The best things I ate...Naples, Matera, Puglia

Hello All, in the interest of providing some feedback/updates to contribute to this community, but knowing that I never have the juice for a full report, I’m going to share some highlights from my recent trip.

I returned earlier this week from an amazing, exhausting trip that had me dashing from Scudetto-crazed Naples to touristed-but-it-all-works Matera, chilled Monopoli, lovely Locorotondo, elegant Lecce, and finally to Bari. Had all kinds of weather, rain, fog, wind, sun, blue skies, heat, sometimes all in a single day. Amid heavy-duty sightseeing, I found time to eat well, though not every day. That’s on me, though. I’m a little disorganized.

The best thing I ate in Naples was in Caserta
In previous trips to Naples, I had never found time to see Reggia Caserta, and Napoli was quite intense with celebrants, so I took a daytrip to the regal home of the Bourbons and pizza. Couldn’t reserve a table at Pepe in Grani, but was able to book lunch at I Masanielli di Francesco Martucci. Starter was a luscious, rich, gooey frittatina classica (fried pasta filled with bechamel, parm, provola, and local ham).

Full already, continuing my classic theme, I moved onto the “DOC,” a pizza cooked at three temperatures, with San Marzano pomodori, mozzarella di bufala, parm, and a cherry tomato confit. This was delicious, especially the crust, and it was good to get all the tomato sweetness and acid after the pure richness of my starter.

This plus a coke and water was $23.

I should mention it’s a real scene waiting to get in. So some good people watching for me as a bonus. :wink:

Matera–Hey, the Food Is Good Here
Will come back with more, but quick note that Matera…the cruschi. You folks weren’t kidding! So good. In general, I found the quality of food very good in Matera and I am now eager to return to Basilicata to explore more.

It was in Matera that I suddenly remembered to download the Slow Food Osterie app. That would have been helpful earlier in the journey, or even in advance but…

Photos from a great meal at one of the Slow Food picks, Stano.

Materan bread, I believe made in-house.

Mixed grill of lamb. The sausage was the winner here.

No room for dessert at this meal, sadly.


Yes, Napoli is quite a treasure chest of exceptional pizzas.
We loved Pepe in Grani, where we had the special pizza of the day which was topped with mozzarella di bufala, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and local fresh fig slices ! Quite amazing.

Matera is a true jewel of ancient architecture and a stuffed rolled bread which was filled with aubergine (eggplant), roasted red peppers, seasoned with fresh herbs & spices - farm fresh ricotta - a substantial one bread meal, that was to die and go to heaven for. Our trip to Campania was just before The Lockdown (Covid) in Spain 13 / 03 / 2020. Sfogliatella pastries are simply fantastic ! Did you get to try any ? In Napoli, all roads lead to food !!!

The name of the bread in Matera is Sfogliata and it is usually prepared with anchovies and is oregano flecked. Extraordinaire too !!!

There is an old adage in Italy: “A tavola si sta sempre in allegria” (“At the table, one is always happy”) !

Wonderful write up. Shall have to try your suggestions on our next trip over. We have a dear friend in Naples and he and his wife had been our guides.


Accident: i did not want to delete my post on Naples & Matera and how much I enjoyed the article by Leely 2.

Help !


@publisheralex06561694, Sfogliatella is one of my favorite pastries–I prefer the ricca style. I did seek them out once, this wasn’t my first time in Naples, and they also served a serviceable version at my hotel breakfast, so I began every day with one, Luckily, lots of walking. I will need to plan ahead to get to Pepe in Grani next trip!

I should mention that I had a good, unphotographed lunch in Vomero at Osteria Donna Teresa. This is absolutely nothing fancy, very traditional. I arrived sans reservation late on the weekday lunch service and was asked “Genovese o fagioli?” So I had pasta Genovese, then saw the elderly man next to me eating polpetter so I ordered those and some vedure too. The vegetables in particular were excellent, dressed in very good oil.

Matera, cont’d
Soul Kitchen - this was an HO rec, and very near my hotel, so I booked it for my first night. I was pretty sure I took photos but I can’t find them on my phone. I enjoyed the chicory and fava starter, although it is very generous for one person, the tagliata was quite succulent and perfectly seasoned, and the panna cotta with white pepper, cruschi, olive oil and herbs was stellar. I really can’t believe I didn’t take a photo.

La Latteria Rizzi
Another Slow Food rec that I happened to walk by one afternoon when I was absolutely famished. They are opened all day as a cafe and may have extended hours for lunch and dinner too, I’m not sure. Went in for a coffee but ended up also ordering a piece of ricotta and chocolate torta (crostata?) with a faint whiff of orange. This and the coffee were so good I vowed to the folks working there–turns out it was the husband and wife owner team–that I’d be back.

So I did go back for lunch the next day and had the paccheri with baccalà, olives, capers, a salad and a glass of white wine.

