Many come to Italy for the food, the delectable, fascinating, fattening, and utterly sinful dishes that Italians seem to love so much and hold the rest of the world captivated. From Michelin-starred restaurants to hole-in-the-wall cafes, you will find delicious local food everywhere you turn when you visit southern Italy, especially Bari.
Visitors to Bari should be ready to explore some of the more traditional dishes such as orecchiette alle Cime di Rapa or panzerotti. There are, of course, restaurants that specialize in non-Italian dishes and while those are phenomenal, you will want to search out eateries that specialize in local favorites. Vegetarian restaurants in Bari also offer yummy spins on traditional Bari food.
The best food in Bari can be found in restaurants and with street food vendors. Learn more about what to eat in Bari and the types of dishes that will make your taste buds sing. But, before you start your culinary adventure, find a place to store your bags in Bari so you are not limited in where you can dine. You will also find some of the best street food in Bari when you are looking for traditional dishes. Travel light and meander the beautiful streets in search of delicious food.
Bari Food: Focaccia Barese
Yeasted dough made with a combination of wheat flour, semolina, and mashed potatoes is topped with olives and cherry tomatoes. You can also put rosemary or veggies on top for a variation of the traditional dish. Focaccia Barese is baked in a round tin and doused with olive oil while baking. It is usually served lukewarm.
People usually eat it as a snack or for a light dinner. When eating Focaccia Barese, make sure you are careful, the toppings are not stuck to the top and easily slide off. It is a salty dish so make sure you have plenty of water or pