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May 8, 2010 02:21 PM

Puglia and Calabria

I would appreciate ristorante, osteria, trattoria suggestions for the following towns in these regions. Lecce, Conversano in Puglia and Siderno in Calabria. I am leaving May 18 and will return June 2. Thank you.

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  1. This is interesting travel destinations, how did you choose this travel route? Someone here might have been to Lecce before, a place I would like to go sometime, but the other two places might be more hard to get response for.

    There are some places in Lecce mentioned in the Osteria & Locanda Guide:

    Alle Due Corti - Via Leonardo Prato
    Cusina Casereccia - Via Costadura (Slow Food)
    Osteria Degli Spiriti - Via Battisti

    And for Siderno:

    Zio Salvatore - Via Annunziata

    Maybe you can have a look at the Slow Food Puglia web site to get some more tips there?

    You also have the Calabrian Capocollo:

    6 Replies
    1. re: jostber

      I will be headed to Puglia in a few months so the responses here will be most helpful to me as well. But when I took a peek at the SlowFood Puglia site, linked above, I found only one eating place listed--in Ugento. Maybe they highlight a different place each week (??) Is there a way that I can see the entire list online? (I believe the Italian site has many more listings than the English-language Osterie guide, which I do own)

      I found one promising listing in Conversano, PASHA, from the Pignataro guide:

      Karen, from my limited early research, I think that you may want to broaden your search a bit; there may well be good eating in small towns just outside Conversano, for example. Will you have a car? There are quite a few masserie/agriturismi in the countryside that look enticing for dining, according to what I've read so far...

      1. re: erica

        If you go to, choose Scelti per voi, then click on the title Scelti per voi, you'll get the SlowFood listings for 2006, the last year for which online listings are available if you are not a SlowFood member. Restaurants in Italy don't change much in four years as a rule.

        1. re: zerlina

          Zerlina: I tried this but all I get is a list of the 14 restaurants of the week. Is there a step I am neglecting?

          1. re: erica

            When you're on the Scelti per voi page (the one with the restaurants of the week), click again on the title Scelti per voi at the top of the page. You can then choose Puglia and the province.

            The restaurants in Lecce are the ones already mentioned in this thread - Alle due corti, Cucina casareccia and Osteria degli spiriti - but there are seven others listed in the province of Lecce, and there are lists for the other provinces in Puglia (except Barletta-Andria-Trani),

        2. re: erica

          jostber and erica, thanks for your input; I will follow up. I chose these destinations, because of the Norman Hautevilles who came to conquer Southern Italy and Sicily. I am a student of the Middle Ages. Also, for the food. I travel alone with a group, so will not have a car to get to the various places in the countryside. Alas, but that is how it is!

      2. mmmm....lecce. one of the best places on the planet for food. if you can, snag an invite to someone's house for sunday lunch. otherwise, for home cooking, cucina casareccia (Via Costadura) is a good alternative. Osteria degli Spriti is alright and Alle Due Corti is ok, but the best food in lecce, in my opinion, is in the bakeries and pastry shops. look out for rustici (puff pastry stuffed with mozzarella, besciamel, tomato sauce and blk pepper), pasticciotto (flakey pastry filled with cream or cream & sour cherry jam), pizzi (round durum wheat loaves packed with tomatoes, onions, and olives-watch for pits!). alvino in pzza sant'oronzo does good pasticciotti and rustici, but there are some random bakeries built into the city walls that do them even better. be sure to grab a coffe at avio and gelato at natale. both avio and natale are a short distance from pzza sant'oronzo.

        other things to eat in lecce (alle 2 corti, cucina casareccia, and osteria degli spiriti will cover these bases) include spaghetti con le cozze, turchinneddhri (grilled lamb entrails), pezzetti di cavallu (braised horse), ricotta scante (super stank fermented ricotta served on home made pasta with tomato sauce), pasta fatta in casa (the generic local term for home made pasta, which tends to be cavatelli or orecchiette), and purpu alla pignata (octopus cooked in a terracotta dish).

        1. Along the Ionian Coast, all not far from Siderno:
          Gerace (perhaps the loveliest hill town in Calabria)-- La Tavernetta
          Marina di Caulonia --La Taverna del Pesce Fresco
          Locri--La Fontanella
          Marina di Gioiosa Jonica--Gambero Rosso; also in Gioiosa, along the SS out of town the enoteca and wineshop Micu 'i Cola, where I urge you to taste and buy the rare passito dessert wines Greco di Bianco or Mantonico di Bianco from the growers Ceratti or Stelitanto from the town of Bianco. Wonderful. In Calabria: handmade maccheroni with pork/goat ragu, porcini, or stocco; pecorino and superb ricotta; tasty sott'olii, or preserved vegetables; spicy 'nduja and soppresata; bergamot or fennel digestivi. The town of Mammola, slightly inland from the coast and very near Siderno, is famous for its many types of stocco (dried cod). Think simple and strong. Buon viaggio.

