Eating your way through Puglia: a guide to the region’s cuisine

Gastronomia na Puglia. O que comer e restaurantes tradicionais.
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2024-01-25

Are you excited about eating in Puglia, situated in Southern Italy, and eager to unearth the culinary treasures it has to offer, spanning from classic dishes to suggested dining venues? If your answer is yes, then keep reading, as a delectable journey awaits!

Within this guide, I’ve curated the very essence of Puglia’s cuisine. And why do I confidently saying that this guide could very well be the most comprehensive resource you’ll encounter?

I had the privilege of embarking on a week-long journey with a local guide who possesses profound insights into Puglia’s gastronomy, accompanied by a group of Italy-enthusiast bloggers and journalists.

This experience has culminated in the compilation of this article, brimming with invaluable suggestions on what delights to savor in Puglia.

Prepare to discover a wealth of information that will guide you to relish the culinary tapestry this region unfurls, offering insights into delectable options and their ideal locations.

You’ll have the opportunity to relish unforgettable meals within historic masserias (traditional farms), seaside dinners, and dining establishments that deserve your attention.

Furthermore, a dedicated section has been included, exclusively spotlighting snacks and street food. As we all know, exploring can certainly induce hunger between meals.

Recollections of the fragrant bread, still warm from the oven and presented in paper bags to retain its delightful crispness, the enticing olive oil awaiting a dip, the remarkably fresh vegetables, pasta entwined with velvety sauces, the glistening seafood and fresh fish gracing colorful plates, and the tender morsels of meat that seem to dissolve on the palate – all these sensations are bound to linger in your memory.

Feel free to indulge in a snack while you continue reading, for your appetite is likely to surge as you progress through these pages.

How is the Cuisine in Puglia?

Produtos locais da Azienda Agricola Calemone
Local products from Azienda Agricola Calemone, Torre Guaceto Presidio Slow Food – Brindisi.

Puglia’s cuisine is truly a treasure trove of seafood, fresh vegetables, and pasta. While meat options and vegetarian dishes are also available, it’s the seafood, fresh vegetables, and pasta that truly shine.

When you go to most restaurants, expect to see a menu with Antipasti, Insalate, Primo, Secondo, and Dolci.

Antipasti is an Italian term denoting starters or appetizers served prior to the main course. This cherished Italian culinary tradition often boasts light dishes, frequently more than one, ingeniously crafted to arouse the appetite and prime the palate for the upcoming main course.

Salads (Insalate) are also an excellent choice to kickstart your meal, possibly incorporating not only lush leafy vegetables but also protein components, such as seafood.

Subsequently, emerges the Primo Piatto – the first course, succeeded by the Secondo Piatto – the main course.

The crucial distinction between Primo Piatto and Antipasti lies in the fact that the former offers a heartier portion compared to the latter; it’s more substantial in size or quantity.

On the flip side, the major divergence between Primo Piatto and Secondo Piatto stems from the latter’s protein-rich content, resulting in a more substantial presence.

Typically, Primo Piatto is pasta, soup, or salad, while Secondo Piatto predominantly showcases a primary protein source, be it meat, fish, seafood, or vegetable alternatives.

In select instances, you may also opt for contorni – side dishes, featuring vegetables or potatoes.

For the grand finale, you have the choice of indulging in a delightful sweet or simply enjoying some fruit.

It’s worth noting that meals are often relished at a leisurely pace, as Italians hold a deep appreciation for the time dedicated to dining. Consequently, allocate approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours for each lunch or dinner.

Antipasti and Insalate: Unveiling Puglia’s Gastronomy

Antipasti no Posto 9 Beach Club Camponarino, Taranto.
Posto 9 Beach Club Camponarino, Taranto.

As I previously mentioned, antipasti play a crucial role in Puglia’s culinary scene, spotlighting fresh and regional ingredients that seamlessly adapt to the changing seasons and the local market offerings.

