Italy is renowned for its delicious food of simple flavours and fresh ingredients. But the country has way more to offer than the stereotypical pizza. And now, thanks to a new restaurant, you can sample authentic food from Puglia, a region in the South of Italy, without leaving Prague 8.
Prague Morning went along to Pan Panzerotto to talk to the owner, Mauro Lovecchio and taste the food that defined his childhood.
Pan Panzerotto offers a range of light lunchtime bites, from soup to Focaccia, and baked pasta. You can finish off your meal with almond coffee and sweet ricotta desserts, but the star of the show is its namesake, panzerotti.
Whether you choose the traditional with tomato and mozzarella or be adventurous and try the gorgonzola, mascarpone and walnut, you will taste the rich history in every mouthful.
These deep-fried dough pockets are born from the Apulian peasant tradition and are now most often eaten as indulgent street food.
The recipe was thought to have come from Arabic culture due to trades and military invasions from North Africa to the Mediterranean, as many classic dishes from the Puglia region came from the Ottoman Empire. In manuscripts from the 13th century, there is a reference to a fried dish with cheese that is similar to Panzerotti.
Mauro has fond memories of the dish being served at family parties: “We would gather on a sunny, summery Sunday at our country house where our grandmother would make enough panzerotti to feed us all. You only made them for sharing between lots of people because when you do it at home you mess up the kitchen quite badly!”
Bringing the iconic dish to Karlin hasn’t been easy. They use Mauro’s mother’s recipe, but since their kitchen equipment is different in the restaurant than it was in the family home in Bari, they had to finetune the recipe. “It took weeks to get right,” Mauro explains. “For 14 days I was eating panzerotti for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
And what about opening a restaurant in the midst of a pandemic? The timing just felt right to Mauro and his mother, he says. “I needed a challenge, something to wake me up. We’ve been working on this idea for a few years, but we haven’t had the proper motivation until recently.
The pandemic triggered a process that was already ready to start.”
Why did Mauro choose Prague to set up the family restaurant? “The choice was ‘easy’, he says. “I first lived here in 2006 for work, before I moved to Wales and had a child. We had to decide where we wanted to raise him. Prague seemed perfect. It’s very balanced – vibrant, but not too chaotic.”
We chose Karlín specifically because I really like the area and its enticing atmosphere. It’s a receptive neighbourhood to new ideas, a place where you expect to find something different.”