Tiny Potenza is the capital of Basilicata, historically one of the poorest and least populated regions in Italy. It’s one of the highest provincial capitals in the country so be prepared for chilly weather!
The local pasta is strascinati which in this town look like small oval pizza bases with upturned edges, similar to orecchiette. I had some at each restaurant so as to compare them. The neighbouring Aglianico del Vulture DOC produces one of the best red wines in Italy, and I certainly made the most of it while I was here.
I don’t have the exact addresses for some of these restaurants but they are all in the historical centre, just 5 to 10 minutes from the Hotel Pretoria (small but nice enough). Just ask the receptionist for directions. These reviews are from 2008 but a colleague who went recently confirms most of these places are still open.
Trattoria al Duomo (B+), opposite the cathedral.
A nice stone cellar with friendly service. I liked the Strascinati di Funghi e Salsiccia (4 euro) and the house Aglianico (4 euro for half a litre). Probably the best place in terms of value for money and good basic traditional food. Open Sunday.
La Tettoia, Via Due Torri (B?), next to the cinema.
This seems to be the local institution (very busy and recommended by the centre rep and hotel receptionist) but I didn’t particularly rate it. It has a huge menu and maybe I made a mistake by asking for the local specialties I couldn’t finish their strascinati (very oily with too much gloopy cheese and singed peperoncino) but the antipasti misto was ok (6 euros) as was the house Aglianico (3 euro for half litre).
Ristorante Due Torri (B), Via Due Torri, just down the road from the above.
Modern Italian cooking from the squeezy bottle brigade. The Cicoria e Fave (5 euros) was delicious and very original but I didn’t rate the tiny Filettino di Miali or the pasta dish Cavatelli all Aglianico. Very poor house Aglianico. A slightly mardy owner who could learn a bit about customer relations. Bizarre soundtrack including disco and Scottish folk dance! Probably best avoided.
Taverna Oraziana (B+), at the far end of Via Pretoria, down some steps.
Another nice stone cellar with a discreet TV and background jazz with friendly English-speaking staff. A limited menu of mainly beef and pork. Nice antipasti misto (7 euro) and ricotta and chocolate tart (2 euro), good house Aglianico (3 euro for half litre), large grappa (2 euro). Probably my second favourite place but had very few other customers for some reason.
After Potenza I went to Melfi, in the shadow of volcanic Monte Vulture deep in Aglianico territory. It’s a nice town with a very well preserved Norman castle. Sadly a nasty bout of gastroenteritis meant I didn’t have a very good time there. I blamed it on a ‘complementary’ dairy product that I was given at Ristorante Delle Rose. Be warned, nowhere is safe!