Within the realm of antipasti, you can anticipate encountering an array of delectable choices, ranging from cheeses, charcuterie, and bread to olive oil, olives, pickled vegetables, seafood, bruschetta, and crostini.

Antipasti no Posto 9 Beach Club Camponarino, Taranto.
Posto 9 Beach Club Camponarino, Taranto.
Onde comer em Lecce, Itália: La Terrazza sul Mare, Marittima.
La Terrazza sul Mare, Marittima (Lecce): antipasti.
Focaccia com tomate e azeitonas.
Focaccia whith tomatoes and olives.
Onde comer em Ostuni: Masseria Valente.
Starter at Masseria Valente.
O que comer em Puglia, Itália: Antipasti - crostini com tomate,  no Lido Maldive del Salento,  Marina di Pescoluse - Lecce.
Lido Maldive del Salento, Marina di Pescoluse – Lecce.
O que comer em Ostuni: Eggplant Parmigiana na Masseria Valente.
Masseria Valente: Eggplant Parmigiana.

Eggplant Parmigiana is a dish based on fried eggplant slices layered with tomato sauce and cheese that is then baked in the oven. It is a light and comforting dish in equal doses.

O que comer em Ostuni, Itália: salada de espelta e maçã verde, na Masseria Valente.
Masseria Valente: spelt salad with green and Martina Franca Capollo.

Spelt, a nutritious and incredibly flavorful cereal grain, takes center stage in this salad.

Paired with the zesty tang of apple slices for a delightful burst of acidity, and accompanied by savory ham that imparts a perfectly balanced touch of saltiness.

La Terrazza sul Mare, Marittima (Lecce): crostini variados.
La Terrazza sul Mare, Marittima (Lecce): starter.
Charcutaria em Puglia, Itália.
Charcuterie in Puglia, Italy.
La Terrazza sul Mare, Marittima (Lecce). Salada de tomate e mozzarella.
La Terrazza sul Mare, Marittima (Lecce): mozzarella and tomatoes salad.
Polpette di polpo su caponata salentina no Restaurante La Terrazza sul Mare (Maritima, Lecce).
Restaurante La Terrazza sul Mare (Maritima, Lecce): Polpette di polpo su caponata salentina.

Polpette di polpo su caponata salentina or Octopus meatball served with mixed vegetables.

O que comer em Puglia, Itália: Crema di fave secche con cicoriella selvatica e cialda croccante di mandorie, no Acaya Golf Resort.
Acaya Golf Resort: Crema di fave secche con cicoriella selvatica e cialda croccante di mandorie.

Crema di fave secche con cicoriella selvatica e cialda croccante di mandorle, or Cream of dried broad beans with wild chicory and a crunchy almond wafer, was one of my favorite courses.

O que comer em Puglia: salada de polvo no Lido Maldive del Salento,  Marina di Pescoluse - Lecce.
Lido Maldive del Salento, Marina di Pescoluse – Lecce: octopus salad.
Onde comer em Ostuni, Itália: Masseria Valente (salada de marisco).
Masseria Valente (seafood salad).
Salada de frutos do mar em Puglia.
Seafood salad.

Primo Piatto, the first course

Marenea salad con misticanza, mazzancolle, pomodorini, avocato, noci sgusciate e mela verde no restaurante  La Terrazza sul Mare (Marenea Suite Hotel CDS Hotels).
La Terrazza sul Mare: Marenea salad.

Indulge in the delightful flavors of La Terrazza sul Mare Restaurant’s Marenea Salad – a veritable feast in a single dish!

This creation boasts an assortment of fresh and crisp elements, including mixed greens, shrimp, cherry tomatoes, avocado, walnuts, and the refreshing tang of green apple.

Beyond its freshness, this salad possesses a hearty character that sustains you well into the evening, making it a truly satisfying choice.

Onde comer em Puglia, Itália: Lido Maldive del Salento,  Marina di Pescoluse - Lecce.
Lido Maldive del Salento, Marina di Pescoluse.

