I enjoyed both Mamma Elvira Cucina and Enoteca. The Cucina provides a more classic sit-down restaurant experience and full menu of Puglian specialties. The Enoteca also has an indoor area to eat, but the real action is on the patio (even in Winter). And when I say 'patio' I mean to say the dozen or so tables that are positioned on an active street in Lecce. Let me reiterate, an active street in Lecce. Several other adjacent restaurants and wine bars do exactly the same thing, perfectly Italian and wonderfully busy.
Mamma Elvira Cucina is a full service restaurant, a newer place in Lecce, spun off from their wine bar (which I dined at on night one) in the center of town. They helped me find some of the Cantine Imperatore I liked so much.
I was offered an amuse of fried blooming onion without the heavy breading. A local tiny onion that was not harsh, however a hint bitter, similar to the braised onion I had at Elvira Cantina. The onion was well fried, not heavy on the seasoning; likely this dish is for an apertivo to be eaten with Aperol or Campari based cocktails. Not the best pairing with my wine, so I drank sparkling water.
Baccala fritters. Solid. This is basically the Puglian version of fish and chips, without the chips. If you're hungry, need protein and gluten in your life and some deep fat fryer grease, this is Nirvana. It's filling and I probably shouldn't have ordered it at 9pm, but I did, because I haven't had this version on my trip and it sat like a brick with me through my night terrors 5 hours later. And yes, I would order it again.
Pasta was straight forward Puglian frutta di mare. Octopus was tender and the sauce was a simple pan sauce, fresh. Notice the seeds and connections were removed from the tomato; I love that attention to detail down here. Pasta was buckwheat, traditional for the area. This pasta to me is a Wednesday night, home cooked meal. It's served without pretense but beautiful.
Dessert was a tiramisu type of dessert, but richer in flavor. Could have been a yogurt base or some type of thicker cream. Dried fruit is a staple in Puglia and provides some texture to the dessert experience.
On my first night in Lecce, Marco showed me around town and suggested Mamma Elvira as one of his spots to eat. So I did.
Meatball 1: Bombette di Martina Franca, pork meatball filled w scamorzza cheese and sautéed more like a pork involtini as it's a pork cutlet rolled up and sautéed. It did not seemed like a braised piece of pork. The only sauce was a quick deglaze of the sauté pan with caramelized onions and probably a splash of wine.
Meatball 2: A flattened meatball, quickly sautéed and finished with a red wine reduction and braised little local pearl onion. The beef didn’t seem to have the heavy seasoning of a sausage patty, more as billed, a flat meatball. The onion is a hint bitter, like bitter greens. Dark flavors here, braised meat flavors that actually make wine #2 a lot better.
I'd go back to both restaurants upon my return to Lecce, great wine lists at both.