The best restaurants in Puglia, Italy

Written by Travel Adventures

Puglia is the land of plenty, the fertile heel of Italy’s boot, packed with silvery trees heavy with chubby green olives and fringed with sun-baked beaches. With the rest of Europe at its doorstep, Puglia is a mosaic of cultural influences pieced together by the handful of invaders that left their mark through the centuries, you can see it in the architecture, hear it in the region’s dialect and taste it in the food. Over the past few years, some pockets of Puglia have smartened up to meet a growing interest from the discerning design crowd, but most of the region has remained untamed and untouched by the heavy hand of tourism, wearing its wildness with pride. Puglia sports a different, longer-lasting kind of luxury, which will teach you how to live simply and eat exceptionally.

With many locals still living off the mineral-rich limestone land, produce is everything and sharing a slow indulgent meal is a ritual. The best way to understand Puglia is through food: diving into plates of just-caught seafood from the Adriatic on one side and the Mediterranean on the other, biting into jammy fist-sized figs growing wild, or tearing a chunk of bread from a rustic loaf to soak up the remnants of a slow cooked sugo. Puglia is about truly tasting the landscape: when the ingredients are this good, you can confidently cut the frills.

Bountiful local produce and centuries of culinary secrets passed on from generation to generation mean that tradition will always reign supreme here, but there’s a new generation of chefs carving out their place in Puglia’s culinary landscape. From the humble trattorias helmed by nonnas, to the Michelin-starred hotspots offering a contemporary take on the classics, all of the region’s best restaurants share a common theme: produce is always the protagonist.

The best restaurants in Puglia Italy

Sophie Knight

The best restaurants in Puglia Italy

Sophie Knight

Trattoria delle Ruote, Martina Franca

This place has existed in a time warp for decades, the menu is exactly the same as it was fifty years ago, as are the recipes and preparations. At Trattoria delle Ruote, eating is a ritual not to be rushed; tables are limited, and diners are encouraged to take as long as they need. What makes this place special is the farmhouse setting it exists within; tables fit snugly into a small trulli decorated with ancient tools. The food is rustic much like the surroundings; you’ll eat artisanal salumi and formaggi from local farmers that taste of the Pugliese land, followed by perfectly dense orecchiette and buoyant balls of milky mozzarella. Everything is made in-house, from the pasta to the pickles, even the herbal liquors that linger on the table alongside the modest cheque.

Address: Strada Monticello, 1, 74015 Martina Franca TA, Italy

Pein Assutt, Altamura

Hidden in the streets of Altamura, Pein Assut does Pugliese cucina povera well. Translating as “kitchen of the poor”, it’s more of a philosophy that emerged out of necessity in the wake of two world wars: minimising waste and making less go further. To be quite frank, there’s nothing poor about cucina povera, it speaks more to the ability of Italians to serve something impressive with what they have to hand, and the family of chefs at Pein Assutt are a prime example of that, plating up some of the best traditional dishes in the region in a home-from-home setting. Horse meat is widely eaten in the south of Italy and Puglia is no exception, don’t miss the carpaccio di cavallino at Pein Assutt, raw slices of horse meat with rocket, olive oil and grated Grana Padano. For primi, order the orecchiette con salsiccia e fungi, the region’s signature ear-shaped pasta with hand cut sausage, tomato and cardoncelli mushrooms. Follow up with the pecora a cuttridd, sheep cooked with vegetables and wild herbs in a clay pot.

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