Famous Foods of Puglia, Italy: What to Try and Where to Eat

Wandering through the sun-warmed streets of Puglia, it’s clear to see that Italy really does have the culinary reputation it has built for itself. Puglia is so famous for.  During my 5 days in Puglia, I found the food to be authentic, flavourful and fresh. Even the simplest things just tasted so much better here! Italian in Puglia pride themselves on their local cuisine and its not hard to see why! There were so many amazing Southern italian gems to try! We did a walking tour with a local guide on our first day and incidentally got to know about some must try local Puglian food! Below is a list of some of the most famous foods of Puglia Italy, you need to try! 

Most famous Foods of Puglia, Italy

Famous foods of Puglia #1: Orecchiette

Orecchiette, which means “little ears” in Italian, is more than representative of the pasta shape of Puglia—it is an icon of the food of this southern region. This traditional pasta is made from just durum wheat flour and water; its concave form at the end is quite useful for holding sauces in the arms of the pasta.

A summery variation of orecchiette also often comes with fresh cherry tomatoes, basil, and ricotta salata—a salted, dried version of ricotta which brings a delightful savory note to the dish.

Famous Foods of Puglia Italy

Another classic combination , and the one I tried several times while in Puglia was the rustic version with turnips and anchovies (pictured above). In this dish, the slightly sweet and earthy flavor of turnips pairs wonderfully with the salty, umami flavor of anchovies. 

Some recommended places to try Orecchiette
1. Cicerietria (just outside of Otranto town)
2. La Strada Del Vino Wine Bistrot (Lecce Old Town)
3. Fave e Fogghje (Ostuni Old Town)

Famous foods of Puglia #2: Focaccia Barese

Focaccia Barese, typical of the city of Bari in Puglia, is a version of this classic Italian bread, that is flavored and scented in a uniquely different way. It is thick and much richer in topping ingredients than those covering the pillowy surface.

Focaccia Barese dough has semolina and all-purpose flour in the mix, which makes it airy but with crunch. The best-authenticated version of this focaccia is topped with fresh cherry tomatoes andd olives. The bread is sometimes dusted with oregano or fresh rosemary to give it the aroma. 

Famous Foods of Puglia Italy

I personally tried the non traditional version of this. We went for a thin Focaccia in a sandwich form which was also amazing with its fresh burrata filling. We found this was quite a common takeaway lunch option across Puglia in several of the Old Towns. 

Some recommended places to try Focaccia:
1. El Focacciaro (Bari Old Town) – be prepared for a queue at lunchtime!
2. Gusto Salumi & Formaggi (Alberobello) – this Delicatessen does amazing Focaccia sandwaiches and craft beers for lunch

Famous foods of Puglia #3: Burrata

Burrata is an Italian cheese made in the Apulia region of Italy, making it a rich and sumptuous cheese. It has such a huge following because of its creamy texture and delicate flavor. 

Famous Foods of Puglia Italy

In Puglia, the home of burrata, cheese is eaten fresh, creamy. Since the burrata has a gentle taste and structure, people from Puglia consume freshly made. The best burrata I had in Puglia was actually my first meal in Puglia, an unexpectedly delicious aubergine and burrata bruschetta at 

Famous foods of Puglia #4: Fave e Cicoria

Possibly one of the most underrated and unexpectedly amazing dishes we consistently had in Puglia was the Fave e Cicoria.

Fave e Cicoria is an ancient recipe for a fava bean purée served with sautéed chicory. It’s a very simple purée of dried beans, first soaked in water for some hours before cooking. Then cook in boiling water until soft and transform the beans into a smooth creamy purée. Occasionally, to get the right consistency, olive oil and water are added.

Famous Foods of Puglia Italy

Fave e Cicoria is not only a staple during the colder months, its a traditional dish served during certain festivals and holidays in Puglia. A beautiful representation of Puglian cuisine, paired with seasonable vegetables on top. 

We ordered this several times as a shared side and have to say, this was always such a flavourful dish! I had this at least once a day while in Puglia and never grew sick of it!

Famous foods of Puglia #5: Gelato

Gelato in Puglia, as for many parts of Italy, has its unique twist with local flavors, ingredients and traditions. The following are unique gelato flavors you might encounter in Puglia:

Fior di Latte di Mandorla: mandorla is the almond, of course, and this is an almond-flavored gelato. This is most of the substitute for milk used in the region, hence its mellow, nutty taste. It’s also perfect for most people who are lactose-intolerant or just like non-dairy stuff.

