"Puglia - Beautiful to see. Delightful to taste."

Regione Puglia

Our Top 5 Restaurants

This is probably the hardest of all the categories to rank. There are many, many fantastic restaurants in the area - indeed one of our favourite things about living in Puglia full-time is that the food here is incredible. Yes, we sometimes miss the diversity of the global cuisines available in the UK and we definitely have wistful memories about great Indian takeaways on a Friday night. However, the food here is fantastic, fresh and packed full of flavour. Puglia is one of the poorest regions of Italy (although it is definitely on the up) but is also one of the most agricultural, producing a huge quantity of wine, olive oil, fruit, vegetables and wheat (for bread and pasta). It also boasts over 500 miles (800kms) of coastline. Puglia's cuisine is based on "cucina povera" (peasants' food) but this term is hugely misleading. The food may be "simple" in terms of the number of ingredients, its presentation, or the techniques used but it is a style of cooking based on the availability of food around you and making the most of the local and seasonal ingredients. The biggest compliment that you can pay a chef here is to say "that is just how grandma used to make it".
We have a larger list of recommended restaurants in the information packs in the apartment and we are always happy to offer suggestions if you can tell us where you are heading or what you fancy (meat, seafood, pizza, pasta, etc). However, in the meantime here is a taster of our (current) favourite restaurants.

1. Al Solito Posto - Ostuni
Ostuni is one of the most famous and popular towns in the region and features in our Top 5 Towns list. There are dozens of restaurants scattered throughout the town and serving a wide variety of food. But the quality can also vary significantly too - between restaurants and sometimes even within the same restaurant depending upon how busy they are / have been. We would generally advise guests to avoid the restaurants on the main tourist "drag" through the old town in peak season - although out of season these can often be surprisingly good. However, our favourite Ostuni restaurant is Al Solito Posto (At The Usual Place) which is a very short walk away from the old historic centre. The food is a little more expensive than elsewhere (although still fantastic value, especially when compared to Northern Italy or Northern Europe) but we think that it is definitely worth it. Although it does serve pizza, we tend to eat from the main restaurant menu and can highly recommend the Tonno Rosso Scottato (seared red tuna). It also has an excellent wine list featuring several of my favourite vineyards / wineries.

2. Miramare di Michele - Torre Santa Sabina
Torre Santa Sabina is a pretty little town surrounding a small fishing harbour near to two of our favourite beaches on the Adriatic coast - Torre Guaceto and Pantanagianni. Miramare di Michele is a very popular restaurant which literally juts out into the sea and offers superb views across the small port and cove. In summer (or even at the weekend in the off-season months) it is often necessary to book (which we can do for you) or at least turn up early, reserve a table and then go for a walk along the seafront, a paddle in the sea or for an aperitivo. Needless to say fish and seafood are the speciality of the house. The antipasti is particularly good - either Antipasti della Casa (which has a selection of vegetable, cheese and cooked seafood dishes) or (for the more adventurous) the Antipasti di Mare. The latter usually comes crudo (raw) and contains a selection of oysters, clams, mussels, prawns, etc (although it does slightly depend on the season) and is amazing - a real taste of the sea! However, it can be somewhat challenging if you are not used to raw seafood!

3. Il Casolare dei Capricci Salento - San Michele Salentino
San Michele is about 5-6 minutes north of the masseria and has a charming main square with a couple of nice bars for pre-dinner drinks. Il Casolare is a typical Pugliese braceria specialising in grilled meat. It has a good menu and also offer pizzas cooked in a wood oven. However, our preference is to go to the counter and select our meat from the extensive display that the chefs will then grill perfectly. The T-bone steak is fantastic (and amazingly good value) but, if you are lucky enough there may be buffalo on the menu and that is absolutely delicious! We usually have one of the salads (either pear & walnut or apple & balsamic) and a plate (or two) of patate casarecci (homemade potato chips) which are somewhere between a "chip" and a "crisp" - a real family favourite. The dessert menu is pretty limited and if you have space left after the main course, it is probably worth walking into the main square for an ice cream at the Central Bar instead.

4. Trattoria Vincenzo Corrado - Oria
Oria is one of our favourite small towns and home to the fabulous Torneo dei Rioni in August. The medieval centre is perfect for a pre-dinner stroll to view the cathedral and castle (although the castle is currently not open to the public). Just off the main square the Trattoria Vincenzo Corrado is a fabulous restaurant in a peaceful setting. It is named after Vincenzo Corrado, a famous 18th century chef of the Court of Naples, who was born in Oria and is credited with having written the first cook book of Mediterranean cuisine and developing the reputation of Italian regional cooking. The restaurant sometimes features dishes inspired by his original recipes. The internal dining room is one of my personal favourites and a great way to admire the local architecture dominated by vaulted ceilings. However, in summer the restaurant also has several tables outside that offer a very different atmosphere. The antipasti is highly recommended and I am also a big fan of their tagliata di manzo which is a very popular dish in the area usually comprising of strips of sliced steak with rocket, hard grana cheese and a balsamic glaze. The wine list is also excellent.

5. Al Torchietto - San Michele / Francavilla
Al Torchietto (To The {Olive} Press) is in a lovely rural setting amongst the olive trees just off the main road between Francavilla Fontana and San Vito dei Normanni and is probably the closest restaurant to the Masseria. The restaurant is in beautiful surroundings, especially in the summer when you can sit outside and look out over the pond and fountain. It has a very family friendly atmosphere and many of the staff have worked here for years. The antipasti are fantastic - with a real variety of traditional and slightly more unusual dishes - and are plentiful so try not to over-order. We have been known to order the antipasti and then pizza and then just have to ask for the pizza to be put straight in a box to take home as we are already full!! The pizza are very good as well.

I know that this is supposed to just be a Top 5 - but honestly with so many great resaturants in the area it is impossible to only mention five! So special mention must also be made to two further restaurants!
Firstly, XFood in San Vito dei Normanni, which is first and foremost an excellent restaurant serving delicious food (the guy we use to host barbecues at the Masseria supplies the meat) and with a top notch wine list. However, it is also part of a social enterprise that aims to give opportunities to disadvantaged people through the full lifecycle of the food - from the land to the plate.
Secondly, Trattoria Negroamaro near the Latiano Est junction off the SS7. This family run restaurant is where we eat out most often during the year. The surroundings are rather inauspicious as it is situated just off the SS7 and often has 2 or 3 trucks parked up in the car park. However, don't let these first impressions put you off! The food is proper, local, honest, family cooking and it is almost always packed with locals (and truck drivers - who know the importance of good food!). We eat here at least once a month and are never disappointed.