Bari in Bites
09 June, 2016
Bari is the cradle of Italy’s finest cuisine. The vera (true) cradle, that is. Any local will tell you so, as will any northerner, well aware of the excellence of the produce bathed by the Adriatic. If you think the food is good everywhere in Italy, wait till you sink your teeth into a dish in this southern enclave.
Street Food – From Focaccia to Sgagliozze
Bari’s old town is the best showcase for street food. Starting with the open-air Mercato del Pesce (Fish Market), where fishermen display their wares every day. Very fresh, clean and raw is how the locals purchase their fish, to eat it right there if necessary. With a Peroni birra in hand, of course. Your gaze will be riveted by the sea urchins, squid and octopus which they have just thrashed on the nearby jetty. The helpings are generous for the price.
Around the Basilica di San Nicola, the thing to do is order a focaccia in the historic Fiore bakery before strolling down the alleyways. Many of the local housewives make and then dry the various types of craft pasta in the open air. It’s a privilege to see them tirelessly kneading the pasta dough and shaping it.
In the so-called strada della pasta (street of pasta) you will come across the Caputo Rino family cooking anything that goes past. The family members are as genuine as the dishes they prepare. You will be entranced by their natural demeanour and will inevitably take a seat at one of their tables, as long as you have booked beforehand. If you want to visit the most amazing spots, allow yourself to be guided by the people at Velo Service, who can drive you from one place to another and save you from getting tired.
At dusk it is the turn of the sgagliozze street stalls to come alive. This fried polenta dish is also an icon of Bari, as are the panzerotti or fried sandwiches stuffed with local cheese and tomato. And, if you fancy hitting the town, then while away the wee hours in the bars and have one of the croissants served only at daybreak in the Piazza Mercantile before hitting the hay. Although, when it comes to good snacks and confectionery, try the ones at Martinucci, where the coffee is also great.
Indulge, too, in the ice-creams at Gentile, alongside the Norman-Swabian castle – they are fleeting but delicious. In season, have a go at the zeppole, based on a traditional Apulia confectionery, or the classic pistachio and Nutella.
And, be sure to stop at the grocer shops in the inner city where you will find local sausage. Go in and have a taste, and then take some with you as a souvenir.
Signature Cuisine From the Local Larder
Bari’s restaurants know how to get the most out of their local produce, without charging anything exorbitant. We can highly recommend Giampaolo for their lavish slew of seafood and fresh fish, as well as their pizzas and homemade desserts.
It’s worth getting out of the city to taste signature cuisine as a counterpoint to the traditional fare. The closest venue is Umami Ristorante, located in a country house near the main road. You will be pleasantly surprised at their wholesome offerings. A plethora of nicely presented local produce.
More remote and undoubtedly the boldest restaurant is Giuseppe Iannotti’s one-star Michelin Krèsios. You will be blown away by their tasting menu, an embellishment of the landscape and the Italian larder in a grand repertoire of sensations, paired with excellent items from their wine cellar. To top off the experience, stay over for the night in one of the rooms surrounded by vineyards.
Furtive Night Cuisine
At Bari’s only clandestine bar you can opt either for their cocktails or for a set of tapas based on snacks and savoury cupcakes. The bar counter is in one building, and the tables in the one next door. So you should check out in advance whether you can also have a bite to eat or have to make do with a drink. The venue is located in a secluded street near the harbour and its name – Speakeasy – is only uttered sotto voce – that is, in hushed tones.
Where to Sleep
Hotel Imago. A boutique hotel with just a few rooms set between the old quarter and the more modern districts. Apart from the optimum level of bustle, it is located in the heart of the shopping district and is very well connected. The rooms are spacious, the furniture functional, breakfast is continental and the wi-fi free-of-charge.
Now that you know how to eat Bari up, book your Vueling and enjoy it!
Text and photos by Belén Parra for Gastronomistas
09 June, 2016