During a week-long mission to eat my way around Southern Italy, I quickly realised that if it begins with ‘Pas…’, you should eat it. It’s guaranteed to taste amazing.
This post is about my all-embracing quest to discover some seriously blog-worthy foodie feasts on the streets of Puglia so sit back and dig into these gastronomic gems that await your next visit…
Starting with the letters P, A and S… (it must be some secret Italian code for ‘taste sensation’) the Pasta, Pasticciotto and Pasqualino were my top three winning food discoveries.
I’ve eaten a lot of pasta in my time. Most of it was fusilli from the supermarket although I am partial to a bow or shell on special occasions. As it happens, the people of Puglia aren’t so familiar with these novelty shapes! The regional pasta of Puglia is handmade with durum wheat semolina and no eggs. It is fresh and delicious. The most popular type in this region is called orecchiette which translates as “little ears” and features on every restaurant menu as Cime di rapa (with broccoli and garlic). There are many other types of Pasta that are specific to this region of Italy and my personal favourites were Troccoli which is a bit thicker than spaghetti with a square cross-section, and Cavatelli which is a small, long, hollow, shell type shape and quite dense.
Just when I thought there weren’t any baked custard filled snacks in Europe to rival the Portuguese Nata, um… hello Pasticciotto! Take it from me, a nata-holic, it’s on par!
These heavenly custard filled pastries are known only in this region of Italy and are a seriously tasty treat with a huge choice of filling flavours inside a soft crumbly case. My favourites were chocolate hazelnut, cherry, and pistachio. Visit Martinucci Pasticceria in Alberobello for the ultimate Pasticciotto experience and great coffee too!
I wrote about the history of this local sandwich in my blog post about Alberobello. If the secret of foods beginning with ‘Pas…’ isn’t enough for you, then let me tell you about Alberobello’s secret sandwich. Code word = Pasqualino. No joke! Get one – Taste one – and then you can decide for yourself if you keep this super tasty secret sarnie to yourself!
The Pasqualino sandwich is usually made with a rosetta bread and was traditionally filled with tuna fish, capers, salami and cheese. Over the years, variations to the original ingredients have been used including mushrooms, courgettes, pickles and cold meats but the original recipe is still widely known and available to order even if it’s not advertised.
A few other F&B rec’s that I can’t fail to mention are the Antipasti, Coffee, Ice cream, cheese, Fish and my favourite dish of the whole trip (I’m saving the best bit until last!).
With the letters ‘pas’ secretly hidden mid-word, you can expect delightful plates of Italian meats, cheeses, tomatoes and artichokes that’ll waken your taste buds and keep you smiling ’til your next feed. I found this out in Polignano a Mare in a cute little Apulian Bistrot called Caffè Serafini. The tomatoes were so delicious and the Taralli crackers were the best we tasted and we ate them everywhere!
Taralli: Doughnut shaped cracker snacks a bit similar to pretzels or breadsticks that are popular in the southern half of the Italian peninsular.
We all know the Italian’s are famous for their love of coffee but I wasn’t quite expecting to see SO many coffee bars. It’s literally one after the other with another one next door. The coffee of choice in Puglia, is of course, the espresso. For me, these tiny, super charged cups of caffeine are enough to disable my ability to blink for an entire afternoon so I was on hunt for something a bit different; something i’d read about and was excited to try – Caffè Leccese! In a nutshell, it’s an iced coffee with Almond Milk from the region of Lecce. We headed out to find 00 Doppiozero to try this local speciality drink and trust me, it was worth the 1.5hr drive from Alberobello! (Not least because the town of Lecce is incredibele, you can read more about it here).
Another delicacy the Italians are renowned for, and rightly so, is ice cream. I weaved in and out of Gelateria’s from Alberobello to Polignano and Martina Franca but the best I found (by far) was at Gusto Caruso in Monopoli. We tried the most incredible ice cream filled chocolates that definitely made my top 3 ice cream experiences to date.
There’s a lot of cheese in Puglia with Mozzarella being the most popular. But, there really is only one cheese related piece of advice urge you to follow – EAT BURRATA!
This fresh Italian cow milk cheese is made from mozzarella and cream. The outer cheese is solid mozzarella, while the inside contains stracciatella and cream, and it’s really popular in the Puglia region. It is delicious!
We visited a dairy farm in Locorotondo (just outside of Alberobello) and really enjoyed a local Mozzarella cheese making experience which you can read more about it my blog titled ’12 of the best things to do in Alberobello’.
One very noteworthy restaurant recommendation if you’re heading out to Lecce is Fresco Fish Bar. Check it out on Instagram and I probably won’t need to say much more other than to confirm that the food is just as delicious as it looks!
On the subject of fish, I will leave you with one final restaurant recommendation which ranks so high on my list of places i’d book a flight just to go back and eat more. The restaurant is called Ristorante dal Ghiottone in Monopoli. The dish I ate was Rock Fish Troccoli (see below). It was by far the best meal I tasted in Puglia and by far the best pasta dish I have EVER eaten in. Ever! In my whole life.
It’s conveniently located right opposite that amazing Gelateria I mentioned above!
There you have the highlights of my food experiences in Puglia and I will undoubtedly be back in the future so if you have any great recommendations for me or if you try any of mine, leave me a comment below – i’d love to hear from you.
Ciao for now!