Trulli delicious: a taste of southern Italy in Puglia

Down in the heel of Italy’s boot, Mark C O’Flaherty tucks into some of the country’s best and least-pretentious cooking

“So, is the slow-cooked donkey off tonight? No d’asino al vino rosso?” The waiter, who speaks as little English as I speak Italian, disappears to consult with the kitchen. Back he comes, and all’s well. The donkey’s on. Everyone at the table breathes a sigh of relief and tucks into the salumi and cheese and the first of what will be many €12 bottles of house red. 

We are here in Martina Franca to eat whatever Puglia has to throw at us, and to eat it in abundance. Which is just as well, because magnitude is core to Pugliese dining. It’s not that portions are necessarily excessive, more that the amount of plates that hit the table – from crudités, to bread with olive oil and tomato, to pureed fava beans – is extraordinary. Puglia is largely about comfort food, in large amounts…

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