There are meals and then there are meals in Puglia, and you never forget those. If you happen to be eating at Cibus, then your meal may turn into a four-hour affair, which leaves you extremely full, ridiculously happy, and filled with a bittersweet nostalgia as soon as the epic lunch has slowly wound down.
If all meals could start with stracciatella cheese, I would be a happy woman.
But there is no reason to choose just one appetizer at Cibus, you need to sample the best of the territory. The extraordinary restaurant is found in the small town of Ceglie Messapica, which is not far from Ostuni. Honestly, the trip here is worth it for the food at this one restaurant alone.
While I sometimes wax poetic about a single dish, I have not often had the pleasure of enjoying meals like the one here. Every single thing that came out of the kitchen was perfect.
From the raw shaved mushrooms to the vegetable sformato – a kind of savory Italian flan – it was all amazing. So we kept eating and eating, and that is exactly how you spend 4 hours at the table.
I’m not even going to show you more appetizers but there were several. Including grain salads and crostini.
The pasta is what really got me excited:
This is homemade sagnapenta pasta with toasted bread crumbs, a thick tomato sauce, and ricotta forte. I love discovering new Italian cheeses and ricotta forte will knock your socks off. It is a soft cheese that is typical to Puglia. It is aged for five months (where regular ricotta is eaten within a day or two), and the result of this aging is a creamy, spreadable cheese with a surprising spiciness.
I would love to be eating this dish again – a kind of parmigiana-lasagna hybrid with eggplants.
Was I full at this point? Of course. But was I going to stop? Of course not. This was a life-changing meal and I was all in.
Next came marretto di agnello with roasted potatoes:
Essentially, Pugliese-style wrapped lamb entrails, most traditionally prepared around Easter time.
If that makes you feel too squeamish – then this good old tagliata was excellent.
And I haven’t even mentioned the wines. Cibus has one of the best cellars in Puglia. Ask nicely if you can see it, and you might be offered a glimpse if they are not too busy. Getting down requires pulling up a trap door in the floor, and navigating some perilous steps town to the treasure.
The owner has an impressive collection and often buys out a producer if he likes the wine that year. I am sure that some of those dust-covered bottles are now one-of-a-kind.
I really enjoyed trying this Susumaniello (a local red grape native to Puglia) from Masseria Masciullo.
Finally satiated, we somehow made it back to the car.
I was already plotting how to return.
Via Chianche di Scarano, 7,
Ceglie Messapica, Brindisi (Puglia)
+39 0831 388980
Open: 12:30 – 2:30 and 7:30 – 11 pm.