Paccheri with cod, olives, capers, tomatoes - La Latteria, Matera

I found out later that this place is well known for their wine list (pretty obvious once you’re there), as well as meat dishes. But I wold recommend going for whatever you’re in the mood for given that I saw folks pop in for antipasto and wine only. The people are very, very welcoming. I couldn’t find a website but they have a fbook page:

La Lopa
Very popular restaurant in the Sassi. They lost my reservation and were fully booked but seated me anyway, I only had to wait about five minutes for them to figure it out, and I didn’t get a bad table, so two thumbs already for La Lopa. Elevated cooking and I liked everything here.

Cream of zucchini with caciocavollo cheese, croutons made with Materan bread and fried zucchini chips. Delicious and left me with enough room for the next course…

Lucanian black pork with zucchini sformato (?). I almost never order pork “in my real life,” and this was just rich, tender, toothsome. I forgot to ask what the sauce was, but had to have wine involved for sure.

For dessert my waiter recommended the home made amaretti–far too many for me, so he packed them up and sent me home with me. Fortuitous because I was picking up my rental car and beginning the road trip part of my adventure the next day.


Absolutely a fabulous report.
Shall make note, next time we travel over to Matara.
Lovely photos too.
Thank you for posting this.

Cibus, Ceglie Messapica
A top meal on this trip. Very gracious service, calm dining room, confident cooking. Deserves all the accolades, no news flash.

Bests for me - antipasto, finally one that really didn’t destroy my appetite for the rest of the meal. The fried local onion in fig and straciatella cheese with pepper and olive oil my favorite bites. Dessert was also a winner, spumoncino: liqueu-soaked pan di spagna with candied fruit, covered in chocolate, hazelnut and vanilla gelato.


Thanks for all of this! Am getting closer to my trip the end of August, and am definitely bookmarking your report.

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this looks great, thanks for these fine reports! I know what you mean about the appetizer wiping out the appetite instead of stimulating.

Ruz Cucina Confidenziale - Polignano a Mare
Kind of a weird thing to eat in Italy, but I was walking by toward the end of the lunch hour and saw someone happily devouring a fried chicken sandwich so I sat down and had one myself. It definitely hit the spot.


Oh, Leely, more than fantastic!

Oh, the cruschi! You did not see any strings of them at this time of year, or did you? I am so crazed that I am thinking of a trip in the fall to include Senise, or anyplace I can find those strands of the peppers…

Ii never managed to make it to Ceglie, I was always in the area when the 2 restaurants I wanted to visit were closed…god reason to return!

What a superb report, and how you managed to convey the wonders of the tables in that part of Italy! I cannot wait to get back on a plane myself!!! What’s next??

Very best, ek

Oh my gosh, ek, you have reminded me that I meant to wrap this up!!! After that brief post-vacation high I have been swallowed up by the work monster. After a couple nights in Monopoli (where I unfortunately had a bad seafood dinner–what a waste of time, stomach space and calories!), I drove off to the Valle d’Itria. I know this is not a travel website, but in the future I will spend more time here–inland–and skip the coast. I’m sure others would feel the exact opposite.

For parts of my trip I was very easily, almost accidentally, able to follow in the footsteps of HO poster Ziggy, whose I Dream of Puglia thread was very helpful in my half-assed planning.

So, when I was visited Alberobello and it was lunchtime and I saw a puccia shop, La Lira, I remember reading this was good…okay, easy choice. And a great puccia, although given the ingredients it’s hard to imagine a bad one! I hada few mroe here and there once I was down in the Salento.

I stayed in Locorotondo. Again, not a travel website, but I highly recommend the beautiful, tranquil 1783 Dimora d’Epoca. Amazingly delicious breakfasts, gracious, kind people, just a fantastic experience.

They booked me one drizzly night at a restaurant very close to the hotel, U Curdunn.

As we all know, hotel restaurant recos can be dicey, but this was actually a very good meal. Can I say it’s the best restaurant in Locotondo? No idea, but I liked it. Starter of fried local veggies (peppers, squash blossoms,), baccalà and polpette of bread/cheese. This was very, very good: hot, crisply fried and salty.

The meatball on this plate is beef shank. Hearty and tasty.

Once in Lecce, I took a day trip that included a stop in beautiful Galatina. Time of day meant most places were closed…but not Staglio Panificati.


Ugh, I messed up my own formatting and have been inconsistent with links, etc. Darn.

LECCE - La Bottega del Corso
After a long day of driving/touring in the rain and lots of carby snacks, I walked down a street in Lecce to see people enjoying antipasti, so I followed suit. Turns out it was one of HO poster Ziggy’s recs too. Normally I don’t have the appetite for antipasto, but this worked for me and I managed to eat everything. No struggle.


Occurs to me that “the best things I ate” were practically everything. But I did have a friend ask me, “So you spent three weeks eating solely bread, fried things—including fried bread–, pizza (that’s bread, by the way), pasta and dessert?” Umm…guilty as charged.

