Food and Drink

Eating is a pleasure in Puglia, whether you're cooking for yourself with fresh local produce, or dining out in one of the many friendly restaurants.

The freshness of the food, with markets filled with local produce, is hard to beat. Vegetables may not have an official organic label, but a taste will tell you that they are produced without artificial fertilisers, by traditional methods.

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The long coastline means a wealth of fresh seafood is available week in, week out, with an abundance of fish, oysters, mussels, octopus and even sea urchins.

The usual meats available are veal and beef in wide variety, many cuts too of pork. Lamb tends to be seasonal, but when available is of superb quality and favoured in many local recipes. Those of enquiring or adventurous nature might try one of the specialist horsemeat shops. Chicken and turkey, too, also tend to be sold in specalist poultry shops, and in flavour and texture they remind you of how things used to be in the UK before the pressures of the large supermarket chains and factory farming.

Vegetables and fruit are best found in the local markets which rotate around the towns during the week. Except in winter when there are imports from other regions of Italy and Sicily, the food on offer is mainly seasonal and locally grown. The variety of greens and vegetables on offer, many of which are uncommon or unknown in the UK, for example turnip greens, wild chicory, lampascione (an onion-like root) and courgette flowers, cries out for experimentation, and rarely disappoints.

The bakers' output ranges from baguettes and soft rolls to the famous durum wheat Altamura, hard wholemeals and focaccia.

And of course there is pasta. The local speciality is orecchiette, small and ear-shaped. These have a great texture and provide an ideal pasta meal when served with a vegetable topping laced with olive oil, one of Puglia's main products.

Alternating with olive groves are the vineyards which produce some of Puglia's distinctive wines. The Primitivo grape is the base of a characteristic rich red wine, while lovers of white wine will find quality bottles in sweet or delicate dry styles from the famed Locorotondo and Martina Franca vineyards.

Needless to say the quality of the local produce is reflected both in the variety of delicious Puglian recipes and the generally excellent standard of food served in the restaurants.

The classic Puglian recipes spring from the farming tradition, letting the fresh ingredients speak for themselves. Apart from home-made orecchiette, a typical favourite Puglian dish is fave, broad bean pureed with potatoes or cime di rape, or simply on its own with olive oil dressing. The Pugliese antipasti can be an education in the marriage of vegetables with the olive.

Vegetarians are well served, except perhaps in the seafood restaurants where the main courses will be restricted and simple.

Lunch is the main meal of the day here, with restaurants open later than you might expect. It is easy to fall into the local habit of long lunch and afternoon siesta. It is difficult to eat out before 8pm in the evening, but you can eat until late, and enjoy the long summer evening passeggiata, strolling through the streets to walk off any overindulgence.

  Puglia - some food information links  
    Locorotondo Cantina
  Wines and food of Puglia Locorotondo DOC wines
  Olive oil of Puglia and food recipes Martina Franca DOC wines
  Puglian Recipes