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Massimo Bruno’s Supper Club: A journey to Puglia

An invitation to dinner is always welcome in the ELTW household and when it’s an invite to an “underground” Italian supper club, well that’s even better!  Suresh at Spotlight Toronto recently invited us to participate in a dinner put on by Massimo Bruno, whose supper club, according to the website “explores the regions of Italy each month, as Massimo brings the authentic cuisine of one region of Italy to the table and explains what the region is known for, how the people and culture influence the food and its preparation, and of course, prepares a delicious multi-course meal.”

Sounded great to us so last Thursday, we joined foodies from across Toronto (bloggers, writers, and eaters!) and gathered in the rather unassuming space inside an old warehouse in the east end of the city.  Massimo’s kitchen is open plan and the room is setup with two family-style tables so that you can easily share the wine you brought with your tablemates.

(image courtesy Mark and Stacey at Tasting Toronto – thanks guys!)

We were fortunate enough to be attending an event focussing on the cuisine of Puglia, Massimo’s home region and clearly something that is very close to his heart.  Throughout the course of the evening, Massimo explained that the Pugliese cuisine is often referred to as “la cucina povera”, meaning cuisine of the poor.  This stemmed from the poverty in Italy after the first world war, when people were forced to cook using only what was available in the immediate area and didn’t waste a scrap of food.  Massimo explained that his Nonna had a saying “Dal niente si fa tutto” meaning “From nothing you will do everything,” and certainly, the simple ingredients used in our dinner were transformed to produce a stunning meal (of epic proportions!).  It was a lesson in what you can do with a few simple, in-season ingredients, and one that I hope to remember in my own kitchen.

As we were enjoying some pre-dinner wine and conversation, we watched the antipasti being assembled.

Whole fresh fior di latte mozzarella (yours to cut)

Insalata di polpo e gamberi (octopus salad with shrimps)

Pecorino e Capocollo with celery jam.  This was a great discovery though I admit I only tried the jam with the cheese.  I am rather partial to the pairing of jams and chutneys with cheeses so this suited me.  The celery jam was sweet and fairly strongly tasting of, well, celery but paired well with the salty pecorino.  The capocollo really didn’t need anything else. In fact, I could have just eaten the whole plate and gone home happy!!!

Homemade focaccia barese with olives (beware the pits!!).

Popette d’uova (egg balls). THE crowd pleaser of the night – again, I could have just had a plate full of these…  The loner you see above was eventually finished by Joel who was very restrained in making it last until at least the end of the primi…  From what I can gather, the main ingredients are egg and breadcrumbs and there’s some frying involved. Might need to get the recipe of Massimo – what a great party food and even devout carnivores (i.e. Neil) were in love with them!

Also featuring:

Involtini di peperoni (roasted pepper rolls)
Parmigiana di Melanzane (eggplant rolls)
Funghi gratinati (roasted oyster mushroom)
Frittata di asparagi (asparagus frittata)

Whilst we were occupied with the antipasti, Massimo got cooking.  Pastas for the primi:

European seabass to be baked under sea salt:

And we had some more wine..

The primi

Pappardelle colle fave bianche (Fresh homemade pappardelle with white fava purée). Simple and curiously satisfying, this pasta dish simple melted in your mouth.  You coulda spread it on bread. It was THAT good.

Cavatelli colle cime di rapa (handmade pasta with rapini and anchovy oil).  Ok, another “I could have stopped eating here and still gone home happy” dish.  I don’t like anchovies and was a bit leery of the addition of anchovy oil but this really worked.  It was not terribly fishy at all which was surprising in a good way for me.  Perfect.  My favourite of the two pastas since it managed to combine two flavours of which I am not a fan (anchovy and rapini) in a dish that I would happily eat every night of the week.

Secondi

Braciola alla barese (veal rolls in tomato sauce and white wine). Ahem, yes well it seems every dish was one I could have eaten and died happy.  The  gourmet delights just kept on coming.  These tender veal rolls were another highlight.

