Ok, so truth is, of course there are more than three.
It’s a beautiful, baroque-style architecture filled city in one of my favourite regions in Italy (for those of you who were about to leave my site for a quick Google search, I’m talking about Puglia). With a cool bar and restaurant scene, great shopping and strategically located to explore the broader region as you please, Lecce should be on your south Italy to-travel-to list. But back to the three things that I’d head back for – the things that still make me all warm and fuzzy inside:
1) Rustico Leccese
Rustico in Italy literally means any kind of pie that is made with puff pastry and stuffed with something. In Australia, think sausage rolls! The Lecce style rustico I tasted this summer is round (slightly bigger than the palm of your hand) and stuffed with tomato sauce and béchamel. It’s golden and buttery and all you need to know is that you need to try one. They are available just about all over the city and I didn’t stop at one. 2) A meal at Trattoria le Zie
Ask any Italian for a dining tip and many will make reference to la Nonna (grandma), la Mamma (mum) or even la Zia (aunt). You see, the tradition of eating a home-cooked meal with the family runs deep in Italy. We stumbled across this gem of a place in the centre of Lecce that was as good as eating in anyone’s home. Gosh, at Le Zie (the aunties), you even ring the doorbell on arrival and one of the old ladies wearing an apron and slippers opens the door. This is literally a house turned into a restaurant and it’s like stepping back into the 50s. From the old wooden furniture to the cement floor tiles. You can see right into the kitchen too.
The fried zeppole (pastry balls) come to the table on the house to start and then we ordered the classic orecchiette with tomato based sauce and then polpette both pan fried in wine and braised in tomato sauce. For dessert it was chocolate and ricotta tart. The food was simple and tasty but the highlight was watching the owner and staff interact with the patrons. They treated us like family who had come round for dinner. It was a heartwarming and fun experience and I’d repeat it in a heartbeat. 3) Pasticciotto
The sweet pastry of Puglia’s south, Salento region will make you skip and sing and smile and you get my drift! Oval shaped, these things are all sweet crumbly pastry filled usually with custard (sometimes ricotta and more so you’ll find new age versions filled with just about everything you can think of). Don’t miss them – hell, try them at any opportunity! I hope you’ll think of me when you’re next in Lecce – have a rustico (or 5), a few pasticciotti and do yourself a favour: book the trattoria way in advance!
Signing off from Trastevere (Daydreaming of August days that seem so far away!)