What to Eat in Puglia: Tips on Some of the Best Food in Italy

Traveling to Italy? Read what to eat in Puglia to get inspired and plan your menu ahead. 

Before we list here some of the best food in Italy, let’s start with a quick question. How many countries have you visited? Two? Fifteen? Forty? Okay, let’s say ten is the average of visited countries of a person who’s reading this article. Now, out of these ten countries, do you remember where did you NOT see an Italian restaurant or a pizzeria? One? Two? Maybe none?

I’m sure you cannot recall a single country where you wouldn’t have got a chance to sample a local version of Italian food (instead of all of the Asian specialties we had been eating for a while.) Now, let’s jump onto the food and see what to eat in Puglia on your next trip to Europe

Some of the best food in Italy

One cuisine with many influences

We can contemplate why is it so common to open an Italian restaurant in a small sea village in Asia or in the Nordic capitals, but I feel there would be only one answer in the end of the discussion: because Italian food is super appetizing, and loved by the majority of travellers, many of whom have actually never visited the country.

I hope you’ll agree if I say the best of any cuisine can be found in its homeland and the same works for the best food of Italy. It can be found only in the country of la dolce vita.

Due to the Puglia’s history and location, its dishes have been influenced by Greek, Spanish, Arabic and French cuisines, which resulted in some of the best food in Italy, and dishes that you don’t usually find in northern regions of the country.

Puglia has been an agricultural region for hundreds of years and one of the main producers of olive oil in Italy. You’ll feel it straight upon your arrival; a bottle of olive oil with a strong taste and aroma stands on a table in every trattoria or pizzeria and in everyone’s kitchen, too. Oh, did I mention that olive oil in Italy is far too different than the one you might be used to back home? (Unless you are Spanish or Greek.)

What to eat in Puglia

The main ingredients of the meals in Puglia are durum wheat, vegetables (aubergine, tomatoes, chicory, fennel, pepper), mushrooms, and lots of fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage), as well as fave beans and beef.

Cheese lovers, get ready! In Puglia you’ll discover the taste of burrata (fresh cheese made of mozzarella & cream), [ricotta forte] or [ricotta pecorina] which you’ll want to add everywhere and stracciatella cheese.

Snacks, appetizers in Puglia

You will find a lot of street food in Puglia, but every town has also a café, a pasticceria (pastry shop), a panificio (bakery) or a salumeria (grocery) where you can grab some fresh snacks and appetizers that will fill your empty stomach.

Focaccia

what to eat in Puglia
Focaccia with tomatoes.

Italian flat bread typically topped with olive oil, tomatoes and rosemary. One of the most popular varieties in Puglia is filled with black olives and onion called pizzitello Pugliese.

Pizzo Leccese
Usually round shaped bread popular in Lecce, with black olives, onions, tomatoes, chilli and sometimes they add zucchini and capers to it.

best food in Italy
Two best friends: rustico & pizzo Leccese.

Rustico
A puffed pastry filled with mozzarella, tomato sauce, béchamel and pepper. It’s better if you eat it straight after you buy it, when the cheese is melted and warm.

Join some of the food tours in Puglia:

Puccia

what to eat in Puglia
Freshly done puccia.

This wood oven sandwich is made of the same dough as pizza, and is more a brunch thing. You order bread and fill it with whatever you fancy. There’s less crumb inside so that you can add more ingredients than inside a bread bun. Some of the typical stuffing options are: grilled vegetables, cheese, ham and fresh salad rocket.

Panzerotto

best food in Italy
A plate of fresh tasty panzerotti.

This is a super filling fried pastry with melted mozzarella and tomatoes inside.

Taralli
Savoury round shaped crackers which taste is similar to breadsticks. Recommended: taralli with fennel flavour.

Gelato!

best food in Puglia
Rich in taste Italian gelato.

Italian frozen delicacy is what you call THE ice cream. When you buy raspberry flavour, you taste raspberry, chocolate is more than just powder taste of chocolate, and a scoop of nut flavour is crunchy, creamy and not just a melting mass leaking out of a cone.

