Located in the “heel of the boot,” the Puglia region of Italy is surrounded by ocean, so it’s not surprising that seafood is popular along its 800 kilometers of coastline. What is surprising is that it’s predominantly a farming region. This is where the East Greenwich eatery La Masseria comes in; meaning “the farmhouse” in English to reflect the Puglian cuisine they specialize in, everyone involved is passionate about bringing the region’s unique, authentic palate to Rhode Island. The same can be said for general manager Emanuele “Manny” Tampella’s passion for the restaurant business – it’s genuine.
Starting his 27-year restaurant career as a busboy at a pizzeria in Milano, he knew immediately that “the restaurant industry was meant for me.” Even in the less-than-glamorous role, Tampella’s passion for all things food was sincere.
Describing what appeals to him most about the farmhouse-style food, Tampella says it stems from “my Italian heritage, of course. I was brought up with this cuisine. Most
assume Italian cuisine is all about the pastas but we also love the meats and the fish!”
Tampella met the owners of La Masseria in 2012 when he began working for them as a waiter. Having started the concept in NYC, Tampella explains that, “one of the managing partners was originally from Rhode Island and wanted to expand our great name to this state.” The experienced owners recognized that Tampella’s knowledge of the restaurant business equaled his passion for the food. As a result of this combination, he quickly worked his way up to general manager of the East Greenwich location and now works closely with the executive chef in NYC. “He creates the menus for every location and I curate and review them to ensure they’re properly offering items for each season,” Tampella says.
A charismatic personality has made him the perfect choice to represent the restaurant on The Rhode Show, on one occasion removing his impeccably tailored jacket to demonstrate a lobster and avocado
appetizer and raviolo al’uovo (egg yolk ravioli). As lobster is ubiquitous in Rhode Island, Tampella noted that a bit of fusion “came over time. The foundation is always Italian, but we add some local elements that spice it up a bit, like our cuttlefish and octopus appetizer, which is currently a popular dish.”
At a time when international travel is still tenuous, it’s great to stay close to home and still experience authentic Puglian cuisine. But Tampella reminds us that we have more in common than we may think. “Americans and Italians are very similar in the fact that they both enjoy food, enjoy good service, and enjoy great quality.”
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