UPDATE: Le Lucanerie has closed but thankfully owner Francesco Abbondanza has opened L’Abbondanza Lucana (via Bruno Buozzi, 11 – tel. +390835334574) near the Duomo. Expect the same stellar regional cuisine as Le Lucanerie.

While researching for the Rough Guide Italy’s Basilicata chapter, my dad and I spent 4 days in Matera eating our way from one side of the Sassi to the other. After 2 meals I was convinced I could live there forever. We has some outstanding seasonal veggies, excellent grilled meats  (local Podolico steak), and spectacular wine (Aglianico del Vulture). One of the best places we ate was Lucaniere just outside Sasso Barisano on Via Santo Stefano (near Pane & Pace bakery, another favorite).  Since we plan our meals days in advance, we had made a reservation, which is obligatory, even in February which is low tourist season in Matera.

The restaurant occupies a single barrel vaulted roome with 16 foot ceilings. Yellow screens divide the dining room into 3 sections without creating an isolated feel. The walls were hung with contemporary paintings of Matera.

The first page of the menu proudly listed all the ingredients that come from Matera and its province: nearly all of them with the exception of a few that are brought in daily from Puglia 15km away! Many of the products are recognized with a DOP designation, others simply part of a niche production of produce or meat not officially recognized but certainly of the highest quality.

The first courses we selected were both local specialties. I chose cavatelli con peperoni cruschi e cacioricotta (rolled orrecchiette with deep fried sweet peppers and slightly aged ricotta) which was peppered with fried bread crumbs. The contrast in texture between the al dente pasta and the crunchy peppers and breadcrumbs was beautiful. Dad got fusilli con pomodoro e cacioricotta (pasta with tomato and slightly aged ricotta) which was simple, straightforward and delicious. 

The second course changed my life. I say this about food a lot and always mean it. By habit, I have never gravitated towards pork at restaurants (aside from prosciutto, bacon and the occasional porchetta d’Ariccia). I followed the server’s suggestion and ordered the arrosto di maialino (roasted suckling pig). It was so tender and delicate, moist on the inside yet crisp on the outside. Perfection.  Dad’s second course, arrosto di cinghiale (roasted boar), had been recently shot by the owner’s uncle just outside Matera. It was pretty great but I definitely won! We shared a contorno, carpaccio di zucchine, carotta e mela (zucchini, carrot, apple) lightly flavored with mint. Superb.

For dessert we ordered the tortino di formaggio di capra (goat cheese cake). It was so simple and pure we were at a loss for words to describe it at first. Finally, my dad declared “this is so goddamn creamy delicious!”. Yes, that sums it up.

Via S. Stefano, 61
+39 0835 332133