I Dream of Puglia

Like, a lot.

I noticed no mentions of Puglia here so figured I’ll start the conversation. We went last summer/early spring and I can comfortably say it ranks quite up there with Sicily, Piedmont, Tuscany as far as food/culture/attractions combination. Caribbean-like beaches to boot. Prices generally in the south seem much more reasonable, and this was no exception. Fresh seafood galore, along with fantastic cheeses and produce, especially tomatoes. The tomatoes impressed us more than the more famous cheeses but that could be a testament to the poor quality back at home. Capocollo di Martina Franca reigns supreme, and can be found on many menus including on pizza. We found plenty of quality pizza as well especially in Lecce

Besides Martina Franca it seems like almost every other town is famous for something. Bread in Matera (not puglia but close and often paired with) and more famously Altamura. The Bombette (pork rolls stuffed with cheese, and other stuff) of Cisternino, and its famous BBQ butchers. You walk in, choose your meat, get a table and get served. The Orecchiette nonnas of Bari, like rock stars. And then you have Ceglie Messapica. They say its impossible to eat badly in Ceglie, but its also very hard to skip its crown jewel Cibus, the first restaurant in Puglia to get the Slow Food snail. Pastas were generally strong, but other than plenty of exceptions, not as memorable as what came before and after.

What separates Puglia from the rest is the the Antipasto della Casa. Just about every place we visited offered it, and it seems like everyone competes with the next guy on who got the best spread. Its usually offered for two people minimum but the amount of food can feed 3-4 easily. Usually involves a selection of 6-12 dishes that could include various cheeses, Capocollo of course, eggplant, fried goodies, salads, mushrooms, spreads, street food snacks, and seafood. It was so plentiful and delicious that it created ordering challenges for much of the trip since we would often be full from just the antipasti. One of our hosts told us ordering only house antipasti is not out of the norm for locals.

Anywho, stay tuned for more…


There aren’t too many regional restaurant threads, but there are some Pugliese dishes mentioned in Home Cooking. I’ve also had my eye on Puglia for a while, but I can’t travel right now so I’ve been dabbling with some dishes at home. https://www.hungryonion.org/search?context=topic&context_id=33469&q=Puglia&skip_context=true


Thanks so much for the overview. It’s always great to hear about regional dishes (or even micro-regional) that can’t be had elsewhere for love or money, you just have to go there.

There’s something to be said for pride of place.

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Are you planning a trip back soon? It’s on our list so it will be great to have a thread

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Not really. But I will post more about our trip here soon.


Last week I booked a flight into Naples and out of Bari for this May. I have visited many regions in Italy but never Puglia. I look forward to your reflections as I try to piece together an itinerary!


In another lifetime when I was totally engaged in Italy research on Chowhound, the place that really struck my fancy was CIBUS. still hoping to get there.

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Same here. Cibus was the first place I marked on the map. Its still there, and [spoiler alert] still fabulous. We almost didnt make it, but very glad we did.

Good for you. FWIW this is what we did…

Fly to Bari - rent car
Matera - 2 nights
Alberobello - 2
Masseria near Cisternino - 4
Lecce - 4
Return car and fly out of Brindisi

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OK, I’m sold . . .

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Highlights and other notables by leg…


Soul Kitchen - Highlight meal in Matera and one of the more memorable of the trip. Two brothers running the place. The youngest had extensive stints in high end places in Miami and elsewhere. Star of show was the expertly cooked Podolica Rib eye. Ranks up there with anything we had in Tuscany. Risotto with Porcini spoiled us for the rest of the trip. Risotto without any mushrooms just tastes pedestrian in comparison. Panna Cotta with Crusco peppers and orange infused olive oil was another highlight.

The rest…
Trattoria del Caveoso - Very good overall. Orecchiette with Cardoncelli mushrooms top dish
Street Food il Rusticone - Good Puccia, better craft beer. Puccia is a pizza dough sandwich
Panificio Paoluccio - Locals swear by the focaccia but opening hours threw us off so never tried
Il Buongustaio - Nice store, friendly people, but some Italian helps.
Bread - Dont leave town without trying it. The locals are very protective of it which means its best not to mention Altamura bread.
It was also interesting to try some of the other local specialties like the the appropriately named Crapiata (bean soup). Matera is actually in Bassilicata, but people often pair with Puglia.



