Bed & Breakfast Cavallino


By Walter Sanders

Sharon and I wanted to explore Lecce, the spectacular capital city of Puglia — often referred to as the “Florence of the South.”

We needed to find a place to stay that would position us near Lecce, yet keep us within easy striking distance of nearby attractions and points south. Plus, we didn’t want the hassles of city parking.

It was my turn to choose a place so I perused for accommodations near Lecce.

The B&B Cavallino looked perfect: an intimate property (3 suites), outside of Lecce, reasonably priced and boasting some of the highest customer ratings of any lodging establishment in the area. We e-mailed and were able to procure a room.

B&B Cavallino proprietor Paola Danielli (right) and her husband Paolo Mercurio.

B&B Cavallino proprietor Paola Danielli (right) and her husband Paolo Mercurio.

Upon arrival, we met the luminous proprietor Paola Danielli. Efficient, lovely, charming (and fluent in English), she showed us to our “room.” What an exciting surprise! We had a spacious apartment with two floors, two terraces, a kitchen, and a huge bedroom overlooking a quiet green campo.

The apartment really felt like our home away from home for the next few days. Every morning before we set out, we brewed our own coffee and feasted on a lavish tray of local pastries that Paola had purchased for us. As Sharon always says, “You have to love a country where they eat cookies for breakfast.”

cavallinocolazione The only minor glitch during our stay    turned out to be the source of more joking   than frustration. Due to local street repairs,   access to and from the southern route to the Salento peninsula ran through an AGIP gas station. It was so well trafficked, we took to calling it the AGIP autostrada.

We couldn’t have been more fortunate in finding this jewel of a B&B. It’s easiest to reach by car, however, with proper advisal the hosts will provide transfers to and from the Lecce train station.

B&B Cavallino is the perfect starting point to explore the many attractions of the Salento peninsula south of Lecce.

Ciceri e tria

Ciceri e tria, chickpeas and tagliatelle, from Lecce in Puglia.

Ciceri e tria, chickpeas with both fresh and fried tagliatelle, is a specialty from Lecce in Puglia.

Ciceri are chickpeas. Tria are tagliatelle, in the dialect of Puglia. Combined, they make Ciceri e tria a distinctive dish from the baroque city of Lecce.

Like the ‘Ncapriata in Two Cooks in Puglia, this recipe comes from Cinzia and Marika Rascazzo, sisters and proprietors of the Stile Mediterraneo cooking program.

“The recipes are the real traditional ones from Lecce,” Cinzia says in a recent e-mail. “We inherited them from my nonna and we teach them at our school.” Nonna ‘Nzina, short for Vincenza turned 95 in May, looks like she’s 70, and cooks every day.

She is super well,” says Cinzia. “For her, the most important thing is food. She gets mad if my mother does not buy her the best ingredients. She spends the whole day cooking-maybe just four hours for a minestrone!”

Cinzia, who holds an MBA from Harvard University and Marika, a practicing cardiologist, are passionate about passing on their nonna’s culinary legacy and the culture that it represents. “Our cooking is based on which town you are in, which season it is, and peoples’ taste. In general, we never cover ingredients’ flavors,” Cinzia says.

Dried chickpeas soak overnight before being simmered with aromatics.

Dried chickpeas soak overnight before being simmered with aromatics.

In preparing Ciceri e tria, the first ingredient required is time. Dried chickpeas are soaked overnight and then simmered until tender with aromatic vegetables. The tagliatelle noodles are prepared from scratch by combining water and salt into golden durum wheat, the hardest type of wheat, which is also high in gluten. Durum is a major agricultural product of the Tavoliere plain in northern Puglia.

After the noodles are rolled and cut, a portion, about one-quarter, of them are deep-fried in olive oil. (These fried noodles make an irresistible pre-dinner nosh sprinkled with salt and Parmesan cheese!)


The remaining tagliatelle are cooked with the chickpeas. (When I tested the recipe, my first batch of tagliatelle turned gummy when I added them to the chickpeas. I had better luck boiling the noodles separately and then draining them before adding them to the chickpeas but this is NOT Nonna “Nzina’s method.) The three elements are stirred together just before serving and garnished with fresh parsley and hot red pepper to taste.

Read more about ciceri e tria