Trattoria Le Zie – Cucina Casareccia (Intermediate A+), 19 Via Colonello Costadura, GANNET GEM!
Just outside the historic centre in a rather dingy part of town, this place unexpectedly provided me with one of the best eating experiences I’ve ever had in Italy. Spartan, traditional and friendly with fantastic food, it’s basically a family house with twelve tables crammed into their dining room and hallway. You have to ring the doorbell and someone comes to let you in. All the family are in the kitchen and greet you as you enter.
The son is a lovely guy and helped me decipher the hand-written menu as we massacred each others languages. I ordered antipasti (beans, aubergine, ricotta) and a primi (‘orecchiette o sagne’ ie pasta with veal meatballs) and would have ordered the horse steak for my secondo had it not been for the plate of pittuli (olives and other things in deep fried doughballs) and a bowl of ‘tria’ that showed up unordered.
‘Tria’ is an ancient dish, possibly Greek in origin, which consists just of chickpeas and pasta, but a third of the pasta has been deep fried to provided a crunchy contrast to the softness of the rest. Really simple but so delicious. Chickpeas (cece) are a staple everywhere in this part of Puglia, as is chicory.
The house red was really good too. I finished off with a sublime cheesecake and a glass of pomegranate liqueur, all made on the premises.
You have to reserve as there are only a few covers, so have the hotel reception call them first. They were empty when I arrived just after 8pm but full by 9.
So in a nutshell, I love this place! It’s not in the old town, it’s a bit of a grotty area actually, but really worth the effort of finding it in my opinion. I went originally in 2008 so I hope they are still as good.
When I last looked 2014 I was glad to see they are only #117 on Trip Advisor so they hopefully haven’t been spoiled by an oversupply of tourists. Most of the complaints seem to be from Italians who accuse the food of being too simple, or not as good as at home, but then what would you expect? It’s not haute cuisine, just good home cooking.
There are other nice places in the historic centre of Lecce too but they can be a bit hit and miss by all accounts.