Plan your trip to Italy and Europe:

Main dishes in Puglia, Italy

If you’ve never been in Puglia before, let me warn you: you’ll enter a food monarchy that will tempt you solidly to sample, sample & sample something new again. There will be always something new! Puglia is truly a place with some of the best food in Italy; so get ready for that.

Like in other regions of the country, Italians in Puglia love their food, and are proud to prepare their traditional dishes that are part of the world famous cuisine. (Remember the number of Italian restaurants you’ve seen around the globe?)

Aperitivo, antipasto, primo, secondo, contorno, formaggi and frutta, dolce, caffè, digestive and… coma!

best food in Puglia
A board of cold cuts and grilled veggies at the V-ita restaurant in Lecce, Italy.

It took me a while to get used to the concept of a full Italian meal.

You open your stomach with aperitivo which is a small snack (nuts, cheese, olives) and alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks. You continue with antipasto which is usually cold cuts like salami, prosciutto, cheese and bruschetta.

Then follows an Italian primo (first course, after which you’ll be already full) that is usually pasta, rice or a soup and secondo (second course) that is meat or fish and is served with contorno, which is typically raw or cooked veggies or potatoes (French fries or roasted).

After that, you’ll be offered cheese and fruits that are abundant in Puglia (figs, grapes, oranges, dates etc.) and dolce (sweets). You cannot leave a table without having a real Italian espresso AND digestive (called also ammazzacafè, which means ‘kill the coffe’!), that is usually a liquor like grappa, limoncello or amaro!).

Once you’re done with this, you fall into a food-coma, and good luck with recovering because the next day and the day after you’re going to eat the same amount.

So, what are traditional meals you should look for when visiting Puglia?

Fave e cicorie (Broad beans with chicory)

best food in Puglia
A plate of delicious fave and chicory.

Mashed broad beans with chicory topped with olive oil, can be served with other grilled veggies like aubergines and peppers. Filling and rich in taste, slow cooked for 2/3 hours . That’s why a patient cook with a warm heart is needed to prepare a decent bowl of fave.

Orecchiette al pomodoro (Orecchiette pasta with tomato sauce)
Typical “ear shaped” pasta from Puglia that usually comes with tomato sauce, parmesan or stronger ricotta cheese. I could live without pasta in general (just give me a plate of boiled potatoes with sauerkraut!), but honestly, the world wouldn’t be the same without orecchiette.

Also recommended: orecchiette with cime di rapa (pasta with rapine, which is kind of softer broccoli) with a mildly bitter taste.

Ciceri e Tria (Pasta with chickpeas)

best food in Italy
Ciceri e Tria with Arabic influence.

Typical pasta from southern Italy with Arabic influence. It’s served with fried noodles and chickpeas.

Join some of food tours in Puglia:

Pignata con pezzetti di cavallo (pieces of horse meat in a pot)

what to eat in Puglia
Can this setting be more Italian?

Pignata is a terracotta pot that is used for slow cooking of meat, fish & vegetables. Horse meat is quite popular in the south of Italy and this dish in particular is often served on special occasions like birthday parties, family or friends’ gatherings, when the host cooks the meat for three/four hours.

Pack & travel:

Heading to Napoli after visiting Puglia? Check this yummy guide about Naples pizza.

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what to eat in Puglia

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22 thoughts on “What to Eat in Puglia: Tips on Some of the Best Food in Italy”

  1. Hi Ivana, what a delicious article. Like most people I also love Italian food. Just by reading words like pasticceria, panificio or salumeria the world becomes somehow nicer for a moment. Hmmm, I could do with one or two panzerotti right now.

    1. Ivana Greslikova

      Thanks by stopping by, Dorothée and welcome in a panzerotti club! Yes, words of Italian cuisine and food industry can somehow put you at ease. Needless to say that tasting some proper Italian ffod makes your day definitely brighter 🙂

  2. That’s it, I’m officially homesick! 🙁

    I wish I could have a plate of freshly made orecchiette con cime di rapa right now, I think that might be a little be challenging where we are right now, I don’t think it’s a typical food in Scotland 🙁

    1. Ivana Greslikova

      Ohhh, I can only sympathize with you, Franca. What about a variation a là Scotland? Happy to know there is another orecchiette con cime di rapa lover!

