Occupying the heel of Italy’s ‘boot’, Puglia is one of this shoe-shaped nation’s most fertile regions. Ancient silver-toned trees bear plump green olives, sprawling vineyards produce prize-winning grape varieties and chubby burrata balls top pasta and pizza dishes. Some of Puglia’s signature and must-sample meals include orecchiette pasta, Focaccia Barese, panzerotti (miniature calzone pizzas) and just-caught seafood. Puglia is a land of plenty when it comes to food and there’s no shortage of fantastic places to pick up a knife and fork in the southern Italian region. From traditional trattorias to Michelin-recommended restaurants, read on for our narrowed down list of the best restaurants in Puglia.
Trattoria delle Ruote, Martina Franca
Trapped in a time warp, Trattoria delle Ruote serves traditional Pugliese dishes that are as classic as they come. In fact, the menu – composed of locally-grown ingredients – has hardly changed in fifty years. The farmhouse setting adds to the restaurant’s rustic feel; tables are few and far between, so eating here is treated as an event to be savoured. Take your time when tucking into cured meat and cheese plates, perfectly al dente orecchiette and marinara-soaked meatballs.
Cibus, Ceglie Messapica
The founders of Cibus see food as a means of understanding a destination’s culture and history (we’re big fans of this mindset). So it follows that every dish here is crafted from the finest local ingredients, in accordance with their ‘zero-mile produce’ policy. The restaurant is housed in a fifteenth-century convent, tucked away in Ceglie Messapica’s historic centre, with tables set beneath vine-covered arches. Enjoy flavour-packed pasta dishes, followed by their signature stone oven-cooked veal, before finishing with sticky biscotto cegliese (a jam-filled almond cookie).
Farmacia dei Sani, Ruffano
Family-run and Michelin-recommended, Farmacia dei Sani in Ruffano is a more modern iteration of Italy’s traditional trattorias. The menu, however, manages to stay firmly rooted in regional flavours, with recipes elevated by international influences. Highlights include fresh pappardelle paired with rabbit broth and rosemary oil, pork belly served with caper leaves, and their homemade Negroni Entropico, made by brewing botanicals directly in alcohol (rather than the classic mix of gin, vermouth and bitters).
L’altro Baffo, Otranto
Summoning all seafood lovers, L’altro Baffo in Otranto places fresh fish front and centre on its menu. Contemporary takes on classic Italian dishes include carbonara ai ricci di mare (sea urchin carbonara) and carpaccio di spigola (sea bass carpaccio). Order à la carte or opt for the reasonably-priced five-course set menu, which offers a taste of the Adriatic and Ionian seas. Dishes can be paired with local white wines from the restaurant’s carefully curated cellar.
La Zie Trattoria, Lecce
Lecce is big on tradition and the city’s locals take great pride in their home-style cooking (cucina casereccia) and generations-old recipes. La Zie Trattoria upholds these time-worn rituals and eating here is somewhat akin to dining in a family’s home. The walls are adorned with a mosaic of paintings and photographs, while the tables are dressed with classic chequered tablecloths. This no-frills charm is reflected in the simple, yet delicious dishes produced by the kitchen; polpo in teglia (stewed octopus), baccalà al forno (baked salt cod) and purè di fave e cicoria (bean puree with wild chicory) are just some of the Leccese staples served here.
Masseria Moroseta, Ostuni
Farmhouse-turned-guest-house and restaurant, Masseria Moroseta is situated on the outskirts of Ostuni, between farmland, olive groves and the sea. Menus here change daily and according to the season, with Italian flavours acting as the starting point for recipes that incorporate global gastronomic influences; think Japanese gyozas filled with tomato, ricotta and lemon; miso-turmeric spiked consommé and beef braised in Primitivo wine with teriyaki savoy cabbage. Spend the evening enjoying an aperitivo, followed by a four-course meal, or book in for a few days and get the full foodie experience.
Written by Luisa Watts