Puglia’s typical pasta is orecchiette (“little ears”, after their shape), but the region is home to a host of other varieties that you will not find elsewhere, like troccoli, cavatelli, stacchiodde, curti, gruessi and more. Most are made with flour and water, eggs having once been considered a luxury. Meat is usually lamb (agnello), but horsemeat (cavallo or carne equine) is also eaten.
Lots of sheep means good cheeses. The most celebrated is canestrato pugliese (after the canestri, or baskets, in which it is aged), which is often grated on pasta. Also, look out for cheeses that should be eaten fresh, preferably within 24 hours, notably burrata di Andria, fallone di Gravina, and pampanella (partly flavoured by the fig leaves in which it is wrapped).
Puglia has always produced a lot of wine – its output is around half of Australia’s total production, and almost the equal of all wine produced in Germany. In the past most of its wine was sent north, either to fortify other wines or to make vermouth. Now, though, standards are improving. Lots of sun and robust traditional grape varieties such as primitivo (a close cousin of zinfandel) often make for powerful reds – look out for the primitivo from Manduria and Gioia di Colle.
What to eat in Puglia
Puglia’s Salento boasts gorgeous beaches, lush farmland, ornate churches, and ancient ruins. It’s also home to many of the foods Italy is famous for! Its deeply-rooted cucina povera tradition means its cuisine tends to be simple and delicious, relying on fresh, local produce. And Puglia and the Salento have lots of fantastic ingredients to choose from—like chickpeas, homegrown herbs and spices, olive and olive oil, tomatoes, and, of course, fresh seafood.
This is the type of pasta made in Puglia. In front of Castello Svevo, in the “Old town”, you’ll find a street where a lot of old ladies sell handmade orecchiette. It’s really nice because they show you how to do and they can prepare it in the moment.
One of the most famous kinds of food in town. Focaccia is a flat oven-baked Italian bread product, made by flour, water, salt, oil and yeast, with tomatoes, olives or herbs (sometimes with potatoes), and other delicacies.
Similar to POPIZZE, but filled with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese or minced meat or what you like most.
Baccalà alla salentina
This traditional dish of Puglia and the Salento takes dried and salted cod to the next level. It’s sprinkled with breadcrumbs, pecorino cheese and fresh tomato, then baked in the oven with potatoes to a golden crisp. Che grande!
Frisella is one of Puglia’s most famous food. It is this amazing, crunchy, very dry bread normally baked in a stone oven and sometimes has a hole in the middle. These little crunchy breads have been around forever and are best when served with tomatoes and basil with some olive oil. I love it served like bruschetta, but the locals eat it dipped in salty water to give it some more flavor and soften it up.
Puddica is a speciality food in Puglia, it is a bread dough, that is also mixed with mashed potatoes and rolled into flat bread. They are baked similarly to pizza and then covered with tomatoes and seasonings! YUM! I mean, bread and potatoes all rolled into one?! Che fico!
Il Rustico is very special and considered one of the best foods of Puglia, Italy. Once you leave Puglia, it hard if not impossible to find anywhere else. The rustico is part pastry, part pizza. It is sealed and cooked, similar to a calzone, but instead of being made with pizza dough, it is made with puff pastry. Depending on what town you are in, they come stuffed with different things. In Lecce, they are stuffed with bechamel sauce, mozzarella, and fresh tomatoes then baked in the oven. Oh, Mamma Mia! Can’t you just taste the melted mozzarella!?
Burrata is a local fresh cheese specialty in Southern Italy. It is unique because it has the outer skin much like fresh buffalo mozzarella but the inside is filled with cream. Yes, cream! This is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. It is usually served fresh and at room temperature. The word burrata means “buttered” in Italian. Let me tell you, I can eat a plate of this, easy, just like butter! Incredible!
