The Patria Palace Hotel in Lecce is an institution. It is located in the historic center in piazzetta Riccardi, overlooking the magnificent facade of the Basilica of Santa Croce. But the hotel itself is a piece of history of the city having its headquarters in an eighteenth-century palace, austere and linear in contrast to the baroque magnificence that rises from the front.
Invitation to lunch at the palace
The aristocratic residence of the D’Anna-Petrarolo family was designed by the architect Mauro Manieri, the same of the Church of Sant’Irene and the Church of Carmine in Lecce.
The palace was donated to a religious order and, for several years, it was a well-known orphanage in the Salento peninsula.
In 1850 it was bought by the engineer’s family Giacomo Gridi who opened the first “Locanda per viandanti” which, reflecting the history of time in an Italy that was advancing towards its Unit, took the name of “Locanda Patria”.
From the mid-800s to the present, the Patria Palace Hotel has become the reference point for hospitality in the capital of Salento, guaranteeing modern comfort among walls full of atmosphere and history.
I had also been there a few years ago, when I had not yet become a blogger, but on this occasion I was in charge of the press office of an important event that took place in the city involving journalists from all over Italy.
The room that was assigned to me was not “rewarding”: quite small and facing the side street of the building, so with a view of the enchanting and scenic beauty of the Santa Croce, which was closed. At the time, however, “veiled” by dense scaffolding that hid the stone embroidery.
When we returned together Michele and I, on the other hand, from the roof garden immediately looked towards the part already freed from the scaffolding, offering the apex of the extraordinary shining and almost blinding facade in the hot July sun as well as more than one precious gem.
On the ground floor of the hotel is hosted Atenze, the elegant restaurant with refined settings and an outdoor area among alleys and squares where you can breathe the history of the city.
Although the terrace is very inviting, as it is facing the paved road that leads to via Umberto dominated by the church of Santa Croce and the adjoining former convent of the Celestines, the heat is almost suffocating, so in the choice inside / outside proposed to us by very kind Front Office Manager Salvatore Perrone, who welcomed us at the entrance, we opted for the room, large, fresh and at our absolute disposal as well as the chef Ivan Bruno and his help Christiano.
After the presentations that allowed us to learn more about the personality and the career path of the superintendent at the stoves of the Atenze restaurant, which has in his palmares both collaborations with historic restaurants in the city of Lecce and in starred restaurants, first in Tuscany then in Paris, the dances of the dishes on the table began.
The cuisine of chef Bruno takes advantage of the perfect combination of the Salento origins and international inspirations and this emerges from the welcome that was served at the table together with the wine that then accompanied all the lunch: the pleasant and fragrant rosé Cantele obtained from Negroamaro vine and aged in steel.
In a very scenographic way, in a dish that simulates an icy base, we were presented with the purple Gallipoli shrimp which, together with the meloncella represents the territory to which it belongs, served with sprouts and sour cream, clear references to a wider taste, derived from the tradition of American, French and Russian cuisine in which crème fraîche or sour creme is often the protagonist.
We really liked the savory reinterpretation of the pasticciotto, made very tasty by the creamy filling of smoked burrata and prawns on English sauce. Here, too, a beautiful mix of gastronomic styles and flavors, among which the sweet and soft crustaceans stand out in contrast with the smoke of the dairy product and the revisitation of the classic version of the English cream in which the drops of local extra virgin olive oil emerge intensely.
Exceptional cooking and the consistency of risotto, something never taken for granted in our south, which very often regards approximation about this preparation. Perfect is the one proposed by chef Bruno at the croaker with ginger pearls which in the mouth has literally unleashed the taste buds between the refreshing, pungent and almost spicy flavor of ginger and the more delicate flavor of the fish.
There was also one of the main dishes of the White & Gold themed Social Dinner held on the terrace of the building to which we had been invited but to which we were unable to participate: the chef wanted to pay homage to this preparation created for the occasion that combines with the sea bass slice with gold cover a Galatina potato base and an unexpected green tea infusion with soy and mint that gives the whole an intense but tasty freshness. Remarkable is the chromatic combination of the sunny yellow of the potato cream, the gold flakes of the fish, the purple red of the radishes and the brown bottom of the tea, laid on the intense blue of the dish.
Dulcis in fundo another surprise! The sweet version of caprese proposed by the sous chef Cristiano where mozzarella is very well replaced by a ball of delicious ricotta ice cream and the tomato from a gelèe to watermelon. The only identical element in the two preparations remains the basil which gives the unmistakable fragrance both in the savory and in the dessert.
Atenze in our opinion is confirmed, from the name that refers to the historical and artistic value of the city of Lecce defined the Athens of Salento and the Florence of the South, as one of the best restaurants in Puglia.
You can stop for a quick lunch on the outdoor terrace with ad hoc smart menus and a candlelit dinner on the roof garden with a lovely view of the Basilica of Santa Croce. With the convenience that if you are away from home you can decide to be welcomed by the comfortable rooms of the Patria Palace Hotel, to let your dreams be cradled by history.