Perfetta Pane (Bread) & Olives from Puglia!

MAGNIFICENT is one of many adjectives you can apply to Pane di Altamura. This is no ordinary bread. It is the first bread protected by the DOP of the European Commission! DOP means Denominazione di Origine Protetta. This guarantees the quality and artisanal production of the bread plus protecting its name from imitators. At a very special lunch in the official residence of my friend, HE The Italian Ambassador to Singapore, the Ambassador himself as well as the producers of the famous bread and fabulous olives of Puglia, waxed lyrical about these all natural healthy gourmet delights! They were not exaggerating.

Anacleto Felicani, the charming and distinguished Italian Ambassador, showed me around his exquisite residence and the inviting swimming pool. The house was designed by the celebrated Italian Architect, Ettore Sottsass and has a very futuristic, rationalist quality to it.







The King of Bread and the Bread of Kings!

In the Spring of AD 37, in the earliest written reference to Pane di Altamura, renowned Roman poet Horatio described this extraordinary bread in his “Satires”.  Horatio recalled that he tasted “the world’s most delicious bread – so delicious, in fact, that the discerning traveler stocks up on it for the rest of his journey.” The 1527 statute of the town of Altamura in southern Italy outlines the duties of the town’s bakers including the taxes they had to pay.

 Artisanale Bread

There is a fascinating story behind this bread. Traditionally made in large loaves with natural yeast, the dough was kneaded at home, then taken to the town’s public ovens for baking. The baker would stamp the loaves with the initials of the head of the family that owned the dough.  The durum-wheat semolina flour is milled from the “Apulo”, “Arcangelo”, “Duilio” and “Simeto” varieties produced in the area.  The jovial Presidente of the Il Consorzio per la Tutela e la Valorizzazione del pane di Altamura, Guiseppe Barile, chuckled as he told me an amusing story about how as a boy, he had to collect the bread dough from all the different families. Guiseppe would take a “piccolo porzione” (little bit) of dough from each batch and then make his own loaf for himself! The Consorzio (Consortium) represents more than 20 producers that make the bread. When you taste the bread, you bite through the 2mm thick super crispy crust into the fragrant, spongy well aerated ‘crumb’ or center. The secret to the crunchy crust is that after baking at 250C, the oven door is opened for 5 minutes so the vapour will escape and the crust becomes ultra-crispy. Another unique characteristic of this bread is that it can keep for a long time without refrigeration. The shepherds used to bring it with them to the hills for a week or more and they would enjoy it with extra virgin olive oil. The loaf weighs at least 500g and is in 2 shapes. The first type is the “u skuanete” or folded loaf while the second type is called “u cappidde de prevete” because it looks like a Priest’s hat! 

From left to right, Signora Barile with Pane di Altamura, Ambassador Anacleto & Guiseppe Barile


The Lamborghini of Olives!

I also met energetic Guiseppe Dibisceglia, the Direttore of Il Consorzio di Tutela Oliva da Mensa DOP La Bella della Daunia-cultivar Bella di Cerignola.  His Consortium represents what can only be called the “Lamborghini of Olives”! These DOP certified (since 2000), titanic olives have no artificial preservatives, colours or preservatives. They are the biggest table olives you have ever seen! The variety is named “Oliva da Mensa DOP La Bella della Daunia”. The green olives are made using the “Metodo Spagna” which originates from Sevilla in Spain while the ninja-black olives are made with the “Metodo California”. In the American “Metodo California” the olives are sprayed for 7 to 9 days with compressed air which gives them their characteristic black colour through oxidation. For the green olives, hand picked at the beginning of October, Malo-Lactic fermentation changes the intense green colour to a softer, lighter matt green. Another difference is that the black olives are picked when they are riper, from October to November each year. The flavoursome black olives are more tender, slightly saltier than the green ones which have a more crispy ‘al dente’ bite to them plus a more herbaceous flavour.

Turn your head to the left to look at these King Kong sized olives! {:-)

It was absolutely heavenly to taste the olives, Pane di Altamura bread, and also assorted canapés with Surani Falanto 2009 red wine from Puglia. This full bodied robust red is made with the Primitivo grape variety and has wonderful flavours of red forest fruits and Espresso coffee. Incidentally, Primitivo has been show to be a clone of Zinfandel in California by DNA typing. The original grape variety  was Crljenak Kaštelanski from Croatia.

 Puglia which is the heel on the ‘boot’ of Italy is one of my favourite Italian regions of Italy. I shall never forget the time when I was in Gravina di Pugliua looking at the full moon…and a bellisimma ragazza sang for me, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s Amore… To savour two of its best and most famous products at the same time, as well as meeting the producers was truly a divine pleasure! I have to say ‘tante grazie’ to HE The Italian Ambassador for his kind and warm hospitality.

Buon appetito e salute!

Piatto rico mi ci ficco! {:-)




About thetravellinggourmet

As a renowned Travel, Food & Wine Writer he has travelled the world in a keen & indomitable pursuit of exotic delicacies & fine wines. His articles have been published in over 20 prestigious publications, both local & international. Dr. Lim has toured and trained in Wine Evaluation & Oenology in most of the world's top wine producing areas from France to Australia. The Travelling Gourmet says, "Gastronomy has no frontier. These are the gastronomic voyages of The Travelling Gourmet. My unending mission. To explore strange new cuisines, to seek out new wines and new culinary experiences, to boldly go where no gourmet has gone before...." Have pen, will travel. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any other information storage & retrieval system, without permission from Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet and/or MSN. Material may be works of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents may be true but may also be products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance whatsoever to actual person or persons, either dead or living, events, or locales may be entirely and purely coincidental and unintentional. No part of this website may be used to villify others or for criminal purposes. Interests: Travel, Food, Wines, Cooking, Wine Appreciation, Parachuting, Languages, Music, Reading, Swimming, Hunting, Ballet, Fencing, Archery, Anthropology and more... The Travelling Gourmet is a copyrighted trademark. All rights and photos reserved. No part may be reproduced without permission.
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