There’s something about Matera that makes the town an enigma; church bells ringing poetically at the crack of dawn, dusty alleys leading to houses carved into rocks, the haunting silence when the town lights up for the night. Either way, its presence draws outsiders in like a moth to a flame.
Once shut out to the outside world, Matera has been gaining traction as a tourist spot since biblical movies – and one popular film The Passion of the Christ – made the town its setting. Dig deeper into the intricate network of cave dwellings (Sassi) and you’ll see that the town is littered with trattorias and restaurants. Tourists have yet to discover Matera in full, so the food is still steeped in tradition.
Look forward to: Sausages, lamb and salumi
Where: Via Lucana, 178, 75100 Matera MT, Italy
For: Affordable lunches
In traditional Matera, Kapunto shines bright in its modern approach to serving fresh pastas. Every morning, pastas and raviolis are handmade and laid out in all shapes and sizes. Pick the pasta that catches your eye, followed by the sauce (butter and sage, bolognese, pomodoro, rapeseed, or black chickpea and octopus cream) to go with it. If you ask the waiter, he would recommend the right sauce for your choice of ravioli.
Where: Via delle Beccherie, 33, 75100 Matera MT, Italy
What: Specials of the day
For: Lucanian cuisine
Lucanian food is the bread and butter of Il Cantuccio, a small-scale restaurant holed up in a back alley. The seasonal specials are the ones to watch – minced meat ravioli with senise peppers, chickpeas with porcini mushrooms, or goat’s milk ricotta with fig. One of the restaurant owners tends the tables, and he would gladly share the origins of their seasonal ingredients from the region.
Where: Via Bruno Buozzi, 11, 75100 Matera MT, Italy
What: Pistachio pasta
For: Smart dinners
You might have to crouch a little to get past the entrance – L’Abbondanza Lucana is housed inside a cave structure. Impeccable service and an exquisite menu reimagined from traditional Lucanian cuisine are what makes this restaurant favoured for corporate dinners and fancy dates. Meals normally start with a glass of prosecco and the chef’s seasonal appetiser, before you indulge in dishes made with locally sourced ingredients.
I Vizi degli Angeli
Where: Via Domenico Ridola, 36, 75100 Matera MT, Italy
For: An ice cream stop
If you have ever stepped onto the main square of Matera, you would have wandered into I Vizi degli Angeli after witnessing the periodic queues. Delightfully rare gelato flavours are what you’ll get at this gelato laboratory – apple and celery, pineapple, avocado and lemon, red wine, and ricotta. The gelato comes in a cup, cone, soaked in coffee syrup, or even wedged between a slice of bread.
Trattoria I Due Sassi
Where: Via Ospedale Vecchio, 1, 75100 Matera MT, Italy
For: Affordable dinners
Eat well and affordably at Trattoria I Due Sassi, an old-fangled trattoria that does homely Lucanian food that won’t burn a hole in your pocket. A platter of local cheeses, salumi and pickled vegetables (the best way to taste Basilicata’s produce) will set you back €12. For the best lamb, this trattoria’s version falls right off the bone.