Ahh the food, the food....Puglia

Posting a brief trip report on Fodors reminded me of the incredible food we had in Puglia. I was so excited about the meals I photographed lots of them! 

Ahh the food, the food, or rather I should say the antipasti, the antipasti. We were constantly moved to eloquence in the face of the extraordinary antipasti de la casa. In Puglia the antipasti is king.  Vegetables of all forms, hot and cold, crisp and soft, mixed cured meats, beans whole and pureed, varieties of ricotta that tasted tangy, rich and interesting. We were ready to sing before the main meal had even begun. The antipasti were  the star of the show and we learnt quickly that we had to order accordingly.

We can highly recommend the much discussed Antichi Sapori in Montegrosso and Antichi Locanda in Noci which is in the same league. Both offered incredible food at very reasonable rates and provided great hospitality and a warm welcome. These places provide a real introduction to the cuisine and the sensibility of the area. While the former was heavily reviewed we picked the later from the Slow Food Guide and their recommendation was stellar.
One of the first things we learnt is that you can order the antipasti for one and split it, it will certainly be enough food. You can of course do the same with the primi, indeed in several places they allowed us to order half orders of pasta so we could try two dishes without ordering too much food.

We used the Slow Food bible, Osterie Locande, a Guide to Traditional Places To Eat and Stay In Italy and I highly recommend it, particularly when you seek out their picks marked in the text by a snail!  

In Lecce we ate at Due Corti and I particularly enjoyed learning about the food from the daughter of the owners, she speaks very good English and was able to educate us as to the particular ways in which the make and treat the pasta and what is specific to Lecce and the surrounding region.

We were served the pasta below which is made freshly every day, it has a different composition than the pasta from northern Italy and it was boiled and then fried, delicious.

People here are proud of their food and their traditions and are happy to share it with you when they see your enthusiasm and appreciation. We also ate at the highly recommended Le Zie, Trattoria Cucina Casareccia.  Like most of these places you'll need to make your reservations in advance and on the midweek night we visited it was packed. It is an experience and you will be made very welcome. It feels like you are eating home cooked food in someone's living room but this was not a highlight for us. The door  to the restaurant is decorated with various stickers and is kept locked. You have to let them know you have a reservation before they allow you inside. 

Palate cleansing cucumbers

Antichi Sapori dining room

Along the coast we stopped at Da Tuccino which was recommended by the hotel and is well known for seafood. The place has a very dated interior and is clearly one of the more expensive options in town. We visited on a very slow midweek night and were seated next to some extremely obnoxious tourists that were uncouth and embarrassing. The whole place reminded me of a country club from the mid 1970's with overly attentive silver service style waiters. I was very disappointed by the ambiance UNTIL we tasted the food. It was excellent. Both the pasta and the crudo were outstanding. They sell the fish by weight and the crudi they brought was among the best we've ever had, extraordinary. However, we ordered carefully, this is the kind of place where the bill could escalate very quickly.

The drunk loud group next to us really were like a stereotype of how to behave badly. One of the women complained loudly because they didn't have crème brulee on the menu and then tried to convince the waiter that the chef could easily whip one up for her. His bemused expression was priceless poor man.

First the crudo...
Pasta with langoustine...
A small fat toothy pasta with red shrimp and rocket, incredible....
I must admit I'm not crazy about Italian desserts but we enjoyed this trio and a plate of cookies...
I don't eat a lot of pizza a home because it isn't this good. However, in Italy I love pizza and prosecco. What a wonderful lunch, though not from the Slow Food bible!

Tip: In Matera we had a great meal at Osteria Pico which was recommended by the hotel, again an incredible antipasti. The food had a slightly modern refined bent and we enjoyed it very much. If only I could remember exactly what we had!

The colours of Italy on the plate!