Surface attachment of a planktonic bacteria, mediated by adhesins and extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), is a crucial step for biofilm formation. Some pathogens can modulate cell adhesiveness, impacting host colonization and virulence. A framework able to quantify cell-surface interaction forces and their dependence on chemical surface composition may unveil adhesiveness control mechanisms as new targets for intervention and disease control. Here we employed InP nanowire arrays to dissect factors involved in the early stage biofilm formation of the phytopathogen Xylella fastidiosa. Ex vivo experiments demonstrate single-cell adhesion forces up to 45 nN, depending on the cell orientation with respect to the surface. Larger adhesion forces occur at the cell poles; secreted EPS layers and filaments provide additional mechanical support. Significant adhesion force enhancements were observed for single cells anchoring a biofilm and particularly on XadA1 adhesincoated surfaces, evidencing molecular mechanisms developed by bacterial pathogens to create a stronger holdfast to specific host tissues.