The cuisine of Puglia, much like the region itself, remains relatively undiscovered. Which, makes it the perfect opportunity to take your tastebuds on an adventure. Like much of Italy, you’ll find olive oils, meats, cheeses and pasta at it’s heart, but not like you’ve ever tasted before. Here’s a few hints to get your mouth watering.
1. Cucina in Masseria, Mola di Bari
Aficionados of Italian cuisine can master authentic, seasonal dishes straight from the handwritten family recipes of this 17th-century olive oil mill turned cookery school. One-day classes begin with a morning spent buying ingredients directly from local farmers at the market and learning to cook Italian cakes and pasta dishes. Then, after eating the fruits of your labour for lunch, it’s back to the market to source seafood straight from the fishermen as their boats arrive in the harbour, followed by an afternoon of cooking, learning and, finally, feasting on your creations.
2. Ristorante Al Trabucco da Mimì, Peschici
Named after the trabucco method of fishing, where an enormous, rock-anchored wooden contraption casts and retrieves nets from the water, this restaurant mixes old-fashioned fishing practices and rustic recipes with modern cooking techniques. The seasonal menu changes all the time, based on the local produce available and the catch of the day. Old fishing tools and memorabilia cover the walls of the dining room and the old trabucco is very much in use – you can even have a go if you fancy trying your luck at catching your own dinner.
3. Specchia Sant’Oronzo, Polignano a Mare
Right at the heart of the enchanting cliff-edge town of Polignano a Mare, the Specchia Sant’Oronzo restaurant is a romantic dining spot with a leafy, candlelit alfresco terrace. The setting of this restaurant, with the twinkling lights of the town in one direction and the countryside in the other, is its main draw, though the food is also top class. The menu changes, but expect the likes of smoked swordfish or beef carpaccio followed by seafood risotto or pasta stuffed with truffled cheese.
4. La Cantina di Cianna Cianne, Bari
With an interior that oozes charm and a menu stuffed with southern Italian classics, this thoroughly traditional trattoria is a top spot for road-testing local dishes from the old city of Bari. The dining room at the lively and rustic restaurant spills out onto the street, where you can enjoy antipasti, seafood, pasta and risotto al fresco, while taking in Bari’s vibrant atmosphere.
5. Cantine Menhir, Minervino di Lecce
Housed in a 17th-century palace, the historical Cantine Menhir winery draws thousands of visitors from around the world every year. Spread across the ground floor of the charming old building is the Origano restaurant, where you can taste-test the in-house vinos and feast on dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. The Mediterranean-style gardens of the old palace are put to excellent use in the summer, when live music and al fresco dinners are held in the grounds.
6. Aleph Microbirrificio, Taranto
The Aleph Brewery is a family hobby turned business idea, after its founder grew up watching in awe as his father brewed his own beer at home. Years of training and research later, and the father and son duo have perfected their own recipe and production process. They probably have one of the best beer systems out there. Craft beer and real ale connoisseurs will love being among the first to visit this relatively new brewery and taste its offerings. There is a production workshop to tour and a tasting room for knocking back a few of the house favourites, or you can handpick a selection of bottles to take away.
7. Tenute Rubino, Brindisi
The Tenute Rubino wine brand was borne out of a passion for the Salento landscape and its potential as a vine-growing region. Fast-forward a couple of decades and this family-run business sells more than a million bottles of its home-grown wine every year and is well on its way to cementing Puglia as a world-class wine destination. More than 70 per cent of Tenute Rubino sales are outside of Italy and you can find out why it has charmed wine drinkers around the globe in one of its tasting sessions. You can choose to taste the wine alone or with food pairings, either way you’ll also be treated to a 90-minute tour of the cellar.
8. Il Bastione, Gallipoli
Located on the seafront of the historical seaside town of Gallipoli, the Il Bastione restaurant has a setting almost as good as its menu. This upmarket eatery dishes up elegant plates of seafood and classic southern Italian cooking, paired with an impressive cellar of local and international wines. The restaurant prides itself on its menu and service but the bright, modern dining room is a big part of its appeal, thanks to big sea-view windows, al fresco terrace and lovely blue vistas where the sea meets the sky.
9. MINT Cucina Fresca, Polignano a Mare
If you’ve feasted on one too many bowls of pasta and you’re looking for a night off the carbs, Mint Cucina Fresca is the restaurant to seek out. A rare find in Italy, especially Puglia, this place is entirely vegetarian and focuses on super healthy dishes. The ever-changing menus are devised exclusively from seasonal and organic produce, supplied by handpicked local producers. Veggie burgers, cakes and cheeses are among the best of its mouth-watering healthy offerings.
10. Blanc, Gallipoli
A café, bar and shop in one, this one-of-a-kind foodie experience is one of Gallipoli’s hidden gems and is designed to be an all-round sensory experience. You will find it in a cute courtyard at the heart of the historical centre of town, where you can browse and buy all sorts of lifestyle products, from ceramics to vintage furniture. When it’s time to refuel, sit back with a coffee, a drink from the chic bar or a bite to eat from the chef’s menu.
If you’re feeling hungry for all things Italian, check out our foodie guides to Tuscany and Sicily. Or, if you’re heart is set on the mystique of Puglia, read all about it from a local’s perspective. Of course, the concierge team are always on hand too, to help you plan your perfect villa holiday in Puglia.