Pasta di Mandorla
Leccese paste di mandorla, or almond pastries, come in all different forms. This one features a soft, marzipan-like center, generously covered in slivered almonds and powdered sugar.
Picture the butteriest of pie crusts. The outermost edges are slightly crisp, and give way to a tender dough and warm interior bursting with fresh cream. That, my friends, is a pasticciotto.
Cappuccinos are a staple of the Italian breakfast, but only in Lecce can you find the espressino, a drink that is made with equal parts espresso and steamed milk.
Think of the fruttone as the pasticciotto's younger, more complicated cousin. Rather than cream, it's filled with almond paste and a layer of marmalade. The top is then covered in dark chocolate. Unlike the pasticciotto, fruttone are served cold in order to preserve the textural differences between the crispy chocolate, soft dough, and creamy interior.
Iced Coffee with Almond Milk
You might get some weird looks if you ask for iced coffee in Italy, but this drink is an exception. the almond milk, often homemade, is sweet, creamy, and blends perfectly into the chilled espresso.
Paste di Mandorla
Just some of the many varieties of almond cookies available in Leccese bakeries.
If a croissant and a pizza had an even more delicious baby, it would be the rustico. The dough makes a flawless transition from light and flaky to soft and tender, and the filling—a mix of Béchamel cheese, mozzarella, and tomato—is perfectly gooey and judiciously seasoned.
Lecce's answer to the sandwich is a pita-like dough, served warm and exploding with both fresh and pickled vegetables, then garnished with a slice or two of prosciutto and cheese.
Potato Croquettes and Horse Meatballs
The Leccese are pros when it comes to the art of frying, as proven by a number of their typical antipasti dishes. Shown above are two crowd-pleasers: Potato croquettes and, yes, horse meatballs.
Legumes play a large role in Leccese cuisine. In this dish, white beans are puréed until creamy. Consider it a thicker, nuttier version of mashed potatoes.
Historically, an agriculturally-based economy made fresh vegetables an easy and inexpensive option in Lecce. These traditions are still evident in many of their typical dishes, like this one.
Le Sagne N'Cannulate with Cacio Ricotta
This pasta's name derives from Leccese dialect. The thick, ribbon-like shape is a perfect vehicle for tomato sauce and cacio ricotta, a crumbly, salty cheese with a feta-like taste and consistency.
Orrechiette with Ricotta Forte
Orrechiette has its origins in Lecce. One of the many popular ways of serving this ear-shaped pasta is with ricotta forte, a tomato sauce flavored with aged ricotta, giving it a stronger, slightly tangier flavor.
In Lecce, huge chunks of eggplant Parmesan are doused in tomato sauce and cheese and served lasagna-style in generous portions.
Chocolate, Pistachio, and Amarena Gelato
Lecce has its neighbor Sicily to thank for the prominence of fresh gelato around the city. Not only do most Leccese gelaterias feature a ton of unique flavors, but they're also often cheaper than their northern counerparts. Pro-tip: at pretty much every gelateria in Lecce, all you have to do is ask and your server will shovel a healthy dollop of whipped cream onto your cone for free.