Although you can easily get lost amongst the twists and turns of the historic center, this area is not so large that you can’t eventually find what you’re looking for. And we found what we had been seeking: Osteria del Tempo Perso (Restaurant of Lost Time). It was an odd name name for an eating establishment, but when we stepped inside we understood why.
The exterior of the restaurant reminded me of the Minerva formations at Yellowstone Park in Wyoming: rounded terraces of marshmallowy travertine. The entrance to the Osteria seemed to have been scooped up from Minerva and plopped here.
Inside, the restaurant is separated into two main rooms: the grotto and the museum room. You can dine in the museum room while admiring walls now adorned with tools and items once used in daily Ostuni life. Or you can dine in the grotto, a cozy enclosure with curved ceilings, stony arches and alcoves.
Truly a grotto, this cave once served as a huge bakery dating back to 1500. The honey-colored walls are still rough-hewn, but the atmosphere is anything but rustic. Large terra cotta urns sit inside niches carved into the walls. Stone shelves are lined with rows of Pugliese wine. Soft lighting casts a golden glow over the room, creating an elegant, intimate atmosphere. You want to come in, sit down, and never leave.
From the menu, we chose dishes typical to this region, wanting to taste Puglia as well as see it. I couldn’t help but order a side dish of that fabulous fave e cicorie that I had enjoyed in Matera. We stuffed ourselves, all the way from antipasto to dessert. (I learned later that this restaurant is recommended by the Slow Food Association, and they are not wrong.)
During the meal, a table of boisterous Italians were seated nearby, obviously in vacanza like us. Their merry-making was infectious, and we lifted our glasses to each other more than once.
Well sated (more like stuffed), we lumbered back to the piazza. By now we could hear loud music and the swell of applause emanating from that direction. Crowds of people blocked our view until we weaseled our way closer. On the portable stage, a local talent show of sorts was in full swing.
Enthralled, we watched as modern dancers, two ballerinas, a hip-hop posse, a group of young fencers, and even a lone body-builder entertained us and the rest of Ostuni late into the evening. We stayed until the last wisps from the fog machine drifted away. Then we did, too.