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In Puglia, cheese is for eating every day; relatively simple but strong and immensely gratifying, eaten as antipasto, atop pasta, or in their panino, traditionally made for taking to work in the fields.
The most famous cheese to hail from the fertile lands of Puglia is cheese-of-the-moment burrata. This indulgent off-shoot of mozzarella has claimed legions of fans, who, after a taste, are converted by the creamy intensity of this loveable artisan creation.
Despite burrata’s cult status, it has humble origins as a product made from the leftovers of mozzarella production. Torn strips of leftover mozzarella mixed with fresh double cream (stracciatella) and ladled into a tougher outer sack, also made from mozzarella, and tied, creating this pride of Puglia that the western world has fallen in love with.
Far from the creamy haze of burrata is ricotta forte, a less famous but locally loved regional cheese. Ricotta is twice fermented in a jar for months, morphing into a powerhouse of pungency with a tang to make you stop in your tracks. As harsh as it sounds, this concoction is also intensely enjoyable, and is typically served with sweet cherry tomatoes to offset the powerful strength of the cheese.
When it comes to food, Puglians could be perceived as fanatical about freshness and as home to Italy’s longest seacoast, this comes to play in a big way when it comes to their seafood. We hard-pressed to think of a place with a fresher and more diverse selection of stunning seafood.
At Ostuni, our approach to seafood is much the same: caught to be served, and simply prepared with the most amazing seasonal ingredients we can get our hands on. In true Puglian fashion, we make the most of what is around us, so in our case that’s mussels and lobster from Scotland, and fresh fish and crab from Cornwall.
In Puglia, they also like their seafood raw, a testament to their tremendous dedication to freshness, and a centuries-old tradition that symbolises their connection to the earth and the sea.
We represent this crucial piece of Puglian seafood culture at Ostuni, but in a slightly less extreme form, with our tuna crudo. Crudo meaning “raw” in Italian, we get our beautiful purpley-pink tuna in fresh and carve it by hand ourselves, serving with celery, pink peppercorns (a super Puglian ingredient), a little lemon juice and dressing.
When at Ostuni, home to London’s largest Puglian wine list, there’s no better place to try the Southern Italian region’s robust, great value and intriguingly up-and-coming wine selection.
Akin to Italian wine, Puglian wine finds its most profound contrast between the grape varieties of the North and the South, but is generally characterised by a sun-filled nature; with lots of juicy fruit, alcohol and a typical deepness in colour – born from the region’s thick, pigment-rich grape skins.
Due to its slightly higher altitudes and cooler microclimate, the wines of Northern Puglia tend to be more austere – fruit-filled but structured with a distinctive freshness that is found in its most important grape variety Nero di Troia, while Southern Puglia and the Salento region gives in to this typically jammy fruit character with good body, found in the region’s largest grape varieties Primitivo and Negroamaro.
So why choose Puglian wine? Ostuni owner and wine aficionado Rob Claassen tells us its beauty is in its accessibility: ‘it’s in the middle – so often it pleases people quite easily because it’s got the structure, but it’s also got the fruit, and good body and ripeness. Generally hitting all the marks in your olfactory senses’.