Many people say it: food in Puglia is a guarantee. The simple flavors of grandmother’s cooking, fresh, genuine, and zero kilometer products, fish and cheeses from small suppliers, bread and pasta made with authentic stone-ground grains as authentic as the oil. Apulian cuisine is almost always appreciated by those who taste it for the first time, praised by those who eat it every day. On social media, it is told with hashtags: #vieniamangiareinpuglia, inspired by the denunciation of the Apulian rapper Caparezza, in which Al Bano, also from Apulia, participates. On Instagram, the hashtag is quite successful: more than 40 thousand results, all mouth-watering shots. But to discover the quality of Apulian gastronomy is not enough just to sit at the table. The best can also be tasted on the street, without place and without time even if, generally, the chosen destination is often the sea. Let’s talk about street food in Apulia, one of the highest expressions of the local culture where, among the fried panzerotti with tomato sauce and mozzarella, or in the alternative versions with turnip tops onions, and the focaccia with fresh tomatoes and olives, it becomes difficult to say which is the best product. So let’s go on a journey among gastronomic excellences to be tasted in the streets and local places of an Apulia to be savored.
Among the alleys of Bari Vecchia: popizze, panzerotti and focaccia
Bari is definitely at the top of the list with its culinary heart in the old town. In summer or winter, if you walk through the alleys where Cassano scored his first goals, you may notice the big pots where they prepare “sgagliozze”, which are slices of fried polenta or “popizze” (pettole), both prepared by locals, a street custom established for years, it seems since the origins of the city of St. Nicholas. Lunch here is quite convenient, in fact we are talking about snacks that cost one or a couple of euros, although the people of Bari would say “A mangià vène u guste, a pagà vène la suste” (from the dialect means: you like to eat, but you are annoyed to pay). Almost all of the bakeries in the city (and also in the neighboring towns, such as Altamura or Laterza where focaccia is baked on the stone of wood-fired ovens, and on the coast, such as Bisceglie and its focaccia rich in oil) manage to fully satisfy the expectations of palates in search of delicacies to nibble on along the way. A guide on some special ovens and places can be the piece published on La Repubblica by Sonia Gioia about focaccia and the “comfort zone”.
Street food: tasting is done by bike
And in order to unite sustainable mobility with enogastronomic tourism, there are those who have created itineraries on street food on foot, by bike or on board a rickshaw. They are the guys from Velo Service, one of Bari’s most solid start-ups. The proposal is a sensory experience between culture, art, flavor and folklore. “Making our guests live a temporary citizenship, going to the barber or asking for a recipe at the window are experiences that make you feel local even if only for two hours,” explains Pako, one of the founders. Together with an expert guide, you visit evocative and authentic places and, along the way, meet local producers. The tour passes from the Basilica of San Nicola to the Fiore bakery, from the Norman-Swabian Castle to Vico dell’Arco Basso, the street where dozens of ladies knead orecchiette pasta on their doorsteps. And a few kilometers south of Bari, there are the small Savelletri with sea urchins, and Polignano with two necessary stops: the promenade dedicated to Domenico Modugno and the homemade ice cream of Bar Turismo.
From puccia to pasticciotto: food on the streets of Lecce
The suggestions of the Baroque combine with the taste of puccia or a traditional Lecce “pizzo”, as well as bread seasoned with onions, turnips, olives and tomatoes. You can eat for just two euros, as offered by “Il fornaio” near the Roman amphitheater, in Piazza Sant’Oronzo, right in the center. Sonia is Veloservice’s bike guide in Lecce, and she tells us that the tour must include fried pasta, an irregular sphere that can be topped with both sweet and savory ingredients (the one at the Astoria bar, near Porta San Biagio, is well known), and frisella, accompanied by eggplant, hot peppers or dried tomatoes in oil, part of the traditional peasant cuisine of Salento. The frisa, in fact, is a dish that can hardly be eaten walking, unlike the rustico leccese, present in every rotisserie or bar of the city and in all the villages of the area (there are 96 municipalities around Lecce). It is made with béchamel sauce, mozzarella cheese, tomato and a pinch of nutmeg, or more rarely with black pepper. And if the day is sunny, the suggestion is to reach one of the most fascinating places of the coast, Grotta Zinzulusa, and enjoy one of the best rustico sitting at the tables of the little restaurant there, with the horizon in front. For the greedy ones instead, at breakfast or at any time of the day, you can taste the typical sweet, the pasticciotto, accompanied by the caffé leccese (hot coffee, almond syrup and ice).
Those who pay more attention to ingredients, will notice how the products which characterize Apulian street food can be included in a vegetarian diet, although rich in gluten. Out of the chorus are puccia leccese, which is stuffed with whatever you want, and mortadella, an extra ingredient that is the filling for Bari’s focaccia (Puglia’s governor Michele Emiliano also demonstrated this with his Christmas buffet in 2015).
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