63 Osteria Contemporanea - Lecce
Quality ingredients cooked with care and attention in a quiet family-run restaurant. Chef Anna Cortado handles all the cooking, though she did come out to check in with diners. Her husband is front-of-house. And their young son does some bussing here and there. I was skeptical after the first bite of ravioli with potatoes, pecorino and mint–too mint forward, I thought, too smooshy texture-wise. Then second bite: hmm, this is good, it’s growing on me. And suddenly I loved it and it was almost gone!

La Cucina di Mamma Elvira - Lecce
Had a great lunch here–food very good, coffee in particular was fantastic. They told me they use a local roaster, of course I didn’t catch the name. Dessert to die for. I wanted to order about three. Also stopped for an aperitivo a couple times at their enoteca.


Al Sorso Preferito - Bari

Spaghetti all’assassina: Evidently this was a trendy food (?) or something last year, but I guess it passed me by because I didn’t watch that Stanley Tucci tv show. I learned about spaghetti all’assassina when I was searching for Puglia restaurant recs and came across the Puglia Guys/Big Gay Puglia podcast websites.

I only had one evening in Bari and the supposed originator of this classic Bari dish was a couple blocks from my hotel. Obviously I had to try it. Al Sorso Preferito is a traditional restaurant–I had an early flight the next morning, so made an 8pm reservation, early for Bari. The place was packed by the time I left. Lots of fun, good food.

As for the spaghetti, it did seem a little weird to me the first bite or two–that slight burned taste, crunchy–but it’s definitely addictive and I can see why people love it. I will try to make it at home for sure.

You get some potato chips along with bread when you’re seated.

Tempted to lick the plate, but this is a classy establishment.

Sporcamuss - traditional cream-filled pastry. Very good. The guys at the table next to me told me it’s like the phrase “sporca la bocca,” i.e., dirty your mouth (with the dessert) because it’s so good. I can’t argue with that.

Though there are many restaurants serving spaghetti all’assassina in Bari, I was glad that I was in a traditional Barese restaurant for my last night.

I am not much of a report person, but I hope that my meager contributions encourage others to share their experiences here, no matter the focus of their food explorations.



Lecce, Cibus, Matera… what a trip?!? Thanks for reporting back. I hope you had a chance to meet Mimo, the younger brother at Soul Kitchen. Not many chefs in the world have received the Ziggy hug. Its rewarding and a little terrifying to all involved.
The food in Puglia is very different isnt it? The antipasti culture makes ordering very tricky. Even though we were 6, I needed to adjust things midway and order less. A local told me locals often order only the antipasti of the house, or skip them altogether.


Just re-read your report and once again, salivated over the photos! Do you remember what the first bite was in Lecce at Osteria Contemporanea–some kind of pancetta?

Oh, gosh, were there any restaurants that disappointed at all on this trip??
You know me and my crazy obsession with the Senise peppers. So I’m now working on a trip for this fall to Basilicata, and then on to northern Puglia (have restaurants to re-visit around Andria) and then on to Molise. Will post a new thread once I get the agenda finished.

But guess what…since I’d been to Matera Ii thought I might skip that and stop, instead, in Altamura or Gravina en route to Andria. But now that I’ve seen your photos, I think it would be a gustatory felony not to make a stop in Matera for at least one night. To choose where to eat, all I need to do is look at your pics and (with difficulty!!) rule out one or two places!! I, too, loved Lateria Rizzi so maybe for a light (who am I kidding on the" light" part??) lunch…

Leely, thanks again, your reports are certainly in the very top tier of all food reports here, as they were on CH!!! And next???

@Ziggy, I think I only chatted with the older brother at Soul Kitchen, if I remember correctly. Maybe Mimo had the night off.

@erica1 , first bite at Osteria Contemporanea was guanciale. A little bit like a BLT without the L & T. Very simple and satisfying.

I did have a few misses on this trip, in Monopoli, where I spent two nights. Lovely seaside city, but I hadn’t researched or made any reservations and I was there on a weekend. I left things to chance and that didn’t exactly work out for me. I had been looking forward to getting some great seafood but I ended up with a seafood salad starter that included frozen items (my fault, I didn’t check the menu carefully). At another place, the tuna was just too salty for me, and I generally love salt. I probably should have ordered differently.

In Naples, I ate so much street food during the day–cuoppi of fried goodies, pizza al portafoglio, and of course stopping for pastries–that I usually didn’t have an appetite for dinner. And needless to say I went days without a vegetable.

By and large, though, I ate very well. I found the prices everywhere low relative to the quality of the food. I had some amazing meals in Venice last summer–but they weren’t inexpensive!

I hope you get to Altamura and Gravina. I had intended to visit both this trip and ran out of time (of course). Such a beautiful area. Just from the little jogging/hiking I did right outside Matera, I know I’d like to explore more. Can’t decide on whether to go north next year or south again. Wherever I go, I think I need to build in a little more relaxation. I came home very tired, possibly because I crammed in a 22 hour stopover in Istanbul on the way home.

From Matera to Belvedere Murgia Timone