When I visited Puglia, I was surprised to discover that locals consider it under the radar. Ok, I am food obsessed, but I have known about Puglia’s food reputation for years, and have long wanted to visit. I thought that everyone did! (And I think that food bods do). Who could resist the lure of the home of burrata and orecchiette, and all of that lovely fish?
When I arrived in Bari, I was surprised to see very few tourists. There were lots of locals embracing their city, tiny toddlers whizzing around, stumbling on foot, and older siblings speeding by on bicycles (ding-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling!). Nonnis and Nonnas sitting outside their houses chattering, perched on stools. Young couples ambling by, deep in romance. A wedding. A random guy shaving his legs in the middle of the street. Bari has character, and lots of them living there too. I was charmed.
Where we have corner shops, Bari (and Puglia generally) has salumerias. Small shops rich with meaty bounty, bulbous waxy cheeses dangle from the ceiling (cacciovallo), towers of foccacia blink (a specialty of Bari too) and there is fresh hand made orecchiette and cavatelli to take home. They will make you a sandwich with whatever you fancy too.
I used Bari as a base and travelled to Barletta, Tranni, Apricena & Polignano a Mare. A cosy four day trip and so easy from London with direct flights. Bari is a small city, with a population of approximately 320,000, a perfect antidote to London when in need of a break. I also visited a farm and a dairy, but more on that in my next post.
This is not a definitive list, and I intend to go back, so if you have any tips for me, please leave them in the comments below. Thank you!
When in Puglia, generally, you must have orecchiette, but particularly so in Bari. Try it first with pomodoro (tomato sauce) and caccioricotta (also called ricotta dura, a harder saltier ricotta). Foccacia is also king, and the best in Bari is said to be in the old city at Panificio Fiore (Strada Palazzo di Citta’ 38, Bari) – sadly I didn’t make this, but I had an excellent one from a downtown salumeria (the gorgeous Salumeria Nino).
Osteria delle Travi
A friendly family run restaurant in the old city, you can get excellent renditions of the local fare here – orecchiette with pomodori, fritture di pesce (with excellent local Adriatic fish) and braciole (a traditional horsemeat dish).
Osteria delle Travi, Largo Chyurlia 12, 70122 Bari
Ristorante La Cecchina
Located in the town square in the old town, and the perfect location to witness the local hustle bustle, try the wholewheat orecchiette with tomato and burrata and the excellent seafood pasta, and fritture de pesce as above.
Ristorante La Cecchina, Piazza Mercantile, 31, 70121 Bari
Sgagliozze, street food
The best sgagliozze in Bari is said to be cooked by Maria delle Sgagliozze (Maria of the Sgagliozze) outside of her house downtown. I didn’t find her on my trip, but there are plenty of others to sample. I found one as I turned a street corner and peered inside a shop, over a large pot of boiling extra virgin olive oil. Within were long bars of polenta, which had been air dried for up to 3 days, so that they are rendered perfectly crisp when fried, and then served with lots of sea salt. The Bari version of chips (dare I say better?), lots of people make it, just look out for ladies behind big pots on street corners. You can’t miss it. (I paid €1 for 6 too).
The Fish Market
Located on the lungomare, just opposite Piazza Eroi del Mare, this is where the fishermen pull up in their small fishing boats and sell their wares. A great place to try the Puglian tradition of eating raw fish, sample sea urchin (I promise that it is rich, buttery & divine), mussels, or octopus which the fishermen tenderise by the water by beating it with a large wooden paddle (it is dead at the time, naturally).
I don’t know if Salumeria Nino is the best Salumeria in Bari, I hazard there are many excellent ones, but I was charmed by it and went to stock up on treats to bring home. I highly recommend a visit.
Salumeria Nino, Via Vallisa 30, Bari
BARLETTA Bagno 27
A beachside restaurant, Bagno 27 serves excellent food. Favourite of which was a gnocchi dish with vongole, with three types of gnocchi. The gnocchi with pomodoro and caccioricotta and the aubergine parmigiana are excellent here, they also do their own version with shrimp and almond. A coeliac menu is offered.
Bagno 27, Lungomare di Ponente, 76011 Barletta
Il Vecchio E Il Mare
Tranni is a charming seaside town so make sure you have enough time to stroll around. When done, pop over to Il Vecchio e il Mare (the old man and the sea, inspired by Hemmingway). This lovely seaside bar serves great food and local wines. It is the perfect place to wind down your day.
Il Vecchio E Il Mare, Via Tiepolo S/N, 76125 Trani
POLIGNANO A MARE
Not in anyway undiscovered or under the radar, Polignano A Mare is still an essential visit. There are several restaurants that are worth your attention, but when I visited, I opted to sample the Puglian tradition of eating a platter of raw fish. Local fish shop Pescheria Carone serves all types of fish dishes which you can eat on the terrace outside their shop, with a glass of wine. I opted for a mixed platter (at a bargainous €10) with two types of mussels, those fabulous gambero rosso (red prawns), langoustines, oysters and clams. I loved every bite and felt wonderful after. That might have something to do with the two glasses of prosecco.
Pescheria Carone, Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, 70044 Polignano A Mare Bari
L’Arte di Luciano
A little out of the way, but if you are in the area you must visit family run pasticceria, L’arte di Luciano. Luciano has been working in pastry kitchens since he was ten years old. When the time came to leave his master and set up his own shop, he started L’Arte di Luciano with his wife. Noted for his cream pastries (you must try the chocolate one), they also have gelato made in house (including unusual flavours like grape must and an olive oil one), the local espressino fredo (almost like a smooth espresso slushy, with cream and chocolate liqeur on top). Their handmade almond sweets are divine. Luciano stressed that they were not marzipan, better than that with a 1:1 almond to sugar ratio (as opposed to marzipan which can be 1:3), and using only the best almonds from Bari and Sicily.
L’Arte di Luciano, Via Luigi Galasso, 95, 71011 Apricena Foggia
I visited Puglia for #WeAreInPuglia, a collaboration between iAmbassador and the Tourism Board of Puglia supporting the #WeAreInPuglia European road show, sponsored by the Tourism Board of Puglia. All editorial is mine, as always.