Anthony Bourdain at Lecce: our personal experience
We would like to share our story of the days when Anthony Bourdain and Asia Argento came to Alle Due Corti Restaurant to dine and then to make the show that would be part of the world-famous TV show Parts Unknown. We met them by chance when they stayed a few days in Lecce with the crew of the show to shoot an episode set in Italy. But according to the original selection, Alle Due Corti Restaurant was not in their list.
The chance meeting with Giorgio Grassi and Rosalba De Carlo
It so happened that Anthony Bourdain and Asia Argento stayed in a beautiful historic home in the old town of Lecce.
The receptionist, while selecting for them a place in which to dine and spend some quiet moments after the activities of all day, booked at Alle Due Corti, presenting us as a place in which they could taste the real traditional dishes of Salento.
That’s how they came to our restaurant in the late evening. They sat at a table in the middle of the room mingled with other guests. Some people recognized them: our clients come from every part of the word, they are cultured and interested in issues related to food. Anthony Bourdain has always been the media personification of these concepts in as noble a sense as possible.
They ordered the most typical and traditional dishes of our menu: Ciceri and Tria (half fried half boiled handmade pasta with chickpeas), Fave nette cu le cicureddhe (broad bean puré and wild chicory), Lasagna, Taieddha (Mussels, potatoes and rice baked in the oven), local wine from the best producers. So we met them, started to talk about our food, recipes for a long time after dinner. They came back the following evening and also the next.
The proposal, the surprise, the confusion
In the early morning of the fourth day, we received a call from the reception of the house where they were lodged. The speech was 30 seconds long: if we accepted it, Antonhy Bourdain’s entire crew would come to our restaurant in about an hour. They would include us in their TV show, adding us to the episode of Parts Unknown from Italy, from Lecce.
In your opinion, how long had we been thinking about it? Of course, we accepted without any other queries or details!!
But… panic in the Alle due corti Restaurant!
As soon as the phone call to the restaurant was over, panic broke out. Practically with zero warning the most important show in the world in our field had decided to involve us in an experience which could change our lives.
It was July, our Restaurant was full, all booked up for lunch and dinner!!! How to find space and time for the TV Show?
Some guests, we tried to move to another restaurant, making sure that our clients were guaranteed the best treatment at our expense in recompense for the inconvenience.
There were those of us who hurried off to the market to desperately buy all kinds of particularly photogenic vegetables.
Those of us who tried to decide how to dress, those who tried to guess in advance what would be the most satisfactory dishes for the show. Everything had to be perfect, as perfect as possible. There were even a few of us who almost cried: because they were not ready to face such an upheaval in our kitchen. But the emotional rush was fast approaching, and in a few minutes… whoosh!
Start of the shooting session
In a short time hell broke out. At the beginning two producers arrived, with their own interpreters just to be sure that everything was clear and arranged.
Soon came the tzunami of lighting technicians. Given the urgency of the matter, without any preliminary restaurant inspection, they tried to understand how to illuminate the chosen areas. They also defined the spot where the Antony and Asia’s table could be placed, where they would have their dinner while discussing the traditional dishes of Lecce.
The technicians calculated distances and glimpses of the shots… in short, what a mess!
Spotlights and cameras were mounted everywhere, the cameramen checked the shots rendered on the display. Everything was ready to go, and in the kitchen Giorgio Grassi and Rosalba De Carlo began to prepare what had previously been agreed upon.
It was really difficult to stay cool while cooking, knowing that someone is shooting you, executing with excruciating care even the slightest movement, puff of steam, drop of sauce. Just smiling and carrying on with the cooking like nothing was happening!!
The interruption for clients’ dinner
Unfortunately soon it was clear that the shooting would last longer than expected. We had been closed for lunch but not all of the dinner reservations had been moved or canceled. Some people had booked a table several months previous. They had their hears set on dining at Alle Due Corti Restaurant, and couldn’t be disappointed. From the frying pan into the fire: but fortunately the production team decided to solve the problem by suspending the shooting momentarily, and then resuming after our clients had had dinner.
It was a very unusual and surreal scene for us. All the vans of the technicians, all their instruments and vehicles, cameras and everything else were parked in the small square in front of the main window of our Restaurant.
All the cameramen, the make-up artists, the production managers were out there, everyone on the street, camping out in front of the Restaurant waiting for the end of our clients’ meals.
Shooting at Alle due corti Restaurant
Our kitchen has never been as fast as that evening. The collaboration of the guests was also fundamental: some people finished their meals quickly to wait and just be present outside the Restaurant during the shooting, which ended about at 5 in the morning!!!
From 9 am one day until 5 am of the next day, Alle Due Corti Restaurant was completely dedicated to this extraordinary activity.
From the kitchen to the dining room, Giorgio Grassi and his mother Rosalba De Carlo were deeply involved in a huge experience concerning food, recipes and traditional dishes. At the table Anthony and Asia asked them for tales and information about what they were eating. The chef Giorgio Grassi had them taste Ciceri and Tria, Taieddha, Turcinieddhi, Fave nette cu le cicureddhe.
What did we take away from it all?
Not only the incredible fatigue, the intense emotions, but above all the pleasure of meeting two very special people.
Anthony Bourdain, a real gentleman. Original enough to avoid all trivial content, often dominating TV shows when it comes to gastronomic topics. Able to capture the real essence of food, but also the spirit of the place which produced it, the connection between recipes and local tradition. A palpable kindness that enveloped his every single word, his every glance, and always so interested in details.
Asia Argento: an intelligently sophisticated woman, gentle in her manner, in her voice, in her expression even late into the night. A figure strongly in contrast with the image that often seems to characterize her. Her authentic sweetness surprised and conquered us, it was a pleasure just observing her.