A home away from home: Nonna Mena

09 May 2023

“Research, expertise, quality raw materials enhanced by respectful cooking and a pleasant, welcoming atmosphere.” This is the essence of Locanda di Nonna Mena, run by Antonio Errico. His restaurant has been recently been given a prestigious Snail award in the latest edition of the Slow Food guide to the best Italian eateries, Osterie d’Italia.

Authenticity, regional gastronomy, the historical memory of the land, constant care in the choice of ingredients, ancient culinary generations, the simplicity of the preparations—these are the aspects that characterize the establishment.

Antonio works here with his brother and sister, Luigi and Mariolina: a family from Brindisi with a long history in hospitality. Fifteen years ago they realized their dream, in opening their own place: Locanda di Nonna Mena.

Locanda di Nonna Mena: a home away from home

In 2006 the members of the Errico family met Marcello Longo, president of Slow Food Puglia: a decisive moment as from that moment that the dream of Nonna Mena’s grandchildren began to take shape.

In those years San Vito dei Normanni was a small town of 20,000 inhabitants, where mothers, aunts and grandmothers were the stars of regional cuisine. At the time, the dream of the three Errico siblings was a real gamble: they wanted to offer a menu based on traditional cuisine enriched by carefully-selected local raw materials. They were intimidated by the challenge they were about to embark upon, but Macello Longo’s far-sighted vision was a reassurance and motivation. As Luigi Errico, the dining room manager, tells us, “Marcello told us that a fixed menu was not the right way to go; the choice of our dishes had to come from what the land made available on a daily basis.”

Thus in 2008, Locanda di Nonna Mena, a home away from home for all it guests, first opened its doors. Luigi continues: “Since we opened, one of our primary goals has been to promote the local area and its seasonality; for our dishes we use what our land offers us. And for 15 years we have been spreading the principles of Slow Food: we feel aligned with the values of the association, try to respect and pass them on to others through our cooking.”

Quality home cooking

Imagine walking into what used to be an old house where the siblings’ grandmother, Nonna Mena, used to live, in the historic center of San Vito dei Normanni, with just 20 seats in the winter and 10 more in the summertime when outdoor seating is possible. “Being small was a challenge at first. But this challenge was soon transformed into added value. The feeling we want the customer to experience is really that of entering our grandmother’s house.”

The Taste Workshop

On June 2, at 8 p.m., Antonio will present a Taste Workshop together with another cook from Brindisi, Ernesto Palma of Antica Osteria La Sciabica. They’re both members of the Slow Food Cooks’ Alliance, and their eateries are both featured in the Slow Food guide to Italian eateries, Osterie d’Italia. They’re great examples of the idea of gastronomy which Slow Fish 2023 seeks to embody, characterized by the recognition of the bonds between land and sea. In this Taste Workshop we’ll taste baked grey mullet with Cellina di Nardò olives and wild fennel.

Get your ticket for Puglia: Delicacies from Land and Sea now!

Every week Antonio likes to come up with something new: “With the same ingredients I prepare different dishes: the roots are always the same of the typical local cuisine, but revisited in a variety of ways. What distinguishes our menu is the strong connection with the offerings of our local agriculture, and our sea.”

Puglia: land and sea

Dishes at Nonna Mena celebrate the area’s small-scale producers: from cheeses from the Comunità dei Produttori Caseari dell’Alto Salento to orecchiette pasta with turnip greens—their favorite dish—and again, meat from the Gargano podolica cow, the catch of the Torre Guaceto fishers Presidium, Fiaschetto tomato puree, and even the dessert menu with cookies from Ceglie Messapica.

“Our supply chain is limited to our local area,” Luigi explains. “The suppliers we select are all local and sustainability-conscious. In recent years, small-scale farms have been springing up in our area, and we rely on them weekly for the ingredients we use.”

They also cultivate their own patch of land: “We leave one corner of land fallow, and in the rest we grow herbs and vegetables such as the Regina tomato from Torre Canne, lettuce, escarole, savoy cabbage and fennel. In short, we produce everything we can ourselves, respecting the rhythms of nature.”

Antonio Errico’s recipe for boneless rabbit stew, a culinary tradition of San Vito dei Normanni (for 4 to 6 people)

  • 1 rabbit
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • 1 litre of water
  • Salt and pepper
  • White wine
  • Bay leaves

Take a whole boneless rabbit and sauté chopped carrots, celery and onion. Add chunks of rabbit meat with a few pieces of bone to let it take on flavor for a few minutes, then deglaze with white wine. Add a few bay leaves and about 1 liter water, salt and pepper and cook for about 60 minutes. To make the dish richer, Chef Antonio recommends combining it with creamed potatoes or seasonal vegetables such as wild chicory or Swiss chard.

The pride of San Vito dei Normanni

“Our presence has brought a breath of fresh air to San Vito dei Normanni,” Luigi concludes. “We have built up a loyal, local clientele that, year after year, has grown stronger and stronger. In the beginning it wasn’t easy to create space ourselves in such a small town. But today we are proud of the word of mouth that we’ve generated: there are people who’ve never come to visit us but when they are giving eating advice to tourists, our restaurant is the first place they mention.”

A home away from home for all who pass through here, and those that live here too.

by Cecilia Cacre, info.eventi@slowfood.it

Slow Fish 2023 is organized by Slow Food and the Liguria Region, with the support of the City of Genoa. We’re in the Porto Antico of Genoa from June 1-4. Sign up to the Slow Food newsletter for the latest updates. #SlowFish2023

Skip to content