Written by Paola Fiocchi, Director, Passepartout Homes (www.passepartout-homes.com)
Having visited the region of Salento in Puglia for the past 8 years, I can pretty easily assure you, you won’t have a bad gastronomic experience in the heel of Italy.
Wherever you will end up eating, you will be greeted by welcoming hosts and mouth-watering dishes, made with simple ingredients. From starred restaurants to shacks on the beach, Salento knows a thing or two about good, honest food and wine.
Puglia provides most of what Italy consumes. Most of the grains for pasta, fish, olive oil and wine come from here. The region is covered by vast areas of ancient olive trees so it will come as no surprise that Puglia also produces over 70% of Italy’s olive oil (and 15 percent of the world’s olive oil). The region is also producer of 25 DOC wines most of which come from the Salento area.
Some of the region “signature” dishes include “orecchiette” (or “small ears”) because of their resemblance to small ears. Enjoy orecchiette with fresh tomato sauce, basil and strong ricotta cheese. Orecchiette with “cime di rapa” (sort of broccoli) are also a region’s favourite.
For breakfast head to the your local bar where locals enjoy a cup of freshly brewed espresso coffee and warm “pasticciotto” standing at the counter. The best pasticciotti can be eaten in Galatina where Pasticceria Abalone has been creating these pastries since 1745.
You will not get hungry during the day as there are plenty of snacks and appetisers available, including “frittini” , a mix of fried appetisers, “friselle”, a snack made of crunchy dry bread best served dipped in water and topped with fresh tomatoes, basil and extra virgin olive oil and “pucce, a sandwich made of pizza dough and stuffed with cured meat, cheese or vegetables; not to mention the round shaped “tarallini” crackers available in different flavours, excellent with a glass of cold rosé wine on the beach.
Here are my top 5 recommended places to eat in Salento. Spoil alert, expect the lovely aroma of freshly prepared meals and the warm welcome of their owners.
L’Altro Baffo in Otranto, where Chef Cristina Conte will serve you traditional Apulia dishes interpreted in a contemporary key, where tradition meets innovation. Expect freshly made pasta, fresh fish and seasonal ingredients. Our favourite dish is “chitarrine ai “ricci di mare” “, fresh pasta with sea-urchins, for those of you with really fine palates! A family run business located in one of the most scenic spots of Otranto under the shadow of the Aragonese Castle. Reservation highly advisable.
Lo Scalo in Alessano, a historic seafront restaurant built along the rocky coastal route between Tricase and Leuca. Seafood dishes will be prepared according to the catch of the day and served in an enchanting setting by the water. As dessert, excellent is “pasticciotto” with lemon custard. Reservation highly advisable.
Agriturismo Le Site in Corigliano d’Otranto, where most of the ingredients used in the kitchen are cultivated in the Agriturismo’s own fields. Excellent meat and an abundance of vegetables are served by this family run enterprise. Le Site also produces its very own olive oil as well as home-made jam and liquors, available for purchase at the restaurant. Le Site also offers a number of guests rooms for those looking for a lodging.
Cantine Menhir Salento located outside Otranto is a producer of some of the best wines of Salento, including Negroamaro or Primitivo. Here you can also reserve a table at their “Osteria Origano” where excellent traditional Apulia dishes are served. In summer you can dine al-fresco in their Mediterranean garden and may be entertained by live music.
La Porta Antica in Sternatia is a traditional trattoria where excellent pizza, meat and fish dishes can be savoured. Their speciality are the “antipasti” which I highly recommend to try in abundance. Portions are very generous! It is very popular with locals and during the weekend and summer months it can be very crowded. reservations recommended.