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Masserie, tiny fortified villages perched above the sea and noble palazzi punctuate the entire region of Puglia, in Southern Italy. When artfully made over, they are often converted into charming restaurants, hotels and residences. Whether located in the countryside or on the coast, they all share the unique charm of this Italian region which looks out onto the deepest part of the Mediterranean sea.
Here are some tips to explore the region from the north to the south, discovering some of the most fascinating places to eat in Puglia.
Borgo Egnazia, in Savelletri (Brindisi) is one of the most famous and luxurious establishments, particularly well known among American celebrities who come here on holidays to occupy the suites or the exclusive villas in the village. Its walls, furnishings, ornaments and fabrics are all white, and so is the restaurant managed by executive chef Domingo Schingaro and supervised by starred coach Andrea Ribaldone.
The Due Camini is the gourmet restaurant of Borgo Egnazia, which was renovated in 2018. The menu was also renewed and now features dishes which give a gourmet twist to the great classics of local cuisine. Every meal draws to a close at the "chef’s table", where the diners take a seat to enjoy their dessert and, as they consult the list of ingredients, watch their personalized dessert being created before their eyes.
The Bar del Portico offers unprecedented experiences in the ambit of cocktails and mixology, under the guidance of the Apulian-born beverage director Dario Gentile, who came back to Puglia after an international experience acquired at the Otto e Mezzo Bombana, and at the hotel Jing An Shangri La, both in Shanghai. The Apulian cooking classes are highly popular, particularly the ones on how to make the typical “orecchiette” pasta.
Angelo Sabatelli Restaurant
Angelo Sabatelli Restaurant, in Putignano (Bari). Rome, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Mauritius are some of the locations chef Angelo Sabatelli worked in before returning to his own region. The restaurant is housed in the fascinating historical palazzo Romanazzi, an old stately home in the centre of Putignano.
Its highly appreciated gourmet menu goes under the name of “Verde ma non troppo”, and presents dishes such as chard millefeuille, cream of potatoes, farinella (barley and chickpea flour) and egg, peas, parmesan rind broth and tubettini pasta. To end on a sweet note, be sure not to miss the hazelnut Paris-Brest with intense chocolate sorbet. Angelo Sabatelli continues to be one of Puglia’s most avant-garde starred chefs.
Al Fornello da Ricci
A female chef, Antonella Ricci, together with her companion Vinod Sookar has transformed a country house and a “trullo” into a gourmet destination. Al Fornello da Ricci stands on a hill of the Valley d’Itria at Ceglie Messapica (Brindisi).
In the summer months, food is served on the veranda surrounded by greenery, while winter-time visitors will be invited to take a seat around the large fireplace in the central room. Here, the star attractions are the stuffed zucchini flowers, hand-made troccoli with wild asparagus, pancetta and toasted breadcrumbs or the tagliolini with a medley of raw vegetables. Second courses include the traditionally mixed skewer of lamb, sausage and liver with ash-baked potatoes.
Relais Sommità is located on the highest point of Ostuni (Brindisi), the magical white city, in a historic residence dating back to 1500. It is here that chef Andrea Cannalire reigns over the starred restaurant Il Cielo. The restaurant is housed in a stone vaulted room but, in the summer months, aperitifs are served in the Spanish garden, where the cocktails mingle with the scents of citrus plants at dusk.
Andrea Cannalire’s cuisine melds ingredients from the land and sea. Don’t leave without tasting his spaghettone Benedetto Cavalieri with spring onion, oil, capers, chilli pepper and tomato flavoured breadcrumbs.
Masseria Le Carrube
Masseria Le Carrube, this time we are up on the slopes of the Ostuni (Brindisi) hills ready to enjoy a full immersion in nature dominated by century-old olive trees. This authentic experience consists in enjoying the olive grove and forgetting about the seashore, even though it is actually no more than a few kilometres away. The farmhouse is a building of stone and white lime occupied by a restaurant that is truly one of a kind, specialized in vegetarian and vegan cuisine.
The style is country chic and the dishes prepared by Massimo Santoro put the accent on the vegetable garden, seasonal ingredients, pulses and the Mediterranean diet. Every evening, the chef offers his guests a different gourmet menu featuring typical Apulian dishes reinterpreted in a vegetarian key.
Già sotto l’Arco
Già sotto l’Arco in Carovigno (Brindisi) where Teresa Buongiorno, a self-taught chef, has cultivated her passion for cooking ever since she was a young girl. The starred restaurant occupies the first floor of an elegant 1700 Barocco-style palazzo, she inherited from her grandfather.
Two of her dishes we would strongly recommend are fish-based: the tuna tartare marinated in tequila, smoked salt and blackcurrants, and the crisp red mullet with pistachios on a creamy bed of asparagus. Those who are less fond of fish may prefer the Veal braised in Aleatico wine, anise, cream of potatoes, mushrooms and carrots. There is also an intriguing wine cellar with over 500 interesting labels.
Borgo Valle Rita
Borgo Valle Rita lies in one of the lesser known areas of the region, off the beaten tourist track. This country resort located in Alta Murgia, at a crossing point between the Stones of Matera, the Canyons of Laterza, Ginosa and Massafra, the Ionian coast and the trulli of the Itria Valley, is an Apulian gem just waiting to be discovered.
Here, the added value derives from the fact that the resort is surrounded by an organic farm belonging to the same owners, which supplies chef Antonio Padula’s kitchen with its ingredients. Borgo Valle Rita offers guests a delightful country life experience, combining relaxation with outdoor activities.
Rather than the location, what makes this address so special are the emotions aroused by the cuisine of Bros’, a food lab in Lecce. The couple Floriano and Isabella, who was recently awarded a star, continue to pursue their experimental cuisine.
The language of their dishes is poised midway between a Mediterranean spirit and a global soul: take for example calamari lacquered with Racale caper paste, “cut” with vinegar and garnished with caper leaves, also doused in vinegar, topped with dried capers. Possibly the most avant-garde couple of the Apulian food scene.