Have I already told you how much I love Puglia? This unpretentious place with sun-drenched houses and unspoiled beauty which excels in cucina povera and abounds with fresh seafood and local produces. You must have noticed by now that I keep praising the local food atmosphere with its simple dishes.
Only 2 weekends in Bari so far, but it feels a bit like a home away from home. I already know my way around and I’m still looking forward to the next trip. Not to mention that each time I left Puglia, my hand luggage was packed with food: cheeses, meats, dried funghi porcini, fresh pasta and even tuna as it was a lot cheaper than in Bucharest :P.
Below I tried to make a list with a few places in Bari, which might come in handy if you explore this area. Please note that this is not a top 10 and the places are not in order of preference. It’s just me and my food related experiences in this city which were all good, but I am very much interested in other recommendations as well.
Main foodie highlights: burrata (cheese), orecchiette (handmade pasta), focaccia (best here), fresh sea food & fish.
1. Tana del Polpo
A small family-run restaurant just at the entrance in Bari Vecchia, very close to Piazza Mercantile and a few steps away from Salumiere Nino. The design is not too fancy, just a simple and cozy place in the old city centre where you can easily feel at home and mix with the locals. Simple, local dishes involving a lot of freshly caught fish and seafood (let’s not forget that polpo means octopus) at affordable prices.
Grilled fish, olive oil & lemon
It’s 7.30 p.m , Friday and the restaurant seems deserted although we were told that it was fully booked for that evening. At about 8 p.m., a large group of cheerful Italians barge in and get seated at the tables squeezed close together, the homey restaurant is now crowded and noisy.
Everyone seems to go for the fixed sea food menu, enjoying a good chat and tasty food. Italians, the people who seem to celebrate every meal as a special occasion. So I am talking about that typical local Italian atmosphere. La vita e bella.
What do we order?
They have a fixed menu for fish and seafood which includes starters, a main dish, wine, coffee and dessert. I would really recommend this as it is about 20 -25 euro and you get great food for a good price. Plus this way you narrow down the options and come to a decision more quickly. The fish and seafood are impeccably fresh. I had as starter mussels, octopus, prosciutto or salami and the local cheese specialty burrata. (don’t forget to mop up with some bread the remaining olive oil from the marinated octopus dish). The main dish was local pasta orecchiette with sea food or with horse meat.
Gamberoni and grilled octopus
On my second occasion, I didn’t go for the fixed menu and indulged in some sea food dishes from the menu instead: gamberoni, octopus, some fresh grilled fish. The staff is amazing, I got to see the fresh fish before it was cooked, I was informed of the octopus weight before it was grilled.
Thumbs up for the server! (unfortunately I do not remember his name)
Burrata, mozarrela-like on the outside, with a creamy and gooey inside
Orecchiette with horse meat
2. Il Salumiere Nino
No visit to Bari would be complete without stepping onto the realm of the fresh mozzarella and local cheese burrata in Salumiere Nino, with a view on mountains of parmigiano and pecorino. Nino can make a snack for you with bresaola or prosciutto. And there is fresh focaccia available as well.
Shop here for local meats or cheeses before heading to the airport. If you missed the nonnas making the Puglian signature orecchiette in the old centre, you can still find this handmade fresh pasta at Salumiere Nino for 7 € per kilo.
Where: Strada Vallisa, 31. CAP: 70122, Bari Vecchia
Italian bakery check √, beautiful view on the piazza check√, cappuccino check √, gelateria check √. Still the best reason for me to enter this pasticerria is a pastry goodie named pasticciotto – a shortcrust pastry filled with custard, served warm from the oven.
Where: Piazza Mercantile, Bari.
4. Caffe Borghese
Centrally located, it’s a nice cafe to have lunch/dinner or just go for a drink with friends. We had a light dinner: excellent pasta and good wine. Friendly staff.
Where: Corso Vittorio Emanuele 122, Bari, Italy
5. L’Osteria del Borgo Antico
Located in the Piazza Mercantile, in the heart of Bari Vecchia. At a first glance you might misjudge it and avoid it for fear of falling into a tourist trap. At least, this is how I felt mainly because of its location. But to my surprise, besides the nice view on the piazza, I also had delicious typical dishes and nice service. The above photo shows fave e cicoria (fava bean puree and wilted wild chicory). And olive oil.
* * *
6.Da Gianni Pizza
No doubt there are a thousand amazing pizza places in Bari, this is Italy we are talking about. Although Pizza di Giani was a random choice we made while walking down the Via de Rossi street, I highly recommend it. It’s usually crowded on weekend evenings so you may consider booking a table upfront. Plan B is to wait outside patiently in the line for a table to get available.
The oven pizzas are simple, tasty and they cost around 7-8 €.
Where: Via De Rossi 173 , 70123, Bari, Italy; Tel: +39 080 523 0014
7. Panificio Fiore
The best focaccia in the world, legend has it, is the one made in Bari, focaccia barese. This flat oven-baked bread is more similar to a pizza in Puglia: smeared with cherry tomatoes, olives and local olive oil, literally melting in your mouth.
Panificio Fiore is the place where locals buy their warm slice of focaccia, so do not miss it!
Where: Strada Palazzo di Citta’ 38, Bari, Italy
8. Fish Market
In case you are renting an apartment with airbnb, you may want to try cooking with fresh fish and local produce if you want to experience something slightly different than the usual restaurant visit. Don’t forget to check the charming fish market on your list which I consider the main foodie highlight. Fresh sea urchins, octopus, mussels and fish. Make the most out of it!
For more photos from the fish market, click here.
9. Breakfast at Palace Hotel
I had to mention the breakfast at Hotel Palace, it was amazing: diverse sweet and savory deliciousness and the most memorable focaccia.
Polenta is good. But have you ever tried frying cold slices of polenta in oil? It’s even tastier. In Bari, sgagliozze is the name of a popular street food. Deep-fried polenta cubes can be bought in the streets of the old center of Bari for 1 € only. The best ones, legend has it, are made by a 85 years old lady just in front of her house in Bari Vecchia. “Maria de la sgagliozze”is mentioned on Lonely Planet as well.
Where: Strada delle Crociate, Bari Vecchia