Puglia best drinks
You’ll need some wine to wash this all down, and fortunately Puglia is one of the top wine producing regions in Italy, at least in volume. Stylistically its wines are quite similar to Sicily, which shares the hotter southern climate and coastal influences, and they also share an important grape variety, primitivo, used to make full bodied fruity reds that can be consumed young.
While Italian wines are famous, it seems only recently that Puglia’s wines are getting their due. One not to miss while you’re here: primitivo, a heady and intense red wine that’s said to have its beginnings in the days the Phoenicians inhabited Puglia, thousands of years ago. Primitivo is very similar to California’s Zinfandel—in fact, the grapes may be genetically identical—though the two wines are not the same. Salento, a wine region in Puglia’s sun-baked southeast, is the perfect place for primitivo tasting at wineries like Tenute Rubino and Conti Zecca; as is the city of Manduria, home to the Museo della Civilta del Vino Primitivo, or Museum of Primitivo Wine.
Have an aperitivo, of an Aperol spritzer, and some antipasto! One of my favorite drinks is this spritzer. This little baby is Italian prosecco with a splash of Campari or Aperol and a big fat orange to soak up all that alcohol goodness. It is tart and sparkling sweet all in one and a great drink to have before dinner with some snacks. The Italians always drink it with a big straw. What is not to like about that?!
Puglia’s best places where you can drink and dine with your family
Food is one of the best thing in discovering a new place, so we make a selection with the best restaurant and cafés in Puglia so you can explore and taste the delicious Italian meals. Vacation had the taste of the region you visit so make sure to try a traditional dish prepared with olive oil and herbs. Wash down with a carafe of Apulian primitivo and all we can say is Buon appetito!
Gia Sotto L’Arco
In Carovigno, Puglia, there is a special restaurant that you might want to try because of the tradition of several years which made it become the top dining place that you can find in the area. The interior is very elegant, and the cuisine offers the pleasure of experiencing so many flavors. This is probably the only restaurant which has been faithful to local tradition in dishes such as pasta with ricotta and wild fennel on a base of sour tomato sauce and pigeon with redcurrant sauce. The menu also includes a wide range of delicious desserts and the bill at the end will make you spend almost 30 Euros for a full menu.
Grotta Palazzese is a stunning restaurant built centuries ago inside a cave on the Italian coast with breathtaking views over the Adriatic. The restaurant is carved from cliff face’s limestone and is one of the most romantic restaurants in Italy- juts out 74 feet above sea level allowing diners to watch the waves as they indulge in scenery. Listen to and watch the sea surging against the cliff wall below you while enjoying the finest cuisine and service.
Located in Trani, this restaurant will offer you the chance to explore and taste the longest wine list while you experience the delicious Italian meals. Inside, a few tables are laid out in a small, barrel-vaulted room with bare sandstone walls. The menu varies according to the day’s catch; raw oysters with walnuts could as antipasto; a primo consists of a delicate tagliolini with courgette flowers, mussels and mint, while secondi are dominated by fresh grilled fish and seafood. For 40 Euros, let yourself explore the best of the Italian cuisine.
Trattoria Le Zie
This fantastic restaurant in Lecce is actually a private house which is run by some friendly women, always giving you the feeling that you are at home. The restaurant serves cucina povera specialities which are all superb. Dish after dish appears: blanched chicory in white bean purée; home-made oreccheitte with greens; potatoes baked with mussels and cheese. Before eating, have a glass of the local wine and an espresso, and prepare yourself for dishes starting from 15 Euros.
Just 30 minutes away is the beautiful white city of Ostuni. Drop in to the Riccardo cafFè when you’re there, where you can hang out with the locals sitting on cushions on the steps to the bar. Order one of the house Aperol spritzes and watch the world go by.
Blanc café, Gallipoli
This chic bar in the seaside town of Gallipoli is a wonderful place to have a drink. Cocktails are innovative and delicious (as are the appetisers that accompany the drinks) and the décor and atmosphere in this high ceiling’d stone building are stunning.