Spigola al sale (European seabass baked under sea salt).  Massimo spent a long time filleting these fish and I had about 100 pictures of the process of which the above three were the best – he was working so fast!!!  As those of you who read regularly will know, I am not a big fish eater but am trying to broaden my palate in this area.  Clearly I need Massimo to cook this dish for me every night since I devoured my tiny morsel in about 2 seconds flat and went back for seconds and thirds!!! (tiny bites only but a big step for a non fish-lover).  This was moist and juicy and so tender it fell apart on your fork.  No salty taste at all which one might expect, just pretty much the perfect fish.

There was also a insalata di rucola (arugola salad) which I don’t seem to have a photo of.

Dolche

Ricotta lemon cake served with roasted figs with almonds and lemon.

This was a beautiful light bite to end the meal, though admittedly, I probably didn’t need to eat the whole slice.  Much lighter than a cheesecake made with cream cheese, this reminded me that I have ricotta in the fridge I might have to play with in an Easter dessert…

Over 4 hours later, some amazing wines and stunning food digesting happily in our bellies, we literally rolled out of Massimo’s, content and sleepy. As you should be after a fine meal!

Thanks Massimo and Suresh for the opportunity to try this (literally) hidden gem.  We’ll be back. With friends!

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52 Responses to Massimo Bruno’s Supper Club: A journey to Puglia

  1. Debi (Table Talk) March 30, 2010 at 06:40 #

    I think half of the enjoyment of an evening like this is spending time with new people in a dinner party-like atmosphere.
    Sounds like you had a fantastic meal!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite March 31, 2010 at 17:35 #

      Yes it was like the dream dinner party except without the cleanup! (oh, and better food, of course)

  2. Mr. Neil March 30, 2010 at 07:56 #

    Well Mardi summed it up rather well.

    The nice part about this meal – apart from the obvious food – was its extended nature. All this occurred over more than four hours at the table drinking and chatting. A pleasant pace in our hectic lives.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite March 31, 2010 at 17:34 #

      Yes, it actually did not feel like THAT much food since it was spread out over a number of hours…

  3. bunkycooks March 30, 2010 at 08:15 #

    OMG! What a spread! Good Italian guy! Even the fish is looking good at 8 am! ;)

  4. Andrea@High/Low March 30, 2010 at 09:05 #

    ooh…is it wrong that I’m craving all of that food (especially the fresh fior di latte mozzarella) this early in the morning? I’d love to join any of these events! (Maybe if I’m in town in June? =) )

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite March 31, 2010 at 17:34 #

      Oh if you are in town in June, we will definitely find something like this for you to come to!!!!

  5. Alison March 30, 2010 at 10:28 #

    what an inspiring spread! It is alway exciting to discover ways to enjoy foods you didn’t think you liked much, isn’t it?

  6. sippitysup March 30, 2010 at 11:03 #

    The supper club is a fun way to enjoy food with an interesting group of people. We used to attend one regularly, but sort of fell out of it. You make we want to get back involved. GREG

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite March 31, 2010 at 17:26 #

      Greg, this was our first experience at a supper club but it made me want to check out some others!

  7. Barbara March 30, 2010 at 11:25 #

    The spread looks wonderful. I loved the octopus and shrimp salad and the lemon ricotta cake…not that everything else didn’t look divine. What a fun evening and fun company!

  8. Paula - bell'alimento March 30, 2010 at 13:37 #

    What an incredible night! A perfect Italian meal in a beautiful setting with great friends. What more could you ask for ; )

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite March 31, 2010 at 17:19 #

      Well and if YOU think it looked incredible, then I am happy! Coming from Bell’alimento, that is quite the compliment!

  9. Tami March 30, 2010 at 18:30 #

    Mardi, thanks for the fond memories of the many evenings (and many courses) spent round the dinner table with my Italian relatives in Northern Italy on my way home from our Moroccan jaunt.

  10. K a b l o o e y March 30, 2010 at 19:41 #

    I so wish I’d been there, both for conversation and for food. I love fish, especially fishy-fish, so none of the courses presented any issues for me. I had fish baked in a salt crust at Esca in NY, and it was one of the best fish dishes I’d ever eaten, so that sounded fantastic, but so did everything else, and your pictures were beautiful.