Fig Gelato

Fichi (Fig): Sunbathed, fleshy figs, good enough to eat plain, incorporates these sweets with a tad bit of chewiness, into gelato (pictured above).

Ricotta e Fichi: Creamy ricotta cheese and sweet figs are combined to yield a most indulgent and delicious-flavored gelato. This was probably my favourity of all the unique flavours in the region.

Olive Oil: While it might sound very strange, an olive oil gelato is actually very creamy and features all those fruity and rich olive oils that Puglia is known for. A bit of sea salt is sprinkled on top of this gelato to make the olive oil’s flavors really pop.

Famous foods of Puglia #6: Limoncello

Limoncello, while traditionally associated with the Amalfi Coast and Sicily, is also enjoyed and produced in Puglia. It leveraging the abundant citrus groves found in the region. Limoncello captures the essence of southern Italy’s love for citrus fruits in Puglia.

In Puglia, as in other parts of Italy, limoncello is made by steeping lemon zest in high-proof alcohol until the oil is released. This gives the liqueur its vibrant flavor and rich aroma. 

Limoncecllo
Limoncello Spritz

The lemons from Puglia, known for their intense flavor, make the local limoncello particularly delightful.

We were recommended trying Limoncello spritz by our waiter after looking through an extensive menu of choices. Although limoncello is typically served chilled as an after-dinner digestif, this was a good alternative to cool down after a day of walking around Ostuni. 

Famous foods of Puglia #7: Cornetto al Pistacchio

In other words, the pistachio croissant, or cornetto al pistacchio, has become one of the most common delicacies not only in Puglia but also in Italy. Such a delicacy epitomizes the coming together of an ordinary Italian croissant, considered a must-have item on the Italian table at breakfast time, and the pronounced, rich, nutty taste of the pistachios. 

Cornetto al pistacchio

The pistachio pastry is a buttery croissant, normally rich and very flaky, made with the addition of cream or even sometimes a pistachio is filled on top. The cream is generally prepared with a mixture of ground pistachio, sugar, and cream or milk to bring in a smooth, rich, and intense flavor spread. Some even have chunks in them.

Famous foods of Puglia #8: Pasticciotto

Pasticciotto is a pastry from the south, from Puglia. Celebrated as the typical sweet of the city of Lecce, this delicious pastry is made up of a shortcrust pastry case filled with a rich, creamy custard filling flavored with lemon or vanilla, giving it sweetness and aroma.

The oval shape and the slightly crisp texture of its crust give pasticciotto the ultimate contrast when the smooth, soft custard inside comes into the mouth. The paste is mostly baked using individual molds, which really contribute to their unique form: the particular geometry of the mold assures even cooking of the paste and ideal setting of the filling without its overcooking.

Pasticciotto

This treat is widely enjoyed for breakfast, consumed with a cappuccino or espresso to sweeten the beginning of the day. It is also a preferred mid-morning snack or a dessert after meals. Besides the classic custard filling, there can be variations of pasticciotto with chocolate or pistachio or even a fruit filling, like cherry or apple, which respond to different tastes and give a twist to the traditional recipe.

Famous foods of Puglia #9: Chickpea pasta

This wasnt something I ever thought I was going to like. I like chickpeas and I like pasta, but together? I wasnt not sure this was going to be my thing, until I went to a restaurant where pretty much every table had order this dish.

Intrigued, we went ahead and order it, and honestly could not have been more wrong about this one!

pasta di ceci

Locally known as “pasta di ceci.” This delightful dish is a staple in the Puglian diet. This is a gluten-free alternative is made entirely from chickpea flour, offering a uniquely nutty flavor and a firm texture. Its slightly nutty flavor and firm texture make it ideal for pairing with extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs as well as flavorful ragus typical of the region. Ours was topped with some sort of crunchy deep fried Fettuccine – 10/10! 

Puglia Food Guide: Tips for Foodies

  1. Book restaurants in advance, especially for dinner. I visited Puglia in the fringe season before the summer and still found that restaurants can get very busy from 7pm so its best to book ahead if there is a place you are keen to try! Typically calling ahead a day before was sufficient in most cases.
  2. Always as for the waiter/ chef’s recommendations / popular dishes. We found this was a great way to help us choose and get an idea of what to try, especially when the menu was fully in Italian and we had no idea how to tell the many dishes apart.
  3. Always leave room for dessert! Italian desert are truly more than just Tiramisus and gelatos, I would highly recommend going for the local recommendations and trying something different!

Are you heading to Puglia? Check out our Puglia destination guides and tips here.