Getting the right people to run things in a new restaurant or hotel is key. And when you've got a world-famous director running things, you can bet he's gonna get his casting right the first time around.

Francis Ford Coppola is no newbie to the hotel biz. His exotic resorts in Belize, Guatemala and Argentina are justifiably well loved. But his latest foray takes him back to his family's roots, in Basilicata, Italy. He's taken over the grandest palazzo in the small town of Bernalda and transformed it into a five-star luxury oasis.

While the huge suites, luscious garden and frescoed salons are reason enough to visit, the key role is played by Filomena, who takes center stage in the kitchen. You can almost hear Francis saying, “Find me an Italian nonna who can cook.” Really. It's like she stepped out of Central Casting.

Except she's not playing the cooking nonna, she really is one. Working with local ingredients, she prepares feasts in the eat-in kitchen that is the beating heart of this hotel. Homemade pastas take center stage, alongside the intensely flavored vegetables like red peppers and wild field greens that come from this part of the world. A recent meal there included deep-fried wild hyacinth bulbs, orecchiette with broccoli rabe, braised baby artichokes, lamb-stuffed mushrooms, roasted Senise peppers and wild hyacinth fritters.

Filomena is as generous as you'd expect any self-respecting Italian nonna to be. Her aim is to feed you, and feed you well. And if you have some extra time, so does she, and she's more than happy to teach you exactly how she makes that pasta.

Palazzo Margherita: Corso Umberto 64, Bernalda (MT) 75012 Italy; +39.0835.549.060.

Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Elizabeth Minchilli blogs at elizabeth minchilli in rome. Follow her on Twitter @eminchilli.

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