There are plenty of places to get a great meal, but these are my favourites. They’re the places we go back to again and again.
Naos, UgentoVia Giannuzzi Capitano Ugo, 90
Naos is a great place to sample Salentine cooking at its heartiest. Worth trying are the homemade arancini, the ceceri and tria (handmade pasta in a chickpea sauce) and the penne with salmone. Portions are generous and many dishes are made with home-gown ingredients.
Retro, Castrignano del Capo
Whether you eat in the outside courtyard or the vaulted dining room, a meal at Retro never disappoints. This is one of those places without a menu, but whatever Salvatore (the chef and owner) offers you will taste great – don’t worry! There’s also a wide selection of wine and some delicious cakes and biscuits to sample.
Gnam, Santa Maria de LeucaLungomare C.Colombo
333 28 24 328
A popular spot for pizza at the bottom of Italy’s ‘heel”. The pizzas here are twice the size of normal ones, but they’ll put two different toppings on if you’re sharing and can’t agree on what you want. Tables are outdoors, on a flight of stairs opposite the seafront.
Lo Sturno, ParabitaVia Immacolata 2
This is a good choice if you want to eat where the locals eat. It’s situated in a stone cellar in the historical centre of Parabita, a small town about 15 minutes inland from Gallipoli. Everything I’ve tried here tastes great, but the meatballs in sauce (polpette al sugo) seem to be their signature dish. Get here early for lunch, as after 1pm it fills up with business people.
Osteria San Martino, LecceVia Marco Aurelio, 10 (near the park)
340 40 64 411
One of the best places we’ve found recently. Again there’s no menu, but they offer a wide variety of local specialities at really reasonable prices. And no-one speaks English, so it’s a great place to practise your Italian. It may not be the most glamorous restaurant in Lecce, but this is a great family-owned place and the food never disappoints.
Scoglio dele Sirene, Gallipoli
Great views of Gallipoli harbour from this restaurant on the sea wall. It’s especially romantic in the evening when the place is strewn with candles. This is one of the more expensive places on this list, but then again you are paying for the location. It’s great for super-fresh seafood and local specialities.
Tatanka, near Santa Maria de Leuca
340 34 36 909
Another place with an amazing sea-view. Tatanka’s menu isn’t the biggest I’ve seen, but everything is cooked well and tastes great. The rocks opposite are a great place for a swim, if you don’t mind deep water. Daredevils jump from the cliffs into the clear sea, and there is a cave you can swim into. Just make sure you go swimming before lunch!