“Gambrinus (/gæmˈbraɪnəs/ gam-brahy-nuhs), is a legendary European culture hero celebrated as an icon of beer, brewing, joviality, and joie de vivre. Traditional songs, poems, and stories describe him as a king, duke, or count of Flanders and Brabant (Low Countries). Typical representations in the visual arts depict him as a rotund, bearded duke or king, holding a tankard or mug, and sometimes with a keg nearby. (…) Some, of course, imagine Gambrinus as a man who has an enormous capacity for drinking beer.” Excerpt from Wikipedia.
We are meeting a local singer Francesca Gramegna at the Gambrinus in Gravina, Puglia. The town is not as small as I recall when I was a teenager… it has been that long since I was here last time! The modern Gravina looks almost like a small city, it is vibrant, culturally different, too many cars for my taste and no longer I see farmer’s tractors, stockpiling of grain and flocks of sheep in the streets.
We park the car near the center piazza or villa, as it was called long ago. It was a place where on Sundays all the young women went to show themselves off to promising young lads. The procession of women heavily and smartly adorned with the latest fashion went on for hours under the watchful eyes of relatives walking by casually, as if they found their way there by chance. Something always happened between boys and girls, giggling, laughing, or simply a small talk to study the energy or the charisma of the other person. Just like in all the courting scenes rejection of a bothersome someone was common if the boy’s look and talk was not quite convincing. Au contraire, it was common for pretty girls to receive an invitation for a home dancing party, or an invitation to go out for a stroll. We were so innocent!
(Photos taken by ©Valentina Cirasola at the Gambrinus, Gravina di Puglia, Italy)
On foot we reach the Gambrinus Café in Via Matteotti, 32 and what a pleasant surprise it was! I enter the café with the expectation of drinking something special, but I realized it was still daytime, thus espresso and some local pastries was right for the hour.
I feel right at home in the Bohemian décor and the lighting concept is superb. So many various shaped and colored lampshades hanging from the ceiling over each table give a suffuse light. The bull’s eye lights over the counter shine a blue color circle on the granite stone. The asymmetrical and vaulted ceiling in some areas is enveloping and makes the Gambrinus a pleasant place to hang out.
I spot the home stove top espresso machine turned into a table lamp, how lovely, I like to have it! Even the base of each bistro tables is different from one another, there isn’t anything matching here, but everything works together well. Behind the bar counter, everything is modern and functional for the activity of selling. On the entertainment side, the décor is funky, Bohemian, a hodgepodge of things new and old that really makes no sense and somehow makes you feel good.
The eye doesn’t really know where to rest, as there is no focal point to direct the view and this is why I like it, the owners had the courage to break a few decorating rules. In doing so, they created an interesting environment, unique in its genre and away from the style of other cafe in the area. I would have made the walls just a tad darker to give that smoky and soft air of candlelight in the Belle Époque era.
I say this often, keep your décor fit for your personality and don’t follow anybody’s style, you will feel aligned with your soul and mind. Feeling good is an assured result.
Company is great, bocconotti a type of local pastry are delicious, coffee and cappuccino are done to perfection. We don’t have much time to taste other delicacy made here, we must go somewhere else to taste some food invention of the area, which will be another way I want to dazzle the group of Americans traveling with me.
By the way, singer Francesca Gramegna is my Italian cousin. If you want to listen to her voice, here she is with some music samples. www.francescagramegna.com
Copyright © 2014 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
I am writing a travel diary of my last trip to Puglia with an American group and sharing with all of you my notes of feelings, observations, food-wine tasting and experiences that have changed the life of people traveling with me. The trips I organize are made for people who want to live it up in Puglia! Check out my books on