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Puglia Restaurants

Al Fornello Da Ricci
71 Contrada Montevicoli
Ceglie Messapica
Italy
Tel: 39 083 137 7104

Young Antonella Ricci shares her Michelin-starred kitchen with her mother, Dora, and her husband, Vinod Sokar. But with its long tables, copper lamps, and beams, this farmhouse-style restaurant comes on more rootsy than snooty. The culinary style is half suited to the surroundings and half aiming for something less povera: soufflé omelets with mint or spinach, ricotta-stuffed zucchini-flower fritters, grilled skewer of suckling kid, sausage and chicken livers with green salad… Afterward, take your espresso (or grappa) in the garden and contemplate the stone building with a conical roof, known as a trulli.


Open Wednesdays through Monday afternoons.

Cucina Casareccia
19 Via Colonnello Costadura
Lecce
Italy
Tel: 39 083 224 5178

Known to locals simply as Le Zie ("the aunts"), this family-run trattoria still feels like the private house it once was, and is a perfect place to immerse yourself in the cucina povera of the region. Chef Anna Carmela Perrone turns out typical local dishes like the classic pure di fave con cicoria e pane fritto, a fava bean puree with braised wild chicory and fried bread into which you mash some peppery olive oil. This is also a good place to try Puglia's most famous pasta specialty, ear-shaped orecchiette served with a creamy green sauce of cime di rapa (turnip tops), spiked with a little chile to give it a bite. Horsemeat, served in tomato sugo, is another forte. The best idea is to let Perrone decide your menu (allow around $70 for a meal for two with house wine).

Fornelli

The fornello is a brand of ultra-local osteria that exists only in Puglia. A throwback to a time when poverty—and the fire risk—meant that few people had proper ovens or grills at home, fornelli are essentially butcher's shops, with an attached grill room where clients can tuck into such delicacies as gnumarieddi, a mix of lamb and goat organ meats stuffed into a casing made from lamb intestines (it tastes better than it sounds); bombette, plump sausages made with cured pork shoulder (capocollo), pecorino cheese, and herbs; or simple pork chops, with or without a dusting of bread crumbs and Parmesan. The drill: First choose the meat at the counter (it's charged by weight), then file through to the back room (or next-door locale); sit at one of the simple wooden tables and salivate while you watch your selection being grilled or roasted on the wood-burning range. Other items on the menu consist mostly of hunks of freshly baked local bread and a flask of robust Primitivo red wine. Some fornelli offer a small antipasti selection, though you'll be hard-pressed to find a salad: This is unrepentant carnivore territory. The fertile Valle d'Itria is fornelli heartland, especially the picturesque hill town of Cisternino. Expect to pay around $25 a head. Here we list a few of Puglia's most renowned fornelli, but most inland villages between Bari and Brindisi will have at least one, and it's invariably good.

Già Sotto l'Arco
71 Corso Vittorio Emanulele
Carovigno
Italy
Tel: 39 083 199 6286
www.giasottolarco.it

It used to be a humble osteria situated under the old arch ("sotto l'arco"), but the third generation of the Buongiorno family, led by chef Teresa, has moved up in the world, in more ways than one. Now on the second floor of an 18th-century palazzo in the center of this delightfully laid-back southern town, Già Sotto l'Arco is considered by many to be Puglia's best restaurant. The decor feels neo-Bourbon (that's the royals, not the drink), with shiny old leather-upholstered chairs and glossy pastel doors being set off by the uniform white walls and ceilings of this elegant arched dining room. But the welcome is warm and the good vibes continue on the plate, with seasonal dishes rooted in the territory. An autumn selection might include bucatini with ricotta and wild fennel on a sauce of bitter tomatoes, or seared lamb chops with caponatina (a local variation on the classic Sicilian vegetable casserole) and roast eggplant. The cuisine is surprisingly simple but spot-on—this is the kind of unfussy high-class joint that even those allergic to high-class joints will enjoy.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays.

Il Frantoio
16 Strada Statale
Ostuni
Italy
Tel: 39 083 133 0276
www.masseriailfrantoio.it

A masseria near Ostuni and the sea shelters a sort of Puglian Farm Experience: horses, chickens, vintage carts, the lot. Many areas of this agriturismo (yes, there are rooms, and quite classy ones, too) work to supply the well-known all-female kitchen of Rosalba Ciannamea, who owns the place with her partner Armando Balestrazzi. Night after night, Ciannamea's kitchen turns out ten-course dinners, featuring local food that is occasionally not so rustic: smoked mozzarella with clover, chickpea soup with fresh borage pasta, fried lampascioni (wild hyacinth bulbs) with orange-blossom honey… If you can't move afterward, remember those rooms are really very nice. You can also buy some of the estate's own olive oil, jams, and rosoli (fruit and herb liqueurs) to take away.

La Puritate
18 Via Sant'Elia
Gallipoli
Italy
Tel: 39 083 326 4205

Next to the Baroque church of the same name in Gallipoli's centro storico stands this evergreen seafood restaurant. Attentive, old-fashioned waiters bustle about in the main, marine-themed dining room, serving up an array of hot and cold antipasti (Puritate's real calling card) that might include spicy mussels, thinly sliced octopus marinaded in olive oil and lemon, palamita (Atlantic bonito), raw shrimp, hake in a lemon and yogurt sauce—all simple dishes based on the freshest fish and seafood cooked (or not) with the minimum of fuss to bring out the flavor. After the antipasto parade, most regulars might stretch to a pasta dish, such as linguine alla Purtitate—with shrimp, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes—and then wrap with a palate-cleansing lemon sorbet. Just when you thought it was all over, coffee arrives with complimentary almond sweets. Book ahead at peak times (Friday and Saturday evening, Sunday lunch).

Open Thursdays through Tuesdays.

Osteria Perricci
1 Via Orazio Comes
Monopoli
Italy
Tel: 39 080 937 2208

A local institution, Osteria Perricci is one of those great Italian trattorias that leave you sated, smiling, and not much poorer. In a narrow lane of the rough-edged but heart-of-gold fishing port of Monopoli, the Osteria looks like it's been there forever—and, of course, it has. Under whirring ceiling fans, tuck into an array of antipasti served by three generations of the Perricci family (the youngest waiter can't be a day over 14). These might include tiny Minnella olives, a variety that is at its best when lightly fried, as they are here; raw cuttlefish marinated in lemon; or delicate, crisp-fried Lecce seaweed. Then it's the turn of the unmissable house specialty: cavatelli ai frutti di mare—little pasta shells swimming in a sapid tomato and seafood sauce, topped with baby octopus, clams, shrimp, and whatever else the boat brought in that day. Even if you're starving, you'll be hard put to spend much more than 20 euros a head with a flask of house wine.

Open Thursdays through Tuesdays.

Trullo d'Oro
Via Felippe Cavallotti 27
Alberobello
Italy
Tel: 080 432 1820

When you're done watching Japanese tourists exhaustively documenting trulli, stop in for sustenance—a lot of it. This is a great place to sample what Pugliese cuisine does best: antipasti. Vegetables (olives, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, wild mushrooms...) just bought from the market and fried or grilled; foccacia; tripe; the local pasta, orecchiette sauced with sausage and broccoli rabe; grilled meats; salads; you name it. All you have to do is sit back, watch the procession of plates, then clear them.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.