One of the main goals of our tours is to throw in cultural experiences in addition to the physical activity. In Italy, this almost always means having a private cooking class for our group.
Puglia is not as “advanced” in tourism as its provincial neighbors to the north, Tuscany and Umbria. And this is part of the charm of the area. At the same time, it means it is much harder to find established activities for travelers such as cooking classes.
So on our recent biking adventures in Puglia, we guides searched long and hard for an adequate cooking class. Eventually, we walked into La Giara, a local ristorante pizzeria in the small town of Pezze di Greco, where we were considering having dinner.
The place came highly recommended by locals but we still sat down to a meal to test the food – one of the most difficult jobs of being a tour guide! The food was excellent and the service fast and friendly, so we approached the manager about conducting a cooking class there.
It turns out this place was perfect. They had never done a cooking class but had considered having them and so were very eager to work with us. The kitchen was large and they had a downstairs wine cellar-style private room perfect for a group dinner after the class. Best of all, the restaurant was owned by three handsome Italian brothers. We knew our female bikers would love this aspect!
Just because a restaurant has a kitchen and a chef does not mean it can produce a good cooking class. The secrets are a) an excellent presentation and b) student involvement. Oh, and flowing wine doesn’t hurt.
This night turned out to be one of the most memorable on our Puglia Biking Adventure. The three brothers were personable, knowledgeable, and happy to be working with us. Their mom, who had taught them everything they knew, stood by with a watchful – and proud – eye. Everyone participated in cooking a number of dishes and the resulting meal was outstanding.