Self Taught (Italian)
Silvestro has been teaching the food and wine of Puglia and, in particular, Italy's Salentine peninsula, since 2003. He has a lot of very pragmatic, blue collar work experience in the food and wine industry. He baked bread, cut meat, decorated wedding cakes, made wine, picked olives, cooked in restaurants, waited tables, and picked artichokes. In addition to his knowledge of Pugliese food and culture, Silvestro is a nationally certified sommelier in Italy, and a staff writer for Wine and Spirits magazine, covering all their Southern Italian food and wine content.
Unending food, never a dull moment and a really special dinner that surprised us all mid-week. Silvestro has created a very special program, very well organized, delicious food, tireless staff and lovely group of participants to cook with. None of us were professional chefs, but all had an interest in cooking. We started as a group of 14 strangers and were good friends by the end of the week. Of those, 5 were solo travelers (myself included), three were neighbor friends and the remaining were couples. Five were returning clients from past years, which speaks volumes about the program. Though I was traveling solo for the first time, I never felt alone. This is a really good program for a solo traveler. Accommodations at the castle were spacious and very comfortable. Weather in October was beautiful, not too hot and not too cool, afternoon lunches were on the patio of the historic castle. Silvestro's teaching went beyond the kitchen and included a walk to the butcher, the vegetable market and a social lesson in ordering coffee at the local cafe, as odd as that sounds but for a foreigner with little or no language skills, it was very helpful. We learned much about the olive oil industry that was concerning and not known to us as consumers. Before this class, making pasta was an intimidating prospect but after making pasta twice each day, we were all proficient by the last day. Staff worked tirelessly, we all very much enjoyed and appreciated Desi, Anna and Paola, they took care of all the parts of cooking that we all like the least, the prep and cleanup. Silvestro's advice for travel considerations were very helpful for pre-planning - follow them - its bang on - he has thought of everything. The Awaiting Table offers a few referrals for Lecce accommodation, one was at Palazzo Gorgano and much appreciated, good advice. When checking in, I asked Marta at Palazzo Gorgano if she knew of the Awaiting Table and what was to come, she described it as 'magical' --- it was. Memorable! A far better trip to Italy than the typical week in a hotel doing tours. Thank you Silvestro -- and Desi, and Anna, and Paola.
Just returned from Olive Oil U, a course featuring all things olive oil. The course was held south of Lecce and the group took over a castle in a small town. We cooked lunch and dinner all but one day and learned so much about the local cooking techniques and ingredients. AND we helped pick olives, went to the grinding mill, and had an olive oil tasting of different types of liquid gold--all leading to the discovery that our every day olive oil at home is so deficient. We all received a 5 liter can, due to arrive any day now. We learned how to make all types of pastas, local vegetable and meat dishes, and they were served in stunningly beautiful settings. The staff was top-notch and Silvestro provided well-documented and understandable instruction. If you love to cook, and you want an intensive cooking experience, this is for you!
A traveler Denver
This was my 7th trip to the Awaiting Table school to take a group of guests. People always ask me if that gets boring going back to the same place, but it's just the opposite: after a few visits, the staff have become friends, the locals no longer strangers, and the experience more intimate. I'd highly encourage you to not only attend the program, but to go back - try the school in town, try the school at the castle, attend the birthday week celebration like we did this year to make tomato sauce - or attend the combined biking and cooking school program like I will do next year with 20 friends. Not only will you keep learning about southern Italian food and wine, but I'm guessing you'll make some lifelong friends!
a traveler United States
We had one day with Silvestro. First, a trip to several markets, with Silvestro imparting lots of knowledge about each place, the food they were selling and why he shops at each place. Then a great lunch, which we helped prepare, including pasta. And, of course, local wine, about which he's very knowledgeable. In fact, Silvestro's background is fascinating as is the breadth of his expertise. Lots of insights into Lecce and Puglia, travel, language and life in general. Then, a siesta and back to prepare and eat a wonderful dinner, with more wine and conversation. A lifetime experience.
a traveler Italy
From making the booking to the day itself, everything was superbly done. If you don't give a day to this while in Lecce you will be really missing out. You don't need to be the world's best cook just be prepared to give it a go. It's about the fresh food, making pasta, the cooking (of course), the wine and Silvestro's knowledge plus the chatting with others sharing where they have been or are going.
a traveler United Kingdom
We spent the day with Silvestro and his charming team of helpers. From beginning to end we had a great time - fun, great tips on food preparation, wine, and even cheese production. We created two fabulous meals and learnt some very useful techniques. We ate and drank very heartily all day. I would thoroughly recommend this experience. We left with a greatly enhanced understanding of food , wine, and the beautiful region that is Puglia. We will be back and encourage anyone who loves to cook to visit.
The weeklong cooking class at the castle was a wonderful experience for learning Italian cooking, experiencing local wines and sharing ideas with new mentors and friends. For those wanting to immerse themselves into the cuisine of Puglia, this is the perfect course. Every day we prepared two meals, lunch and dinner. Prior to each meal, Sylvestro (the head of the school) would lead a discussion of the upcoming meal, its preparation and the wines accompanying it. Following the discussion, we would prepare the meal in a large well-equipped kitchen. Sylvestro and his staff were always there to assist us but this is truly a "hands-on" cooking course. All meals were shared at a beautiful outdoor setting, where we continued to discuss the food, our thoughts on its preparation, and the wine chosen to accompany the meal. The meals were hours of delicious food, meaningful discussion and forging new friendships.A week at the castle passed very quickly. The accommodations in the castle were very comfortable and the small town surrounding the castle was very welcoming to the class participants. Sylvestro is an outstanding teacher, very knowledgeable of both cooking and wine, and he enjoys sharing his knowledge with the class as well as learning from the class.The staff is excellent and very helpful from enrollment in the class and travel tips for your arrival to daily assistance while you are at the course. I'm sure this class is just the first of my classes at The Awaiting Table Cooking School.
Siobhan Petri Australia
After my first great experience at The Awaiting Table back in May, I returned to for the annual Tomato Sauce making course where we all rolled our sleeves up, chopped, diced, stirred, spilled, sipped, bottled, got messy, and had a great laugh.We also returned to the kitchens and cooked our own truly local lunches and dinners, and along the way learnt about the cultural relevance of what we were eating, seasonality of produce, about wine, olive oil, the language, and so much more. I learnt much more than just putting ingredients into a pan and left with a greater understanding of this regions cuisine, history, and culture.If you have a sense of adventure and an adventurous spirit, love food, wine, and don't want a 'cookie cutter' style holiday, I couldn't recommend this more.
Jason A. New York, United States
I made a return trip to The Awaiting Table, this time to participate in the sauce-making course. I would highly recommend - and hope to return for a third time!
Jef McCready Canada
Our group of 15 Canadians spent three days at The Awaiting Table's castle location in Spongano, where the kitchen is pretty much an exact replica of Silvestro's kitchen in Lecce. The castle setting is enchanting and the accommodations excellent. Each day, we made two types of pasta that were typical of the Puglia region. We also made delectable chicken, fish, rabbit, and vegetable dishes to go with our handmade pasta. For each meal, Silvestro expertly paired a Puglian wine, be it a ros, white, or full-bodied red, including the delicious negroamaro. Silvestro is engaging and eager to share his extensive knowledge of food and wine. His staff are warm and welcoming. In short, this was an amazing experience that I will not soon forget and will hope to repeat. I would unreservedly recommend this experience to my friends and family.
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