Food is one of Puglia’s biggest draws – just look to Instagram. Travellers from all over the world flock here to experience the enduring regional cuisine, which centres fresh seafood, homemade pasta and a stunning variety of fresh ingredients.
Whether you sample that cuisine across the tablecloth in a fine diner or in-hand at one of many regional farmers markets, you’ll find a refreshing, no-frills attitude to local food culture. But that humble sense of tradition still leaves room for today’s Pugliese chefs, bakers and farmers to innovate.
Trattoria le Zie, Lecce
An absolute must-stop for old-school home cooking (known as cucina casareccia), this intimate trattoria doesn’t need the slightest online presence to remain a firm favourite in historic Lecce. With down-to-earth hosts and an interior that feels like someone’s actual home, this spot offers a full experience before you even lift a fork to your mouth. Once you do, you’ll be treated to authentic regional takes on everything from pasta and focaccia to beans, meat and vegetables. Come hungry.
Osteria del Tempo Perso, Ostuni
Like the trattoria in Lecce, this Ostuni institution is all about classic food with an undiluted homely vibe. With welcoming bottles of spirits lining one of its most-photographed corners, the restaurant is carved into a limestone cliff, its rough-hewn interiors echoing the distinctive lime exterior of most local buildings. But the food is the thing: start with an authentic eggplant parma and local cured meats and seafood before graduating to fresh pasta and fish. Of course, save room for dessert – especially the cream-driven puff pastry sporcamuso.
Bread from an oak-fired oven in Altamura
Celebrated by a poet in 37BC, traditional Apulian bread dates back centuries. It’s still going strong today thanks to time-honoured techniques used at venues such as Altamura mainstay Forno Antico S Chiara, where the oven is said to date to 1423. Known as much for its oak-wood baking as for its hefty size and unusually long shelf life (lasting up to a fortnight), this bread is unique to the region. From the enticing first smell to the lingering aftertaste, you’ll remember this baked marvel long after you’ve come home.
Fresh seafood at Pescaria, Polignano a Mare
Delicious seafood need not involve a long wait in a booked-out dining room. Pescaria is famous for dishing up premium fish and shellfish with the efficiency of fast food, leaning into the region’s oceanic offerings while sidestepping the usual price tag. You can order over the counter from a profoundly comprehensive spread, including the ever-popular octopus tentacles in a sandwich roll. Pescaria also does everything from pasta and raw seafood to salads and eye-popping Italian cakes. In line with the care taken in sourcing its produce, it recently went completely plastic free.
Cheese, fruit and veg at Martina Franca
If you’re going to a market in Italy, do it right. Every Wednesday in Martina Franca – a town in the province of Taranto – the fresh fruit and veg market takes over from 8am to 1pm. This is your chance to browse like the locals do. Delve into the stalls along Piazza d’Angio and you’ll be treated not just to proper Italian meats, breads and cheeses, but to all the clothing, plants and other regional curios you never knew you needed.
Masseria Il Frantoio, Ostuni
A country estate operating for more than five centuries, Masseria Il Frantoio is now a boutique hotel as well as a thriving organic farm. Nestled in the countryside just north-west of Ostuni, the hotel’s seasonally attuned restaurant make the most of the region’s bountiful produce. The citrus grove dates back to 1800, yielding fresh pears, oranges and tangerines, while the wider farm supplies asparagus, pumpkin, artichokes, beans and the requisite kitchen herbs. While you’re there, take home some house-made olive oil, citrus jam, liqueurs and traditional Apulian snacks, all produced on site.
Hyperlocal desserts at Pasticceria Cheri
With two locations in the Campi Salentina area of Lecce, Pasticceria Cheri proprietor Angelo Bisconti is beloved for his hyperlocal variations on pasticciotto, an Apulian pastry filled with custard. A decade ago he went a step further, marking the 2008 election of Barack Obama with a new pasticciotto creation pairing a chocolate base with a sumptuous filling of eggs, flour and cocoa. The freshly minted Pasticciotto Obama went viral in foodie circles – so much so that it’s still Bisconti’s signature dessert.
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