Lido Maldive del Salento, near one of Italy’s top beaches in Marina di Pescoluse, truly shines.

The restaurant’s food is also very worth it.

The dish featuring pasta with a medley of seafood and a rich tomato sauce (top photo) was an absolute delight, a harmonious blend of flavors.

Alternatively, for those seeking a lighter option, the pasta adorned with succulent shrimp (photo below) is equally tempting and gratifying.

O que comer em Puglia, Itália: Pasta no Lido Maldive del Salento,  Marina di Pescoluse - Lecce.
Lido Maldive del Salento, Marina di Pescoluse.
Masseria Valente, em Ostuni: pasta Foglie di Ulivo com tomate e queijo burrata.
Masseria Valente: Foglie di Ulivo pasta with tomatoes and burrata.

Foglie di Ulivo, or olive leaf, is the name of the pasta.

The contrast of the delicacy of the burrata cheese and the acidity of the tomato works very well, as the food was delicious.

Orecchiette con cime di rape e acciughe, no iH Hotels Bari Oriente em Bari.
iH Hotels Bari Oriente: Orecchiette con cime di rape e acciughe.

Orecchiette is the traditional pasta of Bari, which grandmothers make by hand in the historic center of the city.

Comer na Puglia, Itália: Restaurante do Lido Posto 9 Beach Club Camponarino, Taranto.
Lido Posto 9 Beach Club Camponarino, Taranto.
Onde comer na Puglia: Acaya Golf resort: Cavatelli alla mediterranea con tonno, capperi e olive.
Acaya Golf Resort: Cavatelli alla mediterranea con tonno, capperi e olive.

Cavatelli is the name of the pasta, served with fresh tuna, capers and olives.

Comer em Puglia, Itália: Sagne con mix pomodorini e cacioricotta, no La Terrazza sul Mare, Marittimma (Lecce).
La Terrazza sul Mare: Sagne con mix pomodorini e cacioricotta.

Sagne is the name of the pasta, with cherry tomatoes and cacioricota cheese.

Comer na Puglia, Itália: Mexilhões no Restaurante do Lido Posto 9 Beach Club Camponarino, Taranto.
Mussels at Posto 9 Beach Club Camponarino, Taranto.

Secondo Piatto, the main course

The Secondo Piatto is the main dish where you can enjoy meat, fish, or other protein-rich options.

It’s the heart of the meal, bringing hearty flavors to your dining experience.

Onde comer em Puglia, Itália: Acaya Golf Resort (secondi piatti).
Acaya Golf Resort: secondi piatti.

The original intention was to savor Filetto di salmone alla piasta con caponata di verdure – Grilled salmon with vegetable caponata.

However, due to the unavailability of salmon at the moment, they made a thoughtful substitution with another type of fish.

O que comer em Puglia, Itália: Baccalà con patate, ciliegino, olive e tarallo no La Terrazza sul Mare, Marittimma (Lecce).
La Terrazza sul Mare, Marittimma (Lecce): Baccalà con patate, ciliegino, olive e tarallo.

Baccalà con patate, ciliegino, olive e tarallo – Salt cod served with cherry tomatoes, potatos, olives and tarallo.

The cod was excellent, as were the potatoes and finely ground olives.

Tarallo (plural: taralli) is a traditional cookie from southern Italy that has been crushed (as shown in the image).

Prato principal: polvo no Lido Posto 9 Beach Club Camponarino, Taranto.
Eating in Puglia, Italy: Octopus at Posto 9 Beach Club Camponarino, Taranto.
Comer na Puglia, Itália: Lulas no Restaurante do Lido Posto 9 Beach Club Camponarino, Taranto.
Eating in Puglia, Italy: Squid at Posto 9 Beach Club Camponarino, Taranto.
Masseria Valente em Ostuni: porco assado com ervas aromáticas.
Masseria Valente: Roasted capollo slice (porc) with aromatic herbs breading.
Masseria Valente em Ostuni: rolos de carne do Vale d'Itria.
Masseria Valente: Bombetta pugliese, or Meat rolls from Valle d’Itria.

