Slideshow: Pastries, Pastas, and More: Snapshots From Lecce, Italy

Pasta di Mandorla
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.

Pasticciotto
Pasticciotto

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.

Espressino
Espressino

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.

Iced Coffee with Almond Milk
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
Paste di Mandorla

Just some of the many varieties of almond cookies available in Leccese bakeries.

Rustico
Rustico

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.

Potato Croquettes and Horse Meatballs
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.

Fave Cicorie
Fave Cicorie

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.

Mixed Vegetables
Mixed Vegetables

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.

Orrechiette with Ricotta Forte
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.

Eggplant Parmesan
Eggplant Parmesan

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
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.