Bernalda probably doesn’t ring a bell. Most Italian guidebooks fail to mention it. Or maybe the guidebook authors just wanted to keep Bernalda to themselves. But thanks to Francis Ford Coppola, Bernalda is now officially on the map, if not quite yet on anyone’s radar. It’s a quaint agricultural village on a hilltop in the Matera province of Basilicata. Looking at Italy as a boot, Bernalda is the hills along the arch, about 15 minutes from virtually deserted beaches. The famous Hollywood director recently opened a luxury hotel here called Palazzo Margherita, which doubles as a Coppola vacation home and where Sofia Coppola got married last spring before the hotel officially opened. Long story short, it’s a tiny town where everyone knows each other. Not surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of restaurants. But what is here is terrific, especially these three:
1. Palazzo Margherita Kitchen
The Coppola’s swanky palazzo is charmingly low-key and casual, with only a handful of rooms. The main dining room is actually just a communal table in the kitchen, where the menu changes every day based on local supplies and the whim of the talented young chef who grew up in a neighboring village. Expect something along the lines of local salumi and cheese to start, followed by white bean soup topped with fennel blossoms picked from the garden just moments before being served, followed with a main course of local boar sautéed with raisins and almonds. For dessert, chocolate cake (or as they like to call it here, “Margherita pie”). Via Corso Umberto 62
2. Cinecittà Bar and Pizzeria
Whereas the Kitchen at Palazzo Margherita is open only to hotel guests, the hotel also operates a public pizzeria and bar called Cinecittà, which spills onto the sidewalk on the town’s main street. The pizzas are baked in the kitchen’s wood-fired oven, and the pizza maker trained in Naples. Via Corso Umberto 62
3. Osteria La Locandiera
This is the one restaurant in town recognized by the famous Italian restaurant guide Gambero Rosso. Everything served in the restaurant—olive oil, wine, vegetables, sausages, wild boar, bread, etc.—comes from a local farmer, rancher, winemaker or hunter. And the kitchen operates on a “simpler is better” motto. The food might not always be pretty (case in point: an order of “meatballs”), but that won’t stop you from licking the plate. Via Corso Umberto 194
4. Giardino Giamperduto
The dining room at Giardino Giamperduto is open for dinner only during high seasons, and serves wonderful handmade pastas. During low seasons, the dining room serves breakfast to hotel guests only. Via Giamperduto
5. Al Vecchio Frantoio
Popular with local families, this is a great spot for wood-fired pizza and roasted lamb. Via Corso Umberto 70.
6. Bar Azimut Cafe: Via Corso Umberto 110. Local beer. Flatbread and salumi sandwiches.