Bombetta pugliese is a specialty of Valle d’Itria and consists of meat rolls filled with cheese and ham.

Dolci, desserts for sweet endings

If you still have room for dessert, then in this region you can count on Italian classics such as tiramisu, cheesecake and pana cotta, or finish the meal with fruit.

Acaya Golf Resort: fruta de sobremesa.
Acaya Golf Resort: refreshing fruit for dessert.
Masseria Valente (Ostuni): sobremesa.
Masseria Valente (Ostuni): dessert.
Masseria Valente (Ostuni): Cheesecake de frutos vermelhos.
Masseria Valente (Ostuni): Cheesecake.
O que comer em Bari: tiramisu no iH Hotels Bari Oriente.
Eating in Puglia, Italy: tiramisu at iH Hotels Bari Oriente

Eating in Puglia: Snacks and quick meals in Puglia

Refeição leve a bordo do cruzeiro em Castro.
Light meal on board the cruise in Castro.

Exploring Puglia is an experience that stimulates the senses and curiosity, while whetting the appetite for the incredible gastronomy in Puglia.

And when the hours between meals get long, local snacks in Puglia are the answer to satisfying restless stomachs like mine.

And even if you’re not hungry, it’s difficult to resist the aroma of pastry shops and small neighborhood restaurants.

Therefore, the best thing is to let yourself go and try whatever you want.

Pasticciotto Leccese, for example, a cake filled with ricotta cream and egg yolks, is a sweet icon that melts in your mouth.

Pasticciotto no Caffè Alvino, em Lecce.
Pasticciotto Leccese at Caffè Alvino, in Lecce.

On the other hand, the sgagliozze, fried slices of crunchy polenta, not only provide a tasty and comforting salty snack in the historic center of Bari but are also inexpensive, making them a satisfying and budget-friendly choice.

Gastronomia na Puglia, Itália: Sgagliozze.
Eating in Puglia, Italy: Sgagliozze.

However, if you prefer something more substantial, panzerotto is an ideal choice.

Anyway, this kind of fried pastry, stuffed with tomato sauce, mozzarella and other ingredients, is a street meal that never disappoints.

The only problem is that you’ll want to eat several, as they are quite addictive.

O que comer em Bari, Puglia: panzerotto.
Eating in Puglia, Italy: Panzerotto.

Of course, we can’t forget gelato, that is, the famous Italian ice cream, with so many flavors the hardest part is choosing which one to eat.

Gelato em Itália.
Gelato at Martinucci, Santa Maria di Leuca.

In addition, you will also find slices of pizza, foccacia and regional sandwiches in several places, which are excellent light meals to eat on the go.

In other words, exploring Puglia is an adventure not only for the eyes, but also for the palate.

List of Restaurants to Try in Puglia

Embark on an unforgettable culinary journey while eating in Puglia, guided by this handpicked list of must-try restaurants!

Below, you’ll discover the names and addresses of the delightful eateries that made a lasting impact during my own Puglia adventure

La Terrazza sul Mare (Marenea Suite Hotel CDS Hotels)

Marenea Suite Hotel Litoranea Castro-Tricase 158

73030 – Marina di Marittima Diso (LE), Italy.

Lido Maldive del Salento

Litoranea, Corso Leuca,

73050 Marina di Pescoluse LE, Italya.

iH Hotels Bari Oriente

Corso Cavour, 32,

70122 Bari BA, Italy.

Calemone Azienda Agricola

Pomodoro Fiaschetto Torre Guaceto Presidio Slow Food

C.da Baccatani, 36,

72012 Serranova BR, Italy.

Posto 9 Beach Club Camponarino

Località Commenda,

74020 Campomarino TA, Italy.


*I traveled to Puglia at the invitation of Puglia Promozione as part of a press tour that included international journalists and travel bloggers.

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