The charm of Lecce, boasting one of the most beautiful historic centres in Italy, hits you the moment you walk through Porta Napoli. You can stroll through streets, alleys, past aristocratic palazzi, all the way to the Duomo with its intimate yet majestic piazza. It is a city divided between tradition and contemporary life, among workshops producing papier-mâché creations to exciting nighttime venues.
But the regional capital of Salento is also an exceptional gastronomic destination. An itinerary that can satisfy the most discerning palates unfolds among the amber palazzi and the popular piazze. Creativity in the kitchen is combined with the excellent quality of the raw materials, from sea to land and including a triumph of vegetables.
The counter of Pescheria con Cottura has a spectacular and generous display of seafood, and if you are hungry, all you need to do is chose from the products you can see. After having selected a wine, mainly from a local winery, one sits down to enjoy the simple recipes that enhance the fish. The idea of the venue belongs to entrepreneur Daniele Ingrosso, who has also exported it to Milan.
Close by, you must stop at Alex Ristorante for a special dish that is truly worth the journey: Acquerello della chef. It is a risotto with clams and smokey black tea over a carpaccio of Gallipoli red prawns, prepared by Alessandra Civilla, a passionate and creative cook.
There is another feminine talent in Lecce: Solaika Marrocco. Aged only 22, she won the Birra Moretti Grand Cru prize awarded to the best Italian chef under 35, with a humble dish bursting with character: turcinieddhi (rolls of goat and lamb offal) glazed in beer with an orange-flavoured onion confit, cirtmi (sea fennel) in tempura and a hop infusion.
Solaika composes her menus with great skill at Primo Restaurant. A powerful yet refined cuisine, with both substance and style, showcased in the gnocchetto with sea urchin, almond milk and coffee, in which local ingredients are combined in a fine balance.
Finally, at Bros’, Floriano Pellegrino has decided to bring the experience he has acquired in different parts of Europe back to Lecce in an energetic and intelligent fusion, just like him. In his dish of ricotta and sea urchins, the minimalist and essential flavours are well rooted in the local area.
Here too the female hand is present: the sous-chef is Isabella Poti, also in charge of patisserie. A young star of the the Rai2 TV talent show, Il ristorante degli chef, she prepares innovative tartlets and millefoglie pastry, such as a firm pear infused in verbena, grilled and served with a mousse of salted caramel.
At Alex Ristorante diners must try the Acquerello by chef Alessandra Civilla, a risotto that is truly worth the journey
Hospitality in Lecce is as sacred as its patron saint, Sant'Oronzo. The historic centre offers bed & breakfasts that combine history, fine architecture and charm. Such as Al Duomo, opened by globe-trotting lawyer Giovanni Bruno in an 18th century palazzo with a wonderful facade. But also Palazzo Belsanti, Dimora San Giuseppe and Santa Marta Suite have been created within ancient buildings and feature all mod cons.
© Andrea Radic
A food and wine expedition from San Casciano in Val di Pesa to Radda. In the midst of historical houses, peasant dishes and a heart-shaped vineyard.
What to eat in Naples
From street food to award-winning restaurants, from fried pizza to babas, a walk for food and wine lovers through the streets of Naples