  3. Becky | adventure awaits us

    Wow these all look delicious! The rustico looks really nice – i’d definitely try these if I ever visit Italy.

    1. Ivana Greslikova

      I do hope that you’ll get a chance to taste it yourself, Becky. There’s so much to sample in Italy!

    1. Ivana Greslikova

      Hi Katrina, thank you for the comment. You’ll need to head to Puglia region next time to get these delicacies 🙂 You can find them in some restaurants in the north, but to get original traditional fave or orecchiette, Puglia is THE place!

  4. OMG. Just yum! And such wonderful photos. You’re killing me!
    Italy is one of my most favourite places and I have been there many times but I haven’t yet been to Puglia. I did however, learn how to make a few specialities and drink Puglian red wine at the Puglia store at ITB in Berlin. Everyone was just so amazing and friendly. I hope to go there this year if I can. Lovely. 🙂

    1. Ivana Greslikova

      Ciao Victoria! If you loved the wine and people in Berlin, then you’ll be in love with locals and delicacies in the south of Italy! I can barely stay without snacking and sampling everything around me when I’m there 🙂 Happy travels!

  5. I have my trip to Puglia all booked for September and I can’t wait to try all of these. Thanks for the tips!

    Yasmine |http://peekingduck.co

    1. Ivana Greslikova

      Wow, great, Yasmine! Have a blast in Puglia, it’s an ultimate foodie heaven 🙂

  6. Hi, Ivana,
    I ate all of these recipes that you show in your post. And I love all them. In my opinion, the Italian cuisine is the best, but the italian cuisine in Puglia is more! My favourite recipes is, for sure, orecchiette alle cime di rapa and rustico leccese.
    Sorry, but you forgot an important recipe ?! The pasticciotto!!! The typical pastry in Salento! Very delicious! and also the pasta di mandorle!
    Now I’m hungry and also unhappy because I would to go in Puglia and eat all!!!!
    Greetings
    Melina

    1. Ivana Greslikova

      Hi Melina,

      Thanks so much for your feedback! Right now we’re in Puglia, indulging in all flavours we have written about, and I wish I could send you some nice warm pasticciotto 🙂 Btw, how could I forget to mention it in the post? I’m eating it here almost every day! Cheers and thanks again for your kind words.

  7. Hi Ivanna & Gianni,
    I am starting to prepare a trip to Italy – south of Rome – Croatia and Greek for 2 weeks on August 2017. Please send some tips to places to visit and have a lot of fun with my wife.
    Thanks in advance
    Lairson (Brazil)

    1. Ivana Greslikova

      Hi Lairson, as you can see in our destinations list, we’ve never been to Croatia, and in Greece we visited mountains in Epirus.
      You might better check blog http://www.chasingthedonkey.com/, which focuses on Croatia. Cheers!

  8. Thanks for this wonderful overview of food in Puglia. You’re right, Italian food is amazing and I have seen it everywhere I have been! Beautiful pictures as well.

    1. Ivana Greslikova

      Thanks for your lovely feedback, Danielle! Happy to hear another traveller is in love with Italian cuisine 🙂 Happy travels!

  9. wow, what an incredible input. will be there soon, for its food and wines. wish could stay there forever. does any one wants the fresh dishes to be sent across? dear Ivana, any further details apart from Lecce like Andria, Ostuni, Martina Franca, Monopoli, Bari, Locorotondo, Lecua, Otranto, Gallipoli? will be visiting them too, any inputs regarding them will be really appreciated. did you visit the apulian wineries (primitivo & negramaro).
    @ melina : thanks for your input too.

    cheer!

  10. Amanda | AlmostLanding.com

    Such a great post, we haven’t explored Puglia yet and this is making me want to go there very soon 🙂 Thanks for the great tips!

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