When Bros’ won a Michelin star in late 2018, it was the first restaurant in the beautiful Italian city of Lecce, often described as the ‘Florence of the South’, to do so. The following year it was named the best contemporary restaurant in Italy at the Love Italian Life 2019 Awards in Dublin.
They might be forgiven for not wanting to mess with a winning formula. But the global pandemic has, as for many restaurateurs, forced chefs Floriano Pellegrino and Isabella Poti, partners in both a business and personal sense, to revaluate what they’re doing and what they want their restaurant to stand for.
The result is a shift to a completely vegetarian tasting-menu at Bros’, across eight or 13 courses, celebrating the products, and updating the traditions, of the region of Salento, Puglia, in which the restaurant is located. So, it’s out with the pigeon and in with the Apulian ricotta forte.
As a statement of solidarity with their eco-conscious generation, say Pellegrino (29) and Poti (24), it’s practicing what you preach. “We want to unburden ourselves from the responsibility of eating meat, even if we are flexitarian at home,” says Pellegrino. “Our restaurant is for us a spaceship where we can experiment and innovate according to our projection of the future.”
So, what does that future look like? Well, it starts in the past: nods to the pair’s Puglian upbringing in dishes of leftover salad ‘cake’ and the aforementioned ricotta forte – a strong ricotta served in volume with wild fennel oil, rather than as an accompaniment. A pasta course, served ambient, pairs spaghettone with milk, garlic and dried chilli, while elsewhere roasted beets fill in for rich roasted meats.
“The biggest challenge has been to structure the menu according to our philosophy, our four steps in the progression of flavour – the acid, the umami, the complex and the sweet – in a way that you do not perceive the lack of animal protein,” says Pellegrino.
And their customers approve. “Isabella, the whole team, and I were convinced about the transition and we were not scared about the reaction from our clients,” says Pellegrino. “In fact, we appreciate the maturity of our customers and followers, who have approved and embraced this choice from the beginning.” No chance of a vegan menu however for Pellegrino: “I really like butter and other animal derived ingredients, therefore it would be too drastic a decision,” he says.
So, climb aboard the spaceship and take a look at dishes from the new vegetarian menu at Bros' in this gallery.