FOOD in Puglia
In Santa Maria di Leuca, our crew member Serena had a craving for puccia, a specialty she remembered from visiting Puglia in her youth. To American eyes, puccia is a sandwich. It is served on a specific Puglinese bread, let’s call it something like a thick, dry pita, filled with something like meat, or cheese, or vegetables. We walked about 2 miles in search of one, but we found one in a food truck near the pineapple bar (which is also a food truck, just shaped like a pineapple.)
Both fine dining establishments have plastic tables set up in a parking lot with the best sunset views in town.
This gets my recommendation, but I might get a sausage next time instead of a meatball puccia, as mine was a bit dry.
Gallipoli is known for the its seafood. The gambiere, or red shrimp from here are sold in Cafe du Paris, according to our Captain (who also owns a restaurant, a multi-talented guy).
Find the restaurant and pescerie La Lampara. We perused their seafood- still alive- and chose our oysters, clams and cockles and in 10 minutes they were presented for eating. We ate them all raw, and they were incredible! La Lampara also has a fish market like I have seldom seen, and you can choose your fish and have it cooked for you.
This is under the bridge to the old town, where the fishing boats unload, so it smells bad, you eat with plastic forks on paper plates, but you will not find fresher seafood, or better just-caught fish in Puglia, perhaps in the whole of the Med. Stunning!
The rest of the Salento (most southern section of Puglia) also boasts non-seafood dishes, burrata cheese being the highlight. It is the soft, creamier version of mozzarella, also made from buffala, or female water buffalo, ideally, but cow’s milk will do in a pinch. Serena and Pietro found this one enormous cheese for us in a market.
The common name for a burrata this size is zizona, or big boob.
The Frisella is a hard rusk of bread soaked in water or tomato juice, covered with tomatoes and salad, or cheese, ham, what not. It is similar to Cretan salad when served in the bottom of a salad, or like bruschetta, when standing alone. The cured meats, like prosciutto, and Copa are also exquisite. The olive oil is delicious. And the harder cheeses.
The most famous wines are from the red negra amaro and primitivo grapes, both distinct and heavy wines. The primitivo seems most like a zinfandel, the alcohol content 15-16% due to the heat of this region. I found a rosé made from the negro amaro grape that I like, and it is splendid with a few ice cubes on these hot days, though my Italian captain must turn his head at the sight of ice cubes in wine. We ate very well in Puglia.