THERE are a lot of MiraMare’s in the world , enough to hold a convention probably in a Las Vegas car park each year. Here is that mira of the mare… This one is called da Michela, only it is Eleonora who runs it…
Moons ago, when I first discovered Rick Stein’s Padstow restaurant (yes, it was me) traditionalists said it was not a proper restaurant, it was too expensive, it only served fish etc. I held my ground and time has borne me out. There are similar grumbles on TripAdviser from English tourists who picked up Rob Claasen’s review in the Evening Standard that hailed this as one of Pulia’s best restaurants. Rob is right and they are wrong. Such people might be better advised to go across the road to Il Turricho, which I also like but is more of a trat.
This is a proper restaurant. You might even get cauliflower fritters delivered before the menus. I do take the point that if you have not been here before or are not a distant cousin, then best to go outside of peak hours, which means not in August. As the Italians eat late in the south, go early. It is a small kitchen and they can struggle to cope when it gets busy as it does.
This is a masterclass in Adriatic fish cookery.
You don’t see these kind of recipes very often because you actually need to have a large scale fish kitchen to even think of them. This is not colour supplement cookery. It is not Jamie Oliver (bless). These are real Italians in Pulia by the sea. Mama and papa are here too. To call them leftovers or scraps would be a disservice but here you can get an opening salad of beans, squid, prawn, octopus, sundried tomato, lemon zest and even an off cut of crawfish.
Or black rice seasoned with carrot, courgette, corn, prawn and squid. These were served as part of the house antipasto for 18 euros which also includes a gratin of potatoes, cheese, rice and mussels; baked aubergine with breadcrumbs; marinated salmon with a sweet relish of red onion.
The main business is lobster or crawfish (although there is always a fish of the day, in this case snapper). Today it comes with fresh pasta or prawns and courgettes. This is it as a part of the fritto de la mare. Note that is freshly rolled pasta.
They also do a special which comprises pasta and tomato and shellfish sauce, the whole crawfish plus you get the soup that goes with, in some cases flaming with a shot of grappa. It is a show stopper. Other things impress too, much humbler, like the spaghetti with clams and chickpeas which when the latter are cooked soft blend into the pasta elegantly.
The TA nitpickers say it is expensive but our carafe of house wine was five euros, our crawfish dinner for two was 65 euros but you could eat for half that, if you just had the antipasto for a third. This is a family business that has evolved over the years – it opened originally in 1953 – into a Rolls Royce and deserves to be protected from Tripadvisers.