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Written by Benedetta Canale
modified 12 January 2024
10 min. read


Discover the restaurants that brought a poor cuisine to the Olympus of the Michelin guide.

In Puglia "you eat well", nobody can deny it. This is mainly due to the availability of excellent raw materials, from the countryside to the coast, around which a strong gastronomic tradition has developed. 

A very important aspect to keep in consideration is that restaurants in Puglia, even the most famous and elegant, serve Apulian cuisine, and Apulian cuisine is poor cuisine. And this is the beauty of it.

In Puglia, unlike in other regions, the French influences did not arrive, which instead revolutionized the history of Piedmontese, Neapolitan or Sicilian cuisine. For this reason, Apulian cuisine is rich in products and flavors, essential in its elements and focused on taste.

It is a land where the Greeks, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Swabians, the Aragonese and the Spaniards have left their mark on the architecture, the language and even some of the cooking habits, such as the "tiella" with rice, potatoes and mussels, which is very similar to paella, and the eggplant parmigiana, which is nothing more than Greek moussaka in an Italian version. Nevertheless, Apulian cuisine remains a poor cuisine, rich in genuine ingredients obtained from working in the fields, sheep-farming, fishing, and cooked with simple recipes.

The contemporary rebirth of the restaurants in Puglia and of the Apulian cuisine starts from where it began, from the vegetables, from the raw materials, considered with respect and not "transformed" into something else. From the most elegant resorts such as Borgo Egnazia to young projects such as Bros’, vegetable menus are flourishing, fish cooked as little as possible, the beauty of bread broken at the table, from a peasant gesture to the most elegant dining room presentation.

Let’s discover the 9 Michelin starred restaurants of Puglia:

Primo restaurant

A few tables in an equally small room with a characteristic star-shaped ceiling in Lecce stone, with the addition of outdoor candlelight service, the Primo Restaurant is the kingdom of the new protagonist of Italian cuisine, Solaika Marrocco. At the gates of the historical center of Lecce, three young people - Silvia Antonazzo and Marco Borelli in the dining room, Solaika Marrocco in the kitchen - stage a highly enjoyable gastronomic show, strongly inspired by the ingredients and flavors of Salento. In fact, in his dishes Salento and Puglia appear in some key ingredients, as well as the most ancient and traditional recipes, which Solaika likes to reinvent with a decidedly contemporary and original style. The restaurant, inaugurated in February 2016, is called Primo because it is her first independent entrepreneurial adventure and because here the customer satisfaction is at the center of the project, elevated to a personal mission, at first thought.

Bros’

You may have heard of Bros' through the infamous review that defined it as "the worst Michelin-starred restaurant ever," but we went to try it for ourselves and it was an incredible experience that we feel confident in recommending. Bros' was founded in 2016 by chef Floriano Pellegrino and pastry chef Isabella Potì, a couple in business and in life with a vision for a restaurant that combined avant-garde cuisine with a deep connection to its local roots. In 2018, it was awarded a Michelin star, making it the first Michelin-starred restaurant in Salento. Isabella and Floriano have created a food culture that draws on tradition but gives everything a trendy, eccentric, provocative image, causing a short-circuit. They seem shiny and globalized, but their menu is written in dialect; they are metropolitan but tied to the heritage of their land, contemporary but looking to the past with the recovery of forgotten products and processes.

Già sotto L’arco

Già sotto L'arco is a family restaurant founded in 1982, located in an eighteenth century building in the white Carovigno. The restaurant is the creation of Teresa Galeone and Teodosio Buongiorno, creators and interpreters of a very personal gastronomic magic on the border between tradition, creativity and refinement. An ethical, religiously seasonal, intelligent, elegant cuisine without frills, just like Chef Teresa Galeone. The culinary proposal of Gia sotto l'arco is instinctive, almost primordial, inseparable from the generous land that hosts it. The wine cellar completes the tasting experience. Five hundred and more labels, personally selected by Teodosio Buongiorno with an eye on the Apulian cellars, represent a territorial tradition of taste that embraces every area.

Casamatta

The restaurant Casamatta is today the most complex food and wine challenge in this part of Salento. Since 2019 the restaurant has obtained the Michelin star recognition, while in 2021 the restaurant has obtained the first green Michelin star in Puglia for its sustainable cuisine, for the 0 km of products coming from the garden of the castle that hosts it and for the attention to waste. The taste is entrusted to the chef Pietro Penna, who offers a cuisine with great character, clean, passionate and concrete. Mediterranean flavors with raw materials that come from the garden and expertly selected products in search of taste and pleasantness are the protagonists of a table where the chef's French technique is at the service of enhancing flavors. A careful selection and research of raw materials, combined with meetings and comparisons with local producers, led the chef to rediscover a Puglia of taste.

