweet tomato confit. Fantastic local ingredients and speckless cooking.
The meal ended with divine bites of layered chocolate and almond paste served with creamy tops of coffee ricotta.
We regained our strength with espresso and amaro on the house, and were glad to pay the bill of 84 euro. After an evening like this, it is no problem to climb one flight of stairs after the other, before you hit the bed.