Al Boschetto in Noci - This was a really great discovery on the way to Alberobello. Very convenient with a car. Old school feel, packed with locals on a weekday lunch. This was the first time we experienced the magic of the Puglia antipasti. Kudos to the waiter who suggested to halve the primis after he noticed our food coma started kicking in. Tagliatelle with seafood was the highlight among the primi.

L’Antica Locanda in Noci - Tip: Stay in Alberobello, eat in Noci. This was smacked in the middle of the old town so a little bit more difficult with a car, but very much worth it. Exceptional meats and pastas like the Plin-like Raviolini, but my favorite dish was probably the pear/ricotta/rum dessert, though I liked it more than the rest of the group.

The rest:

“La Lira” Focacceria in Alberobello - Very good Puccia, stuffed focaccia sandwiches even better. Animated jokester owner who clearly loves his job. “Now wait outside until you hear Puccia. Like this… PUCCIA!!!”

Il Guercio di Puglia in Alberobello - Very good “Pinsa”, one of several Roman style pizzas. Popular with locals. Alberobello has a decent size new town, outside the “Trulli Disney”

Will post the other two legs soon…


the dried Cruschi peppers from Basilicata are terrific, not hot, full of flavor. Can sometmes find in other regions, we found in bologna. but i think their curing like some of the mideast peppers might involve oil so you want fresh specimens. all this food is making me hungry for italy.

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Cisternino / Valle d’Itria

Cibus in Ceglie Messapica - Not surprisingly one of the best meals of the trip, if not the best. Sometimes you just need to ignore the noise (mainly reviews) and trust the experts. I had trouble fitting it in but eventually made it for lunch on the way to Lecce. It’s a family institution in a seemingly sleepy old town with very few tourists. A sharp contrast to Ostuni nearby. Cibus was the first or one of the first in Puglia to get the slow food snail designation in 1997, but today the entire city is known for the abundance of good food. Although they took a beating during the pandemic and some had to close.

Highlights were the house antipasti of course that included a shockingly earthy eggplant that tasted almost like a mushroom, a stringy Stracciatella with black truffles, zucchini flowers with ricotta and toasted almonds, Giuncata, a soft ricotta-like cheese made from various milks topped with jam. Then came a beautiful Lasagna Riccia with eggplant, cheese and veal. Orecchiette with stracciatella, cherry tomatoes, pesto and Cegliesi almonds. Like summer in Puglia on a plate. Veal Bombette and sausages I couldn’t get enough. And a super tender donkey stew cooked for 10 hours. Sagnapenta, a chewy, slightly thicker than Bucatini, with aged ricotta and fried breadcrumbs was enjoyable but the strong cheese a bit overpowering for some of our palates.
Great desserts. Tremendous meal.

Antiche Mura in Polignano a Mare - Another top meal nominee. A seafood feast in an attractive cave like room. A fantastic buttery tuna carpaccio is one of their specialties, but the baby squid app and Taglioloni with fish were just as good.

The rest:

Masseria Il Frantoio near Ostuni - A weirdly enjoyable, pricy (for Puglia) fixed menu dinner with wine pairings in a beautiful Masseria. Instead of sophisticated fine dining, you get elevated family style, rustic comfort food that fills you up 2/3 in. Sort of a fancy wedding feel, but a fun experience overall

Il Cortiletto in Speziale - Fine Slow Food guide recco, close to the Masseria, popular with locals. Yet another strong house antipasti lineup, serviceable pastas, and not only a chicken sighting, but best dish of the night. And you just got to order tette delle monache for educational purposes at least (look it up).

Ristorante Mezzofanti In Cisternino - Recommended by our Masseria host (Masseria Spetterrata) who is a food and wine enthusiast. Other than maybe the wine based risotto this was a flawless meal highlighted by the baked Entrecôte with breadcrumbs and honey mustard which we had to order more.