Due Camini

Due Camini is the award-winning restaurant located in the luxurious Borgo Egnazia Resort. A fascinating Apulian village, rebuilt from the ground up, respecting the local materials and architectural tradition. The piazza, the poetic streets and the many restaurants for all tastes make it a small world in itself. The fine dining proposal is found at Due Camini, a restaurant led by chef Domingo Schingaro, who offers a cuisine that brings the strong and decisive flavors of the Apulian tradition in every dish, interpreted in a modern key and prepared by enhancing local products, many of which come from the structure's garden. In fact, L'Orto deserves a special mention, a social table set in the vegetable garden next to the restaurant. Among basil, purslane, wild thyme and dozens of other aromatic herbs, an alfresco table for 12 people, with no fixed starting time, allows each guest to arrive at different times for dinner, always feeling at ease. An 8-course menu that changes every day, following the products that the chef de cuisine considers perfect at that moment. The cooking is almost entirely on fire, where the vegetable part is predominant, although there is no shortage of protein incursions, both from land and sea.

Angelo Sabatelli

In the characteristic historical center of Putignano, this talented chef offers a technical cuisine that enhances the territory, while at the same time sympathizing with Asian suggestions. The study of different cultures and oriental cuisines has contaminated the tradition of the dishes of his native Puglia. The restaurant is located in the entrance hall of a historic noble palace, with two elegant rooms of different sizes, where the antiquity of the rooms is combined with the minimalism of the furnishings, including linear armchairs and tables without tablecloths. Here you will be welcomed with kindness and perfect professionalism by Laura Giannuzzi, Angelo's wife, and by Giovanni Tortora, who knows how to navigate competently through the rich and prestigious wine list.

Pashà

Pashà was born in 1998 as an Italian café, similar to Gambrinus in Naples or Caffè Greco in Rome, open from breakfast to dinner. Pashà is the nickname of Antonello Magistà, patron and genius loci of the establishment, who in 2000 revolutionized his initial idea and entrusted the kitchen to his mother, Maria Cicorella. For 18 years mother and son worked together: the first in the kitchen, the second in the front of house and in 2013 they obtained the Michelin star. In 2018 Antonio Zaccardi becomes chef and interprets the cuisine that Antonello has always dreamed of as a customer: his work is a work of subtraction, with few ingredients that link the dishes to the territory, where the stylistic feature is elegance. The Episcopal Seminary has been home to the restaurant since 2016. The project reserved the first room for the bar and reception, the second for the modernity with square tables and contemporary furniture, the third for the aesthetics of the late nineteenth century, with round tables, all from different families. The union between design and art is possible thanks to the collaboration with Vito, owner of the antique shop Capricci delle Badesse.

Casa Sgarra

Opened in 2020 by three brothers, two in the front of the house and one in the kitchen, Casa Sgarra is located on the seafront of Trani, a twenty-minute walk from the picturesque port. A sensual and imaginative cuisine, just like Felice, the chef, who leads a team of true professionals dedicated to the same cause: the preparation of beloved local raw materials, interpreting them in a modern way. The menu is a real firework of broad beans, Toritto almonds, burrata and strong ricotta, truffles and black chickpeas from Murgia, wheat flour, fish and seafood and, of course, the excellent oils of the region. Felice's cuisine is innovative and dynamic, but above all it is based on solid technique and the eternal contrast of colors and textures. Her dedication is evident in every bite, in a riot of flavors and colors. If kindness and hospitality are at home, the best caption is the slogan the three brothers chose for their restaurant: "a family story".

Quintessenza

The beautiful story of Quintessenza begins in Trani in 2011 as the result of the idea of chef Stefano Di Gennaro and the great passion and professionalism of his three brothers. Of peasant origin, the Di Gennaro family finds itself united around a great common project: to delight their visitors and make them experience the best Apulian cuisine, from the kitchen to the dining room. Stefano, supported by Alessandro, the pastry chef, leads the kitchen team with enthusiasm and tenacity. He cares about tradition, attention to basic preparations, "simple" cooking, respect for raw materials, innovation without too many frills, measured contamination and, yes, lots and lots of Puglia. Perhaps this is why the dishes are presented with great cleanliness and elegance, and the flavor is always rounded, centered, without smears and excesses, worthy characteristics of "classic" Italian cuisine. In short, a modern cuisine, but with firm roots in the territory and in the best Apulian tradition.

Porta di Basso

Peschici is a village that suddenly appears among the dense vegetation of the Gargano, all white and overlooking a boundless expanse of blue. A sort of welcome from the Porta di Basso restaurant, nestled in the alleys of the historic center of the town. Here, between large windows and charming balconies suspended in the air, you can enjoy a vast and relaxing sea panorama, with the fleeting illusion of sailing on the Adriatic. Perhaps you will be pampered by the fresh aromas of Domenico Cilenti's recipes. Delicate and refined preparations, yet clear and concrete, with recognizable flavors linked to the territory.

Do you also want to discover Puglia? Have a look at our holiday villas in Puglia here.

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Benedetta Canale

I’m an art director, foodie and life enthusiast from Rome with Umbrian roots. I lived in Florence to study arts, and in Puglia to work in hospitality, kitchen and events. Food is my religion and I love to share my favorite places because food always tastes better when shared.

benedetta@specialpuglia.com


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