  11. Conor @ HoldtheBeef March 30, 2010 at 20:51 #

    Another post where I’m not really sure how to start commenting as everything looks so good. I’m glad you didn’t get carried away and leave happy after the first good dishes ;)

    I’m most interested in the fish baked in salt, as I’ve never done that myself, or seen it done, and I’m a huge fish devourer. Very glad that you’re increasing your fish intake, we’ll make a fish eater out of you yet :)

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite March 31, 2010 at 17:16 #

      Well, maybe I need to come to Perth to taste some more fish!!! And of course, I would not leave after the first courses, I have the blog to think about!

  12. Megan Gordon March 30, 2010 at 21:30 #

    Fabulous! Supper clubs are a pretty big thing here in San Francisco…some top secret, some invitation only, some open to the public but $$$$. What a treat to be invited to such a beautiful spread. It looks like a great meal and, I’m assuming, a fun group of folks (my hand-down favorite part of food blogging and food writing–meeting like-minded, awesome people)

  13. Fuji Mama March 31, 2010 at 03:13 #

    K, it’s midnight here in California, yet your post has my stomach rumbling and me drooling! WOW, what a meal!

  14. penny aka jeroxie March 31, 2010 at 03:38 #

    that is such an awesome night. I would prefer to go to something like that! And the mozerrella and the dessertttt!

  15. Adrian @ Food Rehab March 31, 2010 at 06:22 #

    I can see why you loved the Pappardelle- it looks too good. Looked to be an amazing night of good company and good food of course! Def sent me to rehab.

  16. Gourmantic March 31, 2010 at 06:40 #

    Wow… I’d need a grappa after this feast! The sea bass sounds very tempting. I like fish and when baked under salt it can be so moist and full of flavour.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite March 31, 2010 at 17:13 #

      Yes a digestif might have been very welcome after all that! The bass was SO moist and fabulous it might have even changed my mind about fish…

  17. Amy @ cookbookmaniac March 31, 2010 at 07:24 #

    Ooh, it all looks so amazing. That picture of the lemon ricotta tart being cut into is sinful!

  18. Arlene March 31, 2010 at 19:13 #

    A feast for the eyes. It’s true with a meal like that you can get filled up in a hurry, but who could resist sampling all the courses. Pictures are YUMMY.

  19. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction March 31, 2010 at 22:29 #

    Yum!! That is my kind of supper club. Looks like so much fun. :)

  20. Ellie (Almost Bourdain) April 1, 2010 at 02:01 #

    I am very intrigued with celery jam and loving the look of the ricotta lemon cake!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite April 5, 2010 at 08:03 #

      Yes the celery jam was very intriguing – looks pretty simple but the flavour…. Need to see if I can find that somewhere… Or make it myself.

  21. mademoiselle délicieuse April 2, 2010 at 19:48 #

    Beautifully relaxed with simple food!

  22. Lori Lynn April 3, 2010 at 20:33 #

    We hold a seasonal supper club event. I so enjoyed reading about this one.
    LL

  23. Kai April 5, 2010 at 11:31 #

    love your blog….really am intrigued by the egg balls…any chance for a recipe?

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite April 7, 2010 at 08:51 #

      Hello Kai and thanks for your comment! Yes, the egg balls recipe will be featured on the blog next week!

  24. A Canadian Foodie April 6, 2010 at 07:56 #

    What a feast… and a great education at the same time. Is this an invitation only event, or an underground restaurant that you just have to secure a booking to get into? I live too far away, but am intrigued by the idea. The food LOOKS second to none. I cannot imagine the taste experience. Did he share his recipes with you? The egg ball, the pepper and eggplant rolls, the veal rolled in tomato sauce and the lemon pie would be ones I would want to make. YUM! You are certainly getting your foodie education opportunities in the big TO! And I love that you share it with us.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite April 7, 2010 at 08:52 #

      If you go on the website you can see all the information about the supper club. Yes, recipes were shared and will be featured on this blog next week!

  25. Yvonne April 18, 2010 at 21:15 #

    I CAN’T WAIT!!! If the food is half as good as the pix…I’ll have to start fasting now to save room for all the goodies :)

  26. Cat April 19, 2010 at 22:12 #

    what a fun evening! and that ricotta lemon cake looks luscious.

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