Who we are

“Antonio e gli altri amici hanno pure messo in piedi un ristorante sulla Cripta di San Giovanni che non trovate sulle guide Michelin, ma che merita tre stelle, vari cappelli, forchette, qualità del cibo, ricerca delle origini culturali e anche culinarie, passione vera per la propria terra e tanta, tanta gentilezza, che dopo poco vi sembra vi essere da sempre uno di loro, bravi italiani, gente di cui essere fieri”

(Andrea Pamparana, giornalista e scrittore, vicedirettore TG5)

Like in a fairy tale, like in an ancient legend with a slightly exotic flavour, catapulted into a magical and enchanted reality, surrounded by nature and pampered by genuine and unique flavours: all this is Il Fòllaro. Not a restaurant, but much more, a corner of paradise at an altitude of 120 meters, located in one of the most evocative views of Salento.

We are in Giuggianello, on the Monte di San Giovanni, a few meters from the hill of nymphs and children, in a village that in the past was the domain of Messapi and Byzantine. Right here, in this small corner of a hidden Salento and far from the glossy pages of tourist portals, Antonio and Antonella decided to build, almost twenty years ago, their small kingdom, made of good flavours, precious raw materials and a lot of passion.

The name, Fòllaro, from the Latin follis, is nothing more than a tribute to the historical value of the place where the restaurant is located. During the works of arrangement of the entrance of the Crypt of St. John adjacent to the structure were found, in fact, five ancient coins (follis), one of which is linked to Constantine VII in the first century AD (*).

“This was enough to decide its name – explains Antonio – yes we wanted it to be a place full of history, culture, suggestions, a place where the customer would not only and exclusively come to taste the freshness and quality of the dishes, but also and above all to go back in time, to be enveloped by a magical aura, to detach, even if only for a moment, from reality and place themselves, suspended in mid-air, in another dimension … a world in the clouds, in a village to be discovered.

The structure was born almost by chance, on the occasion of the Sagra di San Giovanni, which is held on the hill, in front of the Crypt, in honor of the Saint. Here, the town of Giuggianello and the inhabitants of the nearby villages flocked in the evenings of June to celebrate, sing and eat together. But to do all this, one had to equip oneself, it was necessary to build a structure in accordance with the norms, equipped with drinking water, toilets and electricity. After the days of the festival, however, began to think that it was a waste to leave everything abandoned and so Antonio and other members of the association came up with the idea of making a small restaurant, a small restaurant. He, who had experience in the restaurant business behind him, took over the management. And that’s how their adventure was born, 18 years ago, a bet won.

The little restaurant has grown a lot and is now entirely family-run. The roles are well defined at Fòllaro. Antonio, manager everything to do: waiter at the tables, fresh fish scout (yes, in short, it is he who chooses the best fish in the early hours of dawn in the markets of Otranto, Castro, Gallipoli), farmer if necessary. Fearless Cicero among the treasures of the place, he escorts the most curious customers and accompanies them on a guided tour to discover the historical evidence kept in the hills, an impeccable tourist guide, tells stories and legends related to those places, adorning the story with dates, curiosities and anecdotes. And while customers discover the wonders of the place, from the kitchen the scents invade the whole hill. Antonella, Antonio’s wife, is the chef, curator, creator and creative cook, she is in charge of satisfying even the most demanding palates. And she doesn’t miss a beat. With love and passion she is dedicated to the choice of raw materials, fresh and selected, behind the stove she creates, invents, mixes and gives life to culinary masterpieces that leave everyone speechless, from appetizer to dessert.

And then there are Riccardo and Mattia, the little one of the Riccardo family you can find behind the counter of Il giardino del Fòllaro Unique bar, the lawn underneath the little restaurant used as a relaxation corner, he is the one who takes care of that space. Relaxation, live music and many cocktails for those who decide to enjoy the quiet in the hills. Mattia, on the other hand, you will find him a bit ‘everywhere, the parsley of the family, he is responsible for taking care of the place in every detail from the furniture to the lighting to the drinklist of the garden.

The Fòllaro brings ancient traces, in the places and dishes, revisited by the skill of Antonella, a culinary tradition that smells of sea and ancient populations. A land of Messapians, Greeks, Byzantines that leaves its mark. And as the fireball sets, there on the hillside, and nature is tinged with red, the clock hands turn back in time, a time made of ancient songs and authentic flavours. The scents bewitch, the song of the cicadas accompanies the footsteps of the waiters serving dishes among ancient olive trees and distant legends.