If Italy is a boot then Puglia is the heel right at the bottom. It’s hot with an arid and flat landscape. We hired a masseria (walled house) for a week with friends in the Salento region in the middle of an olive grove. All around us there was sun, sea and seriously good food . And the occasional little stone building which looks like a smurf house but which is known as a trulli. It’s a region which seems still quite undiscovered. There were no tour buses and most of the other tourists we ran into were Italian.
The best meal we had in Sardinia was at Primo. It’s an modern but cosy looking restaurant just outside the walls of Otranto’s old town. Primo is part of the region’s emerging “zero miles” movement with organic produce sourced as locally as possible. There’s even vegan, vegetarian and wheat free dishes – things that used to be unheard of in Italy. We kept it more traditional and ordered plates of rich red bresaola (€8) and Caprese salad (€7) with juicy tomatoes and oozing mozzarella. Inky black rice (€14) laced with mussels and prawns was cooked so that each individual grain had a slight crunch but the dish of the day was the lobster linguine (€19). The al dente pasta was crowned with half a lobster so spankingly fresh that it had been paraded around the restaurant on a platter only moments before. Primo alone is reason enough to permanently relocate to Puglia.
Details: Primo, Via delle Torri 5, Otranto, Italy +39 350 502 1356
Kids: Very child friendly – there are high chairs, changing tables and the staff are charming to kids.
Pizzeria Cala Dei Normani, Otranto
This restaurant should be a total tourist trap as it sits right on the harbour so the waves actually lick the verandah. But this is Puglia so despite the fabulous views and location Pizzeria Cala Dei Normani also serves up top notch pizzas. The standard by which all pizza places should be judged is of course the margherita (€4.50) and it delivered here with base which had all the right balance between being both crisp and chewy and a zinging tomato and herb topping. We also loved the pancetta pizza (€7.50) which came topped with curls of pancetta and butter – what more could you want in life? I should also mention that the beers here are €2.50 each – not a bad way to while away a sunny afternoon.
Details: Pizzeria Cala Dei Normani, lungomare Terra d Otranto 5, 73028 Otranto, Italy (Ph +39 (0)320 6299620)
Damage: Such a bargain my mother would approve.
Trattoria di Nonna Tetti, Lecce
Food like your Italian Nonna would make (assuming you have one?) Trattoria di Nonna Tetti restaurant is the place to go in the beautiful baroque city of Lecce. In the heart of the old town the restaurant doesn’t look like it’s changed in years with rough stone walls and rickety wooden stairs. Be warned though di Nonna Tetti has starred in a New York Times article so the secret is definitely out and there were quite a few tourists in the night we ate there. The food here is cucina povera, the “poor people’s food” which means traditional Puglian dishes made with humble ingredients. Wine is served in ceramic mugs and to start there are plates of antipasti like roasted peppers and a lemony potato salad (€8 for 5 plates). I had the ciceri e tria (€7) which is the signature dish of the area. It’s simply chickpeas with linguine and topped with some crispy fried pasta. It’s a little stodgy so a liberal sprinkling of red pepper flakes is required to liven things up. Just like how I imagine a meal at your Nonna’s house would end, you need to be rolled out of this restaurant.
Details: Trattoria di Nonna Tetti, Piazzetta Regina Maria 17, Lecce, Italy (Ph (39-0832) 246-036)
Damage: Such a bargain my mother would approve.
This is an Italian gelati mecca with a whole rainbow of different flavours. You need to pay for a ticket first and then order your ice-cream (it took us a while to figure this out and we kept on getting pushed in on by wily Italians). I loved the chocolate flavour and the local tribute – the pasticciotto – an ice-cream take on a traditional Lecce pastry filled with custard cream.
Details: Natale, Via Trinchese 7, Lecce, Italy (Ph 39-0832 256-060)
Damage: Such a bargain my mother would approve €2.50 for two flavours.
Ristorante Spessite, Ostuni
It’s very easy to get lost wandering around the labrinyth of white washed streets in the cliff top town of Ostuni but a tip from blogger Greedy Diva led me to Ristorante Spessite. The restaurant is carved into the cliff and all manner of old rusty agricultural implements hang from the walls. The cooking is regional and rustic – after a brief discussion in broken English and Italian with the owner our table was laden with plates of antipasti – different cheeses, salami, prosciutto and pickled vegetables. The pasta was also so simple but so good – orrechiette with fresh tomato, basil and olive oil and orrechiette again but with tender broccoli. A request for a small red wine resulted in a not so small jug of red wine but since it was delicious and cost about €3 we couldn’t really complain.
Details: Ristorante Spessite, Via Brancasi, 43, 72017 Ostuni, Italy (Ph +39 0831 302866)