When you think of Italy, what comes to mind? The sweeping architecture of the Roman empire? Or perhaps the sparkling waterways of Venetian canals? Maybe you’ve got a vision of vineyards in Tuscany or brightly colored houses on the Amalfi Coast. No matter what, I’d bet good money your mind’s eye doesn’t evoke the scenery and scenes of Southern Italy – especially not as seen through the eyes of Anthony Bourdain.
The heel of Italy’s boot has been referred to as “the land of remorse” – la terra del rimorso – which also translates to “land of the rebitten.”Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown, Season 10, Episode 8
Anthony Bourdain visited Puglia and its neighboring state of Basilicata while filming the “Southern Italy” episode of Parts Unknown (season 10, episode 8). This was his only on-screen visit to “The Heel of the Boot” during his television career, and his own notes share that it was inspired by Asia Argento while filming the Rome episode two seasons earlier.
Both figuratively and literally far from the iconic sights and sweeping vistas most people associate with the rest of the country, you have to really mean it if you want to eat at the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Puglia. Here are those places, and what Tony ate, should you be inspired to discover a new corner of Italy on your trip.
The Southern Italy episode opens with Tony sitting at a beachside restaurant, enjoying a simple pasta dish – but like many Italian – and especially Solento* – dishes, its apparent simplicity belies both the ingredients and care put into its preparation. He’s eating Spaghetti ai ricci di mare, which is pasta with garlic, herbs, and sea urchin roe, with a cold Peroni and – quite uncharacteristically at this point in his career – a cigarette.
Through reviewing the show notes, it’s revealed that this is Ricciolandia; their website shows a large open-air restaurant looking out over the Adriatic, as well as a photo of Bourdain eating their namesake dish.
(*Solento refers to the southernmost area of Puglia/Apulia, and includes cities like Lecce, Brindisi, and Taranto.)
Masseria La Spina
Next, Bourdain meets up with Argento to learn more about the culture of the region. They attend a dinner performance at Masseria La Spina, so named as the dining area sits in a plaza of the fortified farmhouse; these are now unique guesthouses across Puglia. Over dinner, they discuss and learn about the Taranta dance and the role of the tarantula in Puglian history.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure what they ate – nor can I confirm that these dining experiences are still offered; Masseria La Spina offers cooking classes as an alternative.
Alle Due Corti
Finally, Tony and Asia head to Alle Due Corti in Lecce for a quiet meal during the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul when most locals are out celebrating. This small restaurant is not far from the center of town and the 16th-century basilica, but Bourdain couldn’t care less as he digs into a feast of local specialties.
Again, Tony doesn’t narrate the dishes; my guess is that he tries the popular dishes based on their website, reviews, and photos: ciciri a tria (boiled and fried homemade pasta with chickpea sauce), rice with potatoes and mussels, or crispy deep-fried squid.
Local Dining Experiences Tony Had in Puglia
As usual, Bourdain has several local dining experiences while exploring Puglia and Southern Italy. First, he has a “Monopoliana”-style beach party/picnic/barbeque after fishing with Dino, Franco, and Asia out of Porto di Monopoli in the Adriatic. They feast on a fish stew with tomatoes, garlic, basil, and bread, barbecued lobster and oyster, and fresh uni, with white wine.
He also has a local grandma meal, one of his go-to ways to try local flavors. Meeting up with a local connection Angelo, they head to Angelo’s nonna, Maria, for hand-made orecchiette with pomodoro and cacioricotta – plus a generous side of religious fervor that gets lost in translation (perhaps for the best!).
Food Tours to Try in Puglia
There aren’t many food tours in the towns that Anthony Bourdain visited specifically, but I wanted to include a few options anyway. In particular, the day tour to Matera is a great option since Tony and Asia visit the “City of Caves” during their own exploration of neighboring Basilicata (which I cover in my complete Italy recap).
Do you have any other questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Puglia? Let me know in the comments below!