Pizzeria Doppio Zero in Cisternino. Very solid, popular Neapolitan(ish)

Il Super Mago del Gelo Mario Campanella in Polignano a Mare - Skip the popular gelato and just get the Special coffee (speciale) with amaretto and lemon

Panificio Santa Caterina in Monopoli - One of the better Focaccias of the trip.

Osteria del Porto - Just ok. The coast area between Savelletri and Torre Canne is known for its seafood restaurants and shacks, but I may have picked the wrong one


Wrapping up…

Lecce / Salento

Ristorante Blu Notte in Lecce - Bitter sweet moment for a serial food researcher when one of the top meals is one we accidentally stumble upon. A seafood gem just inside the old town. A flawless meal that started with what else, a splendid array of house antipasti - a dozen or so land, sea, and street food delights. Excellent pastas with the standout for me being Seppia with shrimp

Trattoria La Puritate in Gallipoli - Another stellar seafood fest at one of those old school places. The famous Gallipoli shrimp baked in salt was a revelation. Superb fresh Amberjack. Some of the best pastas of the trip - Linguine with shrimp, another with fish and turmeric, and one with Bonito.

The rest

400 Gradi in Lecce - Best pizza (Neapolitan) of the trip by far. Well outside the tourist route and very popular with the locals so best to come as soon as they open. I later found out its ranked in the top 50 in the world in this prestigious (I think) list.

La bottega del corso in Lecce - Good for a light snack after a heavy lunch. High quality cheese and meat board including of course more scrumptious Capocollo, and excellent oversized Bruschetta

Tabisca in Lecce - The one glaring miss in Salento. A popular Lecce steakhouse specializing in cooking meat on salt blocks, table side. Love meat, but not for us

SoFish in Otranto. A hip “Fast Casual” place was a big hit with the group. Nice selection of seafood sandwiches, salads and craft beer. Everything was good especially the lobster roll. More like a well crafted lobster salad with huge chunks of meaty lobster and the rest of the lobster resting on top of it.

Pasticceria Andrea Ascalone in Galatina - The birthplace of the Pasticciotto, a creamy pastry you’ll see in pretty much every bakery in Salento. This will make every other Pasticciotto taste pedestrian. Tour buses including week long food tours make the pilgrimage to this place.


Wow, just amazing again. Need to rent a car for this kind of a trip, however, and I am that kind of NYker (with a license, but never owned a car, so not a great driver, and definitely nothing relaxing about it for me)! Holding out for good travel partner who drives! :wink:

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one thing about the South - public transport away from the national railroad etc may not be as reliable as in the North, we had an outstandingly bad experience in the area N of Pozzuoli and walked for many miles where we did not expect it…other similar experiences elsewhere tho good ones as well. Its hard without a car to get to the smaller places.

Interesting. I am leaving Patras for Bari and I originally was going to go to stop off in Ostuni so I could visit a cafe or two near there. But I do not have my drivers license with me right now so I would need to use public transit to get to Cibus which was not something I was looking forward to. If there is a way to mess up a local bus route, I will find it. I got on the bus from Athens to Patras two days ago and had no idea if I was on the right bus until we turned west on 8A.
I may punt and head straight to Lecce (after a day or two in Bari) and figure out what I want to do from there. Lecce was my original goal for my first week in Italy anyway, then finding a spot in Calabria somewhere, so I have time to get back in to Puglia before I hit Calabria. Maybe take another bus that I am not sure of. LOL! Upside is I have a tiny bit of Italian. My Greek is nonexistent and I cannot even read the alphabet here.


Totally agree! Wouldn’t try depending on public transport.

I took the train from Bari to Rimini, after taking the ferry from Patras.

The only issue I had on the train, is that I hadn’t booked a seat reservation for the train, and I should have.

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I am taking the train to Lecce tomorrow or the day after. i will book a seat as soon as i drop off my pack at my pensione.