Dinner at this family-run Upper Street trattoria epitomises the ‘cucina povera’ (‘poor cooking’) of the Southern Italian region. Daubed on toast and served on a terracotta crock, the fave e cicorie (broad bean purée with wilted chicory) was velvety, earthy and humming with garlic. History hats on: back in feudal times, farmers torched any spent crops before re-planting, but allowed Apulian locals to glean any remaining grains first. They ground the leftover wheat into a smoky flour, which was used for breads and pastas and still serves as a memento of the hard times. Terra Rossa does this dark, nutty ‘grano arso’ (burnt grain) pasta with yellow tomatoes and black olives on a bed of puréed broccoli: smoky and bitter, it was like no pasta dish I’d ever tried (and vegan too).
The pappardelle arrived topped with chunks of dark wild boar meat, which came off in delicate threads when prodded. Despite the pasta being ever so slightly too al dente for my taste, the ragù, inky with negroamaro wine, delivered just the right side of richness.
Although it nails the Puglian charm inside – think nonna’s lacy doilies hung from the ceiling, rustic wooden furniture and exposed brick walls painted white – the best seat in the house is on the pavement itself. In summer, with the doors thrown wide open, it’s the sort of spot you’d linger (just don’t order the Bloody Mary: it was all tommy juice). In a street saturated by good dining, Terra Rossa has a lot to shout about – fresh, high-quality ingredients and a reasonably priced, bold menu. Ciao, minced octopus bolognese – I’ll be back for you next time.