24 Culinary Hours In Salento
I have been visiting the region of Salento for the past 8 years. For those unfamiliar with this unspoilt part of Italy, rich in history and tradition, Salento is an area in the region of Puglia occupying the “heel” of Italy’s “boot”. Sun kissed for most part of the year, Salento is best known for its friendly welcome, Tramontana and Scirocco winds, white washed houses, baroque architecture, wonderful sandy beaches, crystal clear sea, not to mention its cuisine. A truly Italian holiday destination, which has finally found a well deserved place in international guides.
The beauty of Italy is that each region has its own traditional dishes. What culinary delights can you expect to be served in Salento?
Every region in Italy is associated with one type of pasta. In Puglia the regional pasta is “orecchiette” or “small ears” served with fresh tomato sauce and “ricotta salata” (salty ricotta cheese) or “cime di rapa” (turnips).
Fresh fish caught daily in the Adriatic or Ionian sea includes mussels, squid, octopus and anchovies. Not to be missed is a plate of sea urchins as appetiser or served with linguine pasta. Best if eaten by the sea in one of the many private beach clubs.
The climate is ideal for the production of wonderful vegetables such as tomatoes, artichokes, aubergines, watermelons and various types of beans and nuts. A rich variety of freshly picked fruit and vegetables can be purchased at rock bottom prices at the various weekly local markets.
The region produces 25 DOC wines and most of these come from the Salento area of Puglia. Two such luscious examples are the internationally acclaimed Salice Salentino, a deep red made with the Negroamaro grape and the Primitivo di Manduria, made from the Primitivo grape.
Everywhere you look you will see olive trees, so it will come as no surprise that Puglia also produces over 70 percent of Italy’s olive oil (and 15 percent of the world’s olive oil). We buy our organic extra virgin olive oil directly from the producer ALEA in Martano (http://www.olioalea.it/en).
Quick snacks on the go include “pucce” (a sandwich made of pizza dough stuffed with cheese or vegetables); “taralli” (round crackers) which come in different flavours such as fennel, poppy seeds, spicy paprika, black pepper; “friselle” , yet another typical quick snack, which is basically a very dry bread you dip in water to add moisture and then you garnish with olive oil , garlic and fresh tomatoes. So simple and yet so tasty! “Frittini” or fried appetisers are also a tasty savoury snack, best served warm.
I would suggest trying as well the “crema di fave e cicoria” (veloute’ of ceci beans), local escargots and “baccala’ alla salentina” (dried cod sprinkled with breadcrumbs, pecorino cheese and tomatoes).
For breakfast, do like the locals. Order an espresso coffee standing at the bar while savouring a warm “pasticciotto” (small cake filled with creamy custard).
Although it’s hard to be served really bad food in Italy, it is nevertheless handy to travel with some good addresses in your pocket. You won’t find a restaurant chain in sight in Salento and most places are small, family-run businesses with a deep passion for fresh, local, wholesome food.
I am pleased to share with you my very own tried and tested restaurants in Salento. Please note that restaurants in Salento open late at night. Don’t expect to be served before 20.00!
Without doubt one of the best restaurants in Otranto run by Chef Cristina Conte. Just a stone’s throw from the Aragona Castle, Cristina together with sister Carmen and mum Pina, serve traditional recipes from Salento interpreted in a contemporary and innovative way. Except to eat linguine with “ricci di mare”, home made pasta, fresh fish, local sashimi, and delicious deconstructed “pasticciotto”.
Phone : +39 0836 80 16 36
Via Cenobio Basiliano, 23, 73028 Otranto (LE)
You won’t find a tourist in sight at Pio Bove. This is as Apulian as it can get, a butcher (“macelleria”) and steak house. Choose your favourite piece of meat at the counter and it will be cooked and served in the fashion you prefer.
Phone: +39 0832 312579
Via SS. Giacomo e Filippo, 2/C, 73100 Lecce
This renown restaurant comes highly recommended and well worth a visit to experience the cuisine of its prestigious Chef, Ippazio Turco.
Expect to eat fresh organic Mediterranean food, fresh fish, vegetables, pulses and pasta cooked with passion and using the very best local ingredients.
Phone: +39 347 5419108
Via V. Emanuele II, 16 – 73038 Tricase (LE)
In Marina di Novaglie
Ristorante Lo Scalo
Right on the sea front and next to the small port of Marina di Novaglie. Possible the best sea view in Salento?
Yet another unique address serving, as you would expect, fresh fish, home made pasta, juicy vegetables and exquisite local wines such as Chardonnays, Malvasia, Negroamaro and Primitivo.
Phone: +39 0833 533488
73035 Port of Marina di Novaglie (LE)
WHERE TO STAY IN SALENTO
By Paola Fiocchi, Director at Passepartout Homes