Ceglie Messapica was one of my favourite towns in Puglia. Fairly tourist-free, many locals mooching around on a sleepy Friday morning, a historic centre of winding, tiny streets leading to dead ends and taking us round and round in circles.
After a cappuccino drunk amongst the midst of groups of retired Italian men, as they read the paper and shouted about the local gossip, and having lost ourselves in the knots and kinks of the winding streets, it was time for lunch.
We had every intention of getting a pizza, a low-key, low-cost last lunch, but Cibus looked far too idyllic to just walk past.
A warm welcome from beautiful Italians in beautiful hemp aprons, a white courtyard shielded from the sun with a bamboo roof, bunches of tomatoes hanging from the ceiling, old medicinal cabinets frilled with dried pulses and nuts, calming jazz playing at the perfect level in the background.
A heap of crusty bread and a bowl of warm, dark, sweet olives were placed on the table and quickly devoured.
Broad been purée (their attempts at making it look like a beautiful plate of food amused us) was delicious (but not beautiful). Zingy and fresh, sweet and simple, we scooped up every last little mouthful.
Spaghettini with tomatoes and burrata. Simplicity is perfection. Tomatoes blended with olive oil, garlic and basil and a fabulously generous layer of burrata hidden underneath the 'I was definitely only made ten minutes ago' pasta.
The star of the show then arrived. The dish that I would happily eat for the rest of my life. Aubergines layered with fresh pasta and ragù, with local cheese melting on the top and throughout the inner strata.
It was a sad moment when this was finished. A short, bitter espresso perked us up again and sent us on our way, full of talk about how we were going to recreate that aubergine at home. A work in progress.
Ristorante Cibus, Via Chianche di Scarano 7, 72013 Ceglie Messapica.