Podolica Ribeye at Soul Kitchen (Matera) – This list has the dubious distinction of being a “best thing we ate in X” list starting with an item in Y. Soul Kitchen isnt in Puglia, but the neighboring region of Basilicata. Matera is very often paired with Puglia as a major destination. But hey, I dont make these rules! Simply put, this steak was freakishly good. Expertly cooked Podolica (the southern answer to Chianina and Fassone), and ranks high up there with anything we’ve ever had in steak heaven Tuscany. So good I just had to hug the chef.
Shrimp baked in Salt at La Puritate (Gallipoli) – People come to Gallipoli to see Gallipoli, but I came to see the famous shrimp. Trattoria La Pure Joy as we coined it, dished out a shrimp dish unlike anything I ever had. They are plated table side along with delicious EVOO, and although plenty of salt used, they never cross into the too salty territory. Outstanding to say the least.
Pizza at 400 Gradi (Lecce) – Highly acclaimed Neapolitan, and arguably the finest pizza in Puglia. According to this well regarded list, one of the best in the world actually. Delicious, perfectly chewy crust, with top notch, zero km ingredients. And I suppose I reached the pivotal point in my life where I just had to finally try pizza shaped like a star and the one here, with beautiful Ricotta filled sun rays, didn’t disappoint. Its a bit outside the closest old city gate, and quite popular with the locals, so come as soon as they open or be prepared to wait.
Seppia Tagliolini with shrimp at Ristorante Blu Notte (Lecce) – Sometimes, not often, its the happy accidents that produce the most stellar results. We stumbled upon this gem by pure luck after some places I marked were closed, and it turned out to be one of the best meals of the trip. After enjoying the famous Puglia antipasti all over, the seafood spread here were quite memorable. But the pastas, especially the rich Seppia win the prize.
Tuna Carpaccio at Antiche Mura (Polignano a Mare) – I’m a sucker for a good tuna tartare or carpaccio. You can just see recent posts for evidence. This silky smooth goodness in this seafood mecca is simply divine. A lesson in freshness, quality and simplicity. The baby squid, Tagliolini with fish, not too shabby either. After the meal head to Super Mago del Gelo Mario Campanella, or “Super Mario” for the specialty coffee with lemon and Amaro.
Lobster Roll at SoFish (Otranto) – SoFish is the type that best exemplify the fun of travel, especially for the seafood deprived like us. A hip, “Fast Casual” joint specializing in quick seafood. Its not exactly an old concept in Puglia as it appears that it started by the great success of Pescaria in Polignano a Mare not too long ago. This roll is more like a well crafted lobster salad with huge chunks of meaty lobster and the rest of the lobster resting on top. Perhaps the most outrageous lobster roll you’ll ever encounter.
Lasagnariccia at Cibus (Ceglie Messapica) – Picking one dish from this Slow Food legend is not easy. I could have picked any of the sick antipasti spread like the Stracciatella with black truffles or the Zucchini flowers with ricotta and toasted almonds. But I think I heard the angels finally sing when I tried the Lasagnariccia, a beautifully deconstructed Lasagna with eggplant, like the best eggplant parm you will ever eat.
Puccia at La Lira Focacceiria (Alberobello) – Puccia is a sandwich made with pizza dough, and this place and its animated owner makes one heck of a Puccia. “Now wait outside until you hear Puccia! Like this… PUCCIA!!!!”. Dough, ingredients rocked big time. Same with their crafty stuffed focaccia sandwiches
Pasticciotto at Pasticceria Andrea Ascalone (Galatina) – Eating the Pasticciotto here is like eating Pasteis de Nata at Pasteis de Belem in Portugal. You can have them all over Salento and they’ll taste pedestrian next to the original where it was invented. Tour buses including week long food tours make the pilgrimage to this place. Smart to build an impressive 15th century Basilica nearby, with some of the most stunning frescoes you’ll find anywhere.
Pear, Ricotta, Rum Dessert at L’antica Locanda (Noci) – I literally heard fireworks when I ate this, but pretty sure it came from outside. It’s a simple but incredibly addictive concoction, especially if you are into boozy desserts. My dining companions thought it was a tad too strong, but to me it was perfectly balanced. Noci is where those in the know go to eat when they visit Alberobello, and L’antica Locanda is its crown jewel.