          7 Replies
          1. re: bob96

            Again, thanks to all. I will report when I get back.

            1. re: Karen1440

              Unfortunately in Lecce we have restaurants are so and so. All locals in Lecce are really not very excited about restaurants in Lecce and when we want really good food we don't stay in Lecce, but we go to the nearby towns. Cavallino is outside Lecce and has much better restaurants (that's the place where all locals really go for mid week dinners!).
              Gallipoli has fantastic seafood restaurants (go to La Puritate...but book it because that's really excellent!) and Brindisi has excellent restaurants (from simple trattorias to more refined restaurants. Any place will work!).
              See my article about seafood in Puglia and Le Puritate restaurant

              1. re: stilemediterraneo

                Stile: That is discouraging news about Lecce! I was considering both Cucina Casareccia and Alle Due Corti for my own visit in September. If you are familiar with these two places, could you give me your impression?

                Also, you mention Otranto in your blog. Would you have any recommendations in or near that city?

                Are you familiar with Masseria Gattamora in Uggiano, near Otranto?


                1. re: erica

                  Erica, I have lived in the Salento peninsula for 6 years, and am a regional Italian food fanatic. I have visited many of its restaurants. Food here is humble, and people do not generally go to restaurants as home cooking is still a very strong tradition. Restaurants are not super fancy. There are some "chic" places also, if you want. However, I am giving you the point of view of someone who has stayed with a family in a small town in the region and who goes out with friends in the area to try different places beyond the typical pub food and mediocre pizzerias (by Neopolitan and Italian thin crust or Roman pizza standards) in Lecce.

                  In general, of all the posts, I agree in general with katieparla's above. Her view on baked goods is on point. Caffe' Alvino is good. Natale is wonderful for unusual flavored gelati as well as tradtional ones.. I would add that you should also visit a bakery called La Boulangerie, Via Guglielmo Oberdan, 10 for focaccia, bread and other baked goods.

                  In Lecce, you should visit both Cucina Casareccia and Alle Due Corti. I have been to Alle Due Corti more since it is charming, though a bit touristy. They make food that is typical of this region, what people eat at home. At Alle Due Corti, you should have the minestra di cicoria (if in season), chicory (or more specifically puntarelle) soup made with pork, the spaghetti cu lu pummiduru scaciatu (forgive my spelling because it is in Lecesse dialect, but it is spaghetti with squished cherry tomatoes). In any restaurant you should have ceci e tria, a hearty pasta with chickpea sauce (made of hand made tria ribbon like pasta, usually mixed in with fried tria, so the heartiness is offset with with crunchiness). Get whatever vegetables are offered: rape 'fucate, grilled or vegetables zucchini, eggplant with mint, peperoni, etc. People here are proud of the fresh vegetables they get as they are most likely local, full of flavor and there is a great large variety of vegetable dishes. Get any fresh made local pasta: sagne, orecchiette or cavatelli, sometimes made of orzo (barley flower), which gives it a more nutty texture. They are usually with cime di rape sauce, simple tomato sauce, or simple tomato sauce with ricotta forte (a spoonful or small amount is usually added to the tomato sauce, it is a preserved ricotta that is very intense in flavor and is an acquired taste). Osteria degli Spiriti is also a good choice. Paparina (wild thin chicory stewed with olives) is also great typical dish served in most restaurants.

                  Some of these dishes is just very simple food, so depending on your taste, you will may appreciate it (and its subtleties) or find it a bit too simple.

                  I also like Mamma Lupa, (near P. Sant'Oronzo, in a small street off the southern part of the square) a grill restaurant, for the excellent home style vegetable dishes which you can have as antipasti, and a mixed grill (horse, pork, sauces, etc.) Horse (carne di cavallo) is a specialty in this area.

                  In other restaurants, you should also order the stew of carne di cavallo, it is a stew of chunks of horse meat, simmered in tomato sauce and anise or cloves (I forget), but the flavor is wonderful. I hope I am not offending anyone by mentioning horse meat.

                  If you ever get to Taviano and Ugento area, there are two restaurants which I love:

                  Casa tu martinu in Taviano, housed in an old courthouse building, the setting is quite charming. You start with pittule, fried dough which you dip into vin cotto, a cooked wine condiment. Vegetable antipasti are wonderful, you also get a a selection of pitta (baked potato squares flavored with olives, capers, tuna, etc.) typical of the Salento area. I love their pasta, ceci e tria, maccheroncini di orzo (fresh tubes of barley flour pasta) with zucchini sauce, sagne nnaculate con le polepette (hand made ribbon pasta that is twisted, giving it a combination of soft and hard chewy texture, topped with tomato sauce and lovely perfectly done little meatballs). Their pastas are a refined preparation of traditional dishes. They are perfect here! They have a great horse meat stew, pezzetti di cavallu.

                  For seafood, in Gallipoli, there is Le Fontanelle, a very simple place with local people and a blaring TV, so ambiance is not the point here. Raw sea urchin is the specialty although you can have that most everywhere in the coastal areas restaurants. Other things to get a mixed antipasti that includes: polpette di polpo (fried balls of breaded octopus), a fried pancake of octopus (forgot the name). I come here also for the spaghetti with tomatoes and sea urchin as well. The grilled seafood and other items are also good. Do not go here in August, when throngs of people invade the beaches and the restaurants.

                  I heard great things about Le Puritate but it is on the more expensive side.

                  There are some good seafood places in Otranto also like Atlantis.

                  All the above restaurants are moderately priced. EUR 20 to 45 per person, I believe.

                  1. re: ramwramw

                    Thanks for the great and detailed report on food in the Salento Peninsula. My wife's hometown is a few kilometres away from Puglia but in the northern part of the province -- not far from Lucera.

                    I'm curious if you have ventured far north in Puglia, and, if you have, what places you recommend. We've been as far south as Trani but don't usually venture too far north because we are visiting relatives.

                    1. re: ramwramw

                      Ram: I cannot thank you enough for your thoughtful and informative reply. Simple regional foods are exactly what I will be seeking locally patronized places, rather than more "fancy"spots. This will be my first visit to Puglia; I have read much about the regional fare, and even attempted to prepare a few dishes (!) and I look forward so much to sampllng as much as the cuisine as is possible in the short time that I will be in the area.

                      In addition to 2 nights in Lecce, I will have two nights outside Otranto and 3 outside Fasano. I would love to read further recommendations for those areas, too. Not so interested in fancy places but, rather, local spots as you describe. Elegant decor is not at all important.

                      For example, I am intrigued by what i've read about Cisternino, where the town's butchers grill their wares on the street outside their shops.

                      And Ceglie Massapica, which seems to be quite a food mecca..

                      1. re: erica

                        La Rotonda on the Savelletri-Torre Canne road near Fasano is great for fish.

              1. I have been back for a month and have been remiss in reporting. We had an excellent meal at Osteria degli Spiriti in Lecce. Superb lunches and a hearty recommendation from me at the following:
                Otranto: Acmet Pascia
                Galatina: Palazzo Baldi (a hotel, as well)
                Castel del Monte area: Rivera Winery--good wine and EVOO. I bought back the EVOO
                Bari: Le Vecchio Mura
                Alberobello: Case Nova
                Masseria: Parco di Castro
                Matera: Rivelli

                Pizzo: Hale-Bopp
                Roccella Jonica in the hill above Siderno: A Petra di Fonti -- starred
                Reggio Calabria: Il Fiore del Cappero -- the least favorite of all

                10 Replies
                1. re: Karen1440

                  Thanks for reporting back as we're planning an upcoming trip to this area.
                  My husband is not really a picky eater, but if faced with horse and raw sea urchin he might balk!
                  Veggies are always a wonderful option but, that aside, did you find there was a reasonably good selection of more "ordinary" Italian cuisine?

                  1. re: Oakland Barb

                    There is no such thing as "ordinary Italian cuisine"; Italian cooking is very regional. Puglia and Calabria were and are among the poorest Italian regions: Their cooking made and makes do with what is available cheaply. In Puglia, it's chiefly vegetables; even fish is more expensive.

                    Raw sea urchin is wonderful; your husband should try it, he might like it. But I admit that I also draw the line at horsemeat.

                    1. re: zerlina

                      Well, there's certainly (and maybe disappointingly) an ordinary Italian restaurant cuisine: so many places, even in Calabria and certainly Puglia, offer a kind of pan-Italian menu that it can sometimes difficult to find proudly regional cooking. Not everyplace, of course, but I couldnt help notice on our many trips through the south the recurrence of certain primi (pasta con vongole, or fruttai di mare), and the predictable sameness of plain secondi. These were in not only tourist spots, but also in destination places for local families. Maybe we were in the wrong places. In any case, there is much wonderful local food to be had, and you'll never have to eat horsemeat or sea urchins. But beyond the great local produce, cheese, sweets, and bread, the mussels of Puglia and the swordfish of the Calabrian coast should not be missed.

                      1. re: bob96

                        I'm sorry! I worded my post so poorly!
                        We eat in the Bay Area and, I like to think, know good food.
                        We've traveled to Italy before and found both wonderful and not so wonderful food.. We actually considered trying to work in Verona just to eat in our very favorite restaurant,
                        We found the food in Positano and Capri generally dull and disappointing, last trip but loved the ambiance of the Italians on vacation.
                        I (in particular) look forward to something interesting, but there's interesting and then there's "challenging"- for us.
                        I appreciate the suggestions and hope to find wonderful specialties!

                        1. re: Oakland Barb

                          I havent been to Puglia yet but I have been populating the Restaurant page with Slowfood and other recommendations for that area (not complete yet, but quite a few). Links to reviews or websites are attached to many of the entries so you can get an idea of what is on offer. If you put Puglia into the search engine you will get these restaurants in your results under the Restaurant tab. I would say that vegetables, home made pastas, pastured and courtyard animals (pork, lamb,goat, rabbit etc, mostly grilled roasted or stewed) , cheeses and cured meats, as well as seafood on the coast are specialties in this area. There are quite a number of restaurants proudly presenting the regional cuisine and you should have a good time.

                          Kate Parla has a lot of Puglia entries - more canted to street food and informal eating - on her blog - highly recommended

                          I despise sea urchin, but really enjoyed the horsemeat stew I had in Verona - it was beefier than most beef and delicious. I know how it is tho - my husband wouldnt touch it. He finally ate some rabbit and enjoyed it on our last trip.

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            Thanks, Jen. Our Calabria eating experiences were before the Slow Food guide--and mostly home eating with my family (another story). I can recommend De Gustibus in Palmi along the Calabrian coast for stylish versions of local specialities (house-smoked swordfish; "struncatura" pasta with anchovies and hot peppers, etc.). Da Miniera in the hills over Bivongi made a rich maccaruni cu crapa, goat ragu with homemade fusilli, served with local pecorino and soppresata and their own sharp red wine. The Puglia profile you present should, I'm sure, be holding more and more for Calabria. And that's a good thing.

                            1. re: bob96

                              that all sounds delicious, wonderful.
                              thinking about touring this area soon, but right now its all just fantasy and research until I come up with a sensible itinerary and timing.

                              Your "struncatura" pasta suggestion is making me think that might be a way of using some of the calabrian hot peppers I bought at Coluccio - can you describe it more?

                              hopefully will be able to finish populating the database with Puglia info, so there are at least some good choices suggested in each area, and start in on Calabria, Basilicata, Sicily. Its a great way of learing about whatis cooking

                              1. re: jen kalb

                                Struncatura refers to a kind of old-fashioned pasta, tagliatelle shaped, made from what used to be left-over grain from the mill. Poor folks' food. It's still available along the Reggio coast (Gioia Tauro, Palmi, Rosarno, Bagnara, Scilla), and resembles a smooth, whole wheat pasta. It's very mouth filling and traditionally served with a sharp condimento, in this case lots of anchovies melted in good olive oil with sliced garlic and hot dried peppers, topped with toasted mollica ('a muddicha), or breadcrumbs. I've not seen struncatura pasta for sale in the US but I think any good whole wheat version would do. BTW, 2 other very localized Calabrese places, both inland in Cittanova (my family's town): Trattoria La Mamma and Baconchi, both of which serve endless varieties of stocco, dried cod, a proud speciality of the area. Also, the correct name of the place in Bivongi is La Vecchia Miniera.

                                1. re: bob96

                                  sounds really great, I have some whole wheat pasta languishing, think I will give it a try. thanks much

                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                    Forgot to mention a virtual resource that will interest (and amuse) food lovers and lovers of all things Calabrese: the local private TV network, has all its programs streaming online. Two program delights: Si giri ccu miu (If you come along with me) hosted by the comic and Guy Fieri-counterpart Paolo Marra, who goes from small town to small town to sample local music, artisanry, and mostly food with very charming local home cooks. Calabria del Gusto is the other show, a more formal tour of wineries, restaurants, and chefs. Both are in Italian, of course, but Si giri especially can be browsed easily for the food demonstrations (making pasta, sauces, pastries). There are also archives of last years' puntate, or episodes., click on "programmi" to find them.