Fine local dining amidst ancient cave dwellings, authentic Napoli style pizzas and northern Italian street food eats; just a few examples of the culinary delights awaiting foodies eating out in Matera. Read on for our round up of the southern Italian city’s very best local restaurants.
Located in the beautiful Sassi di Matera, ancient cave dwellings dating back as far as 9,000 years and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993, Ristorante Francesca is romantic fine dining at its best. In contrast to its historic exterior, inside the restaurant is elegantly modern and chic, while the food is typical of Basilicata cuisine, with plenty of locally inspired, fresh pasta recipes on the menu alongside other regional delicacies like fennel-flavored Lucania sausage and succulent lamb dishes, naturally best washed down with a glass or two of Basilicata’s local wine, Aglianico del Vulture.
Opened in 1999 in the heart of Sassi di Matera, Oi Mari‘ is a cozy pizzeria and restaurant specializing in authentic, Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana certified Napoli style pizzas alongside other southern Italian eats. Combine its popular pizzas with antipasti like grilled vegetables, salami and cheese or opt for first course dishes like stuffed pasta and fresh seafood, but make sure you leave room for dessert, committed to paying homage to traditional southern Italian sweet treats, Oi Mari’s indulgent dessert offerings include the likes of ricotta and pear tart and Sicilian cannoli.
Restaurant, Italian, Vegetarian, Vegan, Fast Food, $$$
Simple yet elegant Mediterranean fare with a particular focus on locally sourced produce is the order of the day at San Biago, a restaurant with talented chef Vito Antonio Specchia at the helm. Grab a table on San Biago’s cozy terrace and take in the beautiful views of surrounding Sassi di Matera while dining on antipasti like salt cod stew with potato, olives and local Senise peppers, followed by later courses of orecchiette pasta with fresh tomatoes and caciocavallo podolico cheese or lamb chops with Murgia-grown herbs and mushrooms.
An artisan piadineria typical of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, Piada is the place to head in Matera for a fix of quick and tasty northern Italian street food eats. The menu is fairly straightforward with three main options – piada (a flatbread-based sandwich), crescioni (a stuffed, pasta-like bread) and piadipizza (pizza toppings on piada bread) – but guests can choose from an array of fillings and toppings ranging from speck, squacquerone cheese and grilled eggplant to buffalo mozzarella, Parma ham, tomato, oregano and olive oil. Treat yourself to a sweet take on the street food classic with a Nutella-filled piada for dessert.
Since Pietro Marrocolli and his brother, chef Domenico Marrocolli, opened their doors in 2013, Ristorante Soul Kitchen has quickly become one of Matera’s most raved-about restaurants for its modern take on classic Basilicata cuisine. Begin with the chef’s choice antipasti – a selection of three hot and three cold small bites that often include the likes of fried onions drizzled with balsamic vinegar and local cheeses – followed by heartier plates like risotto with asparagus and mushrooms or roasted wheat orecchiette pasta with turnip greens, sun-dried pepper oil, garlic, anchovies and red pepper.
As its name might suggest, L’Abbondanza Lucana, a lovely, bustling restaurant located in Sassi di Matera, prides itself on serving deliciously local Lucanian cuisine. Whet your appetite with a selection of antipasti to start (think local cheeses and meats) followed by pasta courses that include ravioli with burratina cheese, potatoes and salt cod or fresh pasta with cream of fava beans, mixed vegetables and mint; while second courses get meaty with offerings like wild boar ragu, rabbit or lamb chops with wild herbs.
After thirty years spent working in the restaurant industry, owners Nicola and Angela decided to strike out on their own and Ristorante del Caveoso was born. Elegant, inviting and boasting a gorgeous terrace open during summer months, the restaurant is where foodies head for seasonal, locally sourced fare based on classic Basilicata cuisine. While Ristorante del Caveoso’s menu changes with the seasons, guests can expect dishes like pecorino stuffed ravioli with figs and pumpkin cream and lamb fried with onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and wild onions; all complemented by a splendid list of local wines and homemade desserts.
Seafood fans in Matera, take note: a visit to the scenic city would be incomplete without a visit to Il Mare nei Sassi. Chef Gianpiero Monaco serves contemporary, fish-focused regional cuisine in an airy, modern space boasting a rooftop terrace with spectacular views over Sassi di Matera. Appetizers like carpaccio of smoked swordfish with pomegranate are followed by first and second courses like calamarata pasta with clams, monkfish and pennyroyal mint and almond-crusted grouper with Murgia-grown potatoes and lentils.
The motto at the recently opened Cenacolo degli Artisti is ‘food, art and culture’, and for diners who like to combine delicious food, art, music and design there’s no better place to eat in Matera. Chef Vito Sansanelli takes his cue from locally sourced products and combines with his contemporary outlook, artfully plating elegant dishes like lamb with caramelized pears and honey or tagliolini with venison ragu; while local pianist Stefania Mobilio and Rome-based poet and writer Alessandra Battaglia are amongst the talents who have recently performed at Cenacolo degli Artisti.
A classy dining spot located on Matera’s Piazza Cesare Firrao, Ristorante Alle Fornaci focuses on simple, yet refined, local and national culinary specialties served in a decidedly elegant space. Guests will find plenty of pizzas, pasta and meat-based dishes on Ristorante Alle Fornaci’s eclectic menu, but the real specialty is its locally sourced seafood dishes, think risotto with red prawns from nearby Gallipoli, zucchini and saffron or potato-crusted filet of turbot served with creamed chard and crispy peppers.