Armed with directions provided by our helpful hotel clerk, we veered downwards into the bottom of Sasso Barisano in search of Ristorante Le Botteghe. As we plodded along, keeping our eyes out for the restaurant, we fell in step with a boy about twelve coming home from school. I asked him in Italian if he happened to know the location of the place. He responded that he did and motioned us to follow him.
As we wound around what appeared to be a main street, I asked if he lived here in the Sasso Barisano. “Sí,” he responded. I fell silent, trying to imagine what it must be like growing up in this unique environment. As we rounded a curve, he pointed to the right. There was the restaurant.
After thanking him, we entered. Two large rooms had been carved out of the rock, long ago serving as separate workshops, but now connected to form a single restaurant. Le botteghe means “the workshops,” hence the restaurant’s historical name.
Lunch was amazing. I remember most the Bomba di Bufala, the restaurant’s version of a specialty of this region: burrata. Imagine a baseball sized globe of cheese: buffalo mozzarella surrounding a soft and delicate center of both mozzarella and cream. Oh heaven!
As we waited for our food, I wandered around a bit inside, snapping pictures. We were amused by a table with three adults and a handful of unruly children. One of the women was wearing an outfit that was completely see-through. She seemed oblivious or uncaring that her underwear, top and bottom, was in clear view.
Our waiter caught me taking photos (no, not of the woman!) and gave me a postcard he thought I would like. It was of Matera dusted with snow. It looked like a sugar-coated nativity scene.