Our recent trip to Brindsi gave us a real insight into the food culture and recipes of southern Italy, how diverse it is and why pizza and pasta isn’t as black and white as it might appear when thinking about the nations most popular dishes. The old harbour in Brindsi has plenty of options for those looking for casual dining as well as up market eateries, however as is so often the case across Italy, you needn’t be swayed by fancy menu’s and expensive antipasto, our tip, as with most restaurants when abroad is look for the ones packed to the rafters with locals. If you want to experience the real culture and genuine local foods, you’ll find the little hideaway restaurants brimming with locals offer the best food and are usually priced to attract the locals who they depend on all year round. Compare to the commercial harbour-front restaurants who need to make enough money through the holiday season to cover their rent when the sun is lower in the sky and the tourists have long gone, it’s here, tucked away in the back streets that the real southern Italian cuisine is found.
Take Orecchiette Con Cime di Rapa for example, achingly simply, yet delicious beyond your wildest dreams. Orecchiette, which quite literally translate to ‘little ears’ is one of the most popular pasta shapes in the south of Italy. Its diminutive sizes makes each pasta an easy mouthful, yet the curls provide peaks and troughs for the sauce to cling and bring that zing from every mouthful. Handmade, as all good pasta is in restaurants worth their salt in Italy, from just semolina flour and water (yes, egg free, making it a vegan friendly pasta).
Traditionally topped with anchovies, a popular alternative for the vegan diner are peperoni cruschi, dried sweet peppers that add a hit of sun baked peppers and bring the dish alive. Tossed around in the pasta and a tomato and garlic sauce, served on a bed of wilted broccoli rabe leaves, a crack of black pepper and grated vegan parmesan, you’ll do well to find a punchier vegan Italian dish that delivers so much flavour and comes in under 10 EUR. In fact, we’ve spent 6 days in Brindsi and it’s the best vegan Italian dish we’ve found. Bar none.