Ryan Hardy, the chef behind acclaimed restaurants Charlie Bird, Pasquale Jones, Legacy Records, Silver Sands Motel and Delicious Hospitality Company, along with his wife Agatha, recently hosted an Indagare Insider Journey in Puglia with Indagare’s VP of Sales Elise Bronzo. We asked Ryan to share some of their favorite spots in this less discovered southern region—and the many reasons Ryan, Agatha and their family return to Puglia every year for sunshine, seafood, olive oil, figs and the simplest pasta you can imagine.
So why Puglia?
“I first came to Puglia many years ago to explore and taste the sun-drenched countryside. As a chef, I relished the opportunity to discover a list of new ingredients, culture and identity. My love affair with Italy only grew as I ate and drank my way around the sleepy towns in the heel of Italy, devouring bowls of orecchiette with fresh ricotta, platters of ricci di mare and figs plucked warm from the overgrown trees.
Today, my family and I return to Puglia whenever we can to feast on Italy’s best seafood and to feel like we’re off the grid a bit. Fortunately, the Pugliese have caught onto the idea of a more refined hospitality, and there are now several incredible places to stay both on and off the beaten path. And, of course, there’s something magical about the steel-green color of the Puglian landscape, covered with 60 million gnarled olive trees and Martian-red clay soil in which every inch seems to be growing something edible—artichokes, chicory, arugula, fennel… the list goes on.
When planning a trip here, it’s important to keep in mind that, fundamentally, Puglia is not Tuscany. Service can be rough around the edges, but take a chance and you’ll be quick to discover the charming towns and abundant flavors are second to none.”
Five to Know: Your Favorite restaurants in Puglia…
“Da Tucchino, in Polignano a Mare, for the more unforgettable crudo straight from the adjacent seaside and a black squid ink orecchiette with zucchini flowers.
Il Bastione, in Gallipoli, for a taste of the town’s famous gamberi rossi (red shrimp), which are so sweet and delicate in texture that, whether raw or cooked, it’s a flavor you won’t soon forget.
Masseria Moroseta, in Ostuni, for elevated Pugliese cuisine rooted in hyperlocal flavors from the land and sea by one of the country’s most talented chefs.
Taverna del Porto, in Porto Tricase for crudo, classics, and perfect bites along the coast.
Vito Dicecca’s Cheese Tasting Bar in the Mercadante Forrest—a journey in and of itself through the family’s signature cheese selection from Altamura.”
Where do you recommend staying?
“A few of our favorites include: Masseria Moroseta and Relais La Sommità, in Ostuni; Masseria Torre Maizza in Savelletri; Palazzo Daniele in Gagliano del Capo; La Fiermontina in Lecce; Masseria Calderisi in Fasano.”
Top Activities or Day Trips?
“Puglia is made of so many natural caves. If the weather is nice, our top activity is to head on a boat along the Adriatic. A great captain can take you to find hidden caves and watering holes that will ‘wow’ you with their uniqueness, beauty and complexity. Take a visit to Altamura to taste the best cheese in the region made by the fourth generation Dicecca family of artisans. Visit the fish markets in Bari, Savelletri, and Gallipoli to see the abundance of the local waters. Take an historic tour of Lecce to see how centuries of conquests have influenced art, architecture and cuisine.”
Contact Indagare or your trip designer for help in planning a trip to Puglia with recommendations on where to stay, eat, what to do and much more.
Favorite beach club?
“Lidù Bamboo, in Capitoli, south of Monopoli, affiliated with Masseria Torre Maiza, with its sandy beach and a buzzy restaurant and bar; and Coccaro Beach Club, in Savelletri, which has a restaurant serving long lunches of seafood and sushi, plus a cocktail bar, a kids’ club and a chic beach boutique.”
Where to shop: Ceramics, markets, food & more
“Savelletri: Orsina à-Brand-Abbigliamento at Coccaro Beach Club, for easy beachwear, swimsuits and more
Pogliano a Mare: Puteca Studio, for traditional crafts and sustainable brands
Ostuni: Suma Ceramiche, for decorative ceramic plates, platters and pieces, including the region’s signature ceramic pigne (pine cones) and pumi (Apulian flower buds)
Lecce: Bottega dei Miracoli, for locally made products like honey, pasta, olive oil and more
Frantoio DiCarlo, for all of your olive oil needs—and tarrali, the Apulian wheat crackers shaped like miniature bagels, too!
Galippoli: Antica Sartoria, for stylish dresses and tops. “Gallipoli is also the place to buy natural sea sponges. Markets and shops line the streets selling these underwater treasures.”
Favorite recent discovery?
“We recently visited Antico Forno Santa Caterina dal 1391, one the oldest bakeries in Altamura dating back to the 1300s, with a mother yeast that’s 90 years old. It was incredible from the minute we walked inside: the scent alone was intoxicating—and then the taste of the breads coming out of the oven was unforgettable.”
Top travel memory from the Indagare Insider Journey to Puglia?
“Aside from making incredible friends along the way on this Indagare Insider Journey to Puglia, I’d have to say tasting the blue cheese made by Vito Dicecca in Altamura. Making great cheese isn’t easy, and what he’s done to evolve his family’s traditions by introducing new cheeses, was really inspiring. And how could I ever forget going octopus fishing at sunset in Polignano a Mare? I was skeptical we’d catch one—and we ended up with skilled fishermen who patiently taught us their craft with a successful bounty in the end.”
“Try as much local produce as you can, from the peaches and figs in the summer to the artichokes and rapini in the fall and cucumber melons—the flavors are intense, just like the hot Apulian sun.”
What’s always in your carry-on?
“Extra Virginity, a book by Tom Mueller that so eloquently describes the history of the region through its most precious asset—olive oil.”
Best travel tip that you never leave home without…
“A pocket knife—an especially handy tool in Puglia, where the streets are lined with fig trees, white arugula and wild fennel. A knife makes it helpful to taste anything you want along the way.”
Where are you headed next?
“Mexico City is always top of my list, and I’d love to get to Peru and Japan before long.”
Contact Indagare or your Indagare trip designer to plan your next visit to Puglia. Click here to view our 2024 Indagare Journeys or email us at email@example.com for more information on upcoming trips.