Apulia, or Puglia in Italian, covers the idyllic ‘heel’ of South East Italy. A promontory between the Ionian and Adriatic Seas, Puglia boasts a stunning tapestry of Olive groves, gentle hillsides and sprawling farmland, not to mention the extensive, sun kissed beaches. It is a region bounded in a rich and varied history, having played host to the boots of numerous foreign invaders over the centuries, (including the Normans, Swabians, Turks and Greeks) each of whom have left their own influences, creating a culture that is uniquely Puglian.
But let’s focus on the real reason you’re visiting Italy.
Yes the culture is fascinating, and yes the landscape and seascapes are breath-taking…but even more important than all of that, there’s the food and drink; specifically in this case, food and drink in Puglia.
As a country, Italy is renowned for her cuisine, and Puglia is no exception to the rule, boasting a long tradition of culinary mastery. Largely an agricultural region, Puglia produces approximately 40% of Italy’s olive oil, not to mention a sizeable proportion of its wine.
Much of Puglia’s land is designated farmland, both crops and livestock, providing a cornucopia of fine local produce including; olive oil, salami, peppers, artichokes, mushrooms, durum wheat, tomatoes, grapes and much more.
Many of the locals still grow their own produce as well, which, over time, has given rise to the now legendary “cucina povera” (peasant cooking) which has helped to rocket the fame of food and drink in Puglia.
Naturally, as a coastal region, seafood also plays a significant part in mealtimes in Puglia, and dripping treasure troves of red mullet, sea bass, cuttlefish, anchovies and gilt-head bream are hauled fresh from the seas and into the restaurants and shops daily.
Then, of course, we must mention the pasta. You can no doubt find all of your favourite pasta dishes that your local Italian restaurant does so well…but Puglia will probably do it better. Puglians take great pride in their hand-produced “orecchiette” (little, ear-shaped shells) usually served with one of a variety of delicious sauces. Another regional speciality is “maccheroni al forno,” essentially a maccheroni pie, and highly recommended.
As with the pasta, Puglian bread is made using the local durum wheat, and is a mouth-watering accompaniment to every meal. Altamura (South-West of Bari) is home to the delectable “Pane di Altamura” (Altamura bread), which is renowned throughout Europe.
The region’s cheeses are largely of an ovine persuasion, due to the vast flocks of sheep that inhabit the land. A local historic delicacy, “burrata di Andria,” dates back to around 1900 and its origins can supposedly be traced to the Bianchini farm in the city of Andria. Puglian pecorinos and ricottas also come extremely highly recommended for cheese-enthusiasts.
Local favourite dessert options are largely sweetened ricotta cheese-based delights, or equally pleasing almond-based sweets.
So in a region so packed with outstanding cuisine, where can one go to enjoy a meal which reaches or even exceeds the gastric standards of a land inhabited by the food-lovers elite?
Recommended Restaurants for Food and drink in Puglia
Al Focolare da Emilio (at the hearth of Emilio) is a busy, friendly restaurant located in Bari’s bustling city centre. A family-run establishment (the Veronoli family), Al Focolare da Emilio offers a nice selection of traditional Puglian dishes as well as a short, but high quality wine list. Though widely known for their seafood options, you are sure to find something for all tastes.
The Baccosteria Restaurant is the place to be for all seafood aficionados, although it is advisable to book well in advance due to its popularity and the fact that it can only seat 25 at any one time. Using only fresh ingredients, the Baccosteria offers numerous speciality seafood dishes and is as much enjoyed by locals as it is by visitors.
Grotta Palazzese is a stunning and renowned hotel in Polignano a Mare whos restaurant could represent “idyllic” in the dictionary. Nestled into a cavern, or grotto, overlooking the Adriatic Sea, the breathtaking and romantic restaurant (which includes a bar and lounge area) serves excellent, traditional Mediterranean cuisine. Although specialising in seafood dishes, they also offer a range of land-based options to suit even the fussiest of palate.
La Chiusa delle More is a 16th century farm-house, converted into a delightful Inn and bed & breakfast. Situated just over a mile outside of Peschici, near the Gargano National Park in exquisite surroundings, the kitchen provides a buffet breakfast of locally picked fruits, fresh breads and pastries and more. Then at dinner, outstanding, traditional Puglian fare adorn the tables with speciality meat and seafood dishes. Aesthetically charming and ventrally pleasing, La Chiusa delle More is a must visit.
Borgo Egnazia is Puglia’s most prestigious resort, a village in its own right, with a plethora of amenities and pleasurable distractions available. The main restaurant, Due Camini, is a serene, relaxed place to get better acquainted with the traditional food of the Pugliese. There is also a barbecue and buffet restaurant in the Borgo, La Frasca, which has a pleasant garden spot for the children. While in Trattoria Mia Cucina, one can enjoy watching their food prepared before them, and socialise with other culinary enthusiasts at the group tables. Borgo Egnazia is truly deserving of its glittering reputation.
Regardless of your choice of venue, we can assure that food and drink in Puglia will not disappoint. Just make sure to save space for dessert.