Puglia has been on my radar for years, it was just a matter of convincing my husband to go. He finally relented this year, and we both had no regrets. Puglia has long appealed to travelers in the know. It’s whitewashed towns, private beaches, olive trees, vineyards, and genuinely kind locals. Puglia was never a rich part of the country, in fact, their cuisine was called cucina povera (literally “poor kitchen”, or “food of the poor”). But their food is rich in taste. They used humble seasonal ingredients and nothing went to waste. For instance, burrata originated in a way to use leftover scraps of buffalo mozzarella that has been stretched very thin and shaped into balls. To my taste, Puglia makes the best burrata I’ve ever tasted. Just because their food is rustic doesn’t mean it is untasty. In fact, Puglia is called the breadbasket of Italy. Everywhere you go, you are surrounded by farms where they are growing extraordinary produce.
A wonderful temple of Pugliese cuisine was found in an osteria in the town of Ostuni. Ostuni is also called the White City, a totally whitewashed city that you can see for miles, majestically located on a hill. Buried in the streets of the historic old town sits a literally cavernous former bakery. Not easy to find, it will be well worth your while to try.
Cars are only allowed so far up to the historic center. Then you must walk by foot, up, up, up to the duomo. Behind the Duomo, with a little exploring you will find the restaurant at Via G. Tanzerella Vitale 47. A word of caution, the pedestrian street is made of a slippery marble and I highly recommend you wear flat shoes with a good grip. Sneakers are perfectly acceptable, the restaurant is casual.
There are actually two restaurants, so make sure you request the cave. This was the towns original bakery, which is hundreds of years old. The townspeople would bring their breads, etc to be baked in the bakeries oven, which is still inside the restaurant for all to see. It is a unique space, and housed in an actual cave, with rough strewn walls, with interesting objects adorning them.
Osteria Del Tempo Perso uses the best of the region’s produce, and whatever has been hauled in from the nearby sea.
The handmade pastas are especially well-known. Orecchiette actually originates from Puglia. You can have it with vegetables, meat or burrata and cherry tomatoes. They even serve a large size orecchiette, which I had never seen before. There are pastas also served with different kinds of seafood, and the tagliolini with red shrimps, basil pesto and almonds was particularly good. Grilled meats, stuffed zucchini flowers, nice contortini and fish are served. The food isn’t outstanding but it is a good example of local dishes, done well in a setting that is memorable.