It has always fascinated me that in Brindisi, where everyone cries about not having a job or enough money, no one seems to come up short on Friday or Saturday night. Between Pizzerias, Trattorias (trat-tor-ree-ahs), Osteries (Os-ter-ree-ahs) and full blown restaurants – there is something for everyone and every budget. For sure, I don’t see any one on the street starving. And that’s a good thing, because if there was ever a pastime in Brindisi, “eating” is it.
For those of you who are curious, let me explain a thing or two. A pizzeria is obviously where you get a pizza. A trattoria is one step up from a pizzeria. At a trattoria you can get a plate of pasta, a meat dish and a bottle of wine. There may or may be a menu. These are kind of like mom & pop/family run establishments. Where you’ll eat whatever Mom felt like preparing that day. You’ll eat well and you won’t pay much. An Osterie is little more than a wine bar. Don’t expect anything more to eat than bread, cheese and olives. And finally, restaurants offer you the whole menu: appetizers, pasta, meat, fruit, desert, a coffee. I have eaten in many of the so-called “top” restaurants in Brindisi and haven’t found what they offer to be much more different than most trattorias – that is – except for the price.
You can expect to pay about 25 euro a person at most trattorias and certainly more than that at most restaurants, and that goes for most places – not just Brindisi.
So here’s a handful of my favourite haunts, but certainly not all-inclusive.
Locanda Ti Li Spilusi (Contrada Restino, tel: 0831- 555481). I asked my wife what “Ti Li Spilusi” means because it’s a slang term. She felt it meant something like, “Many things will pass your lips”. Maybe she’s pulling my leg, but I don’t think so. Locanda Ti Li Spilusi is on the outskirts of Brindisi. It sits right down the road from the San Marco Naval Base (which means absolutely nothing to you if you don’t live here, but hey, I needed a reference point). The Locanda Ti Li Spilusi is famous for its antipasta or appetizers. Now, most places will give you some olives and bread and maybe if you’re good you’ll get some fried peppers or something. But at Locanda di Spilusi you get a whopping 15 different appetizers. And I’m not talking about whimpy little olives. I’m talking marinated mushrooms, and little meatballs, and sardines and fried and who-knows-what else. I kid you not when I say that most people rarely get farther than the appetizers. If I know we’re going to eat there, I give myself at least a week’s notice to train. You eat so much at this place it’s almost vulgar. I swear, they need to put a vomit-bin in the back somewhere so we all feel what it’s like to purge ourselves. The Locanda di Spilusi doesn’t take reservations. If you CAN make it past the appetizers, let me tell you they make a fantastic variety of pizzas. Difficult to find if you don’t know the area. Most cab drivers have been there. A taxi costs about 12 euro.
La Sciabica (LungoMare Regina Margherita, tel: 0831- 562870). The “sciabica” (she-ahh-bee-ca) is the hand-made, cone shaped fishing tool that was weaved out of olive branches. You seen these items – they are still used to catch small fish and oysters and clams and other little delights from the sea. At the port of Brindisi, the sciabica also referred to an area where the fishermen would congregate when they came back to the port to prepare and display their catch. That area has been moved a bit to what is now the Brindisi fish market which is about 500 yards from the steps of the Appian Way. The trattoria that takes it’s name from this antique fishing tool sits almost right next door to the Pub Argonese which sits on LungoMare Regina Margherita and was written up in the article on “Best Pubs in Brindisi” (check it out). La Sciabica has an interior that looks like it was taken out of a movie: old bookshelves, and knick-knacks from Brindisi’s second golden age (1920-1934) including fishing nets, diving equipment, playbills and more. A truly magical atmosphere. The food runs the gamut from pizza to oysters and is a bit on the steep side. A nice place to bring that special someone. Separated into a ground floor dining room, a second floor “private” dining area reserved for special occasions and a top floor bar with a balcony. Open nightly from 7pm -2am.
Trattoria Da Giuseppe (Corso Garibaldi 15, tel: 0831-591002) a by-the-numbers trattoria right in the middle of town. A patio area in front allows you to eat outside and enjoy the passers-by who gawk at your meal. Laid back atmosphere that is open only at night. Eat well, eat cheap and don’t spill your food. That’s my motto. I recommend the orrechetti – the small ear-shaped pasta that are particularly tasty if prepared with “rappi”, a vegetable local to the Puglia region and very similar to broccoli. Follow up with roast lamb and wash it down with the house wine – imported all the way from LocoRotondo, about 30 kilometers away and famous for it’s vino.
If you can eat out every now and then and manage not to wind up looking like Eddie Murphy in “The Nutty Professor” than you’re a better man than I. It’s one thing to eat out when you’re on vacation, it’s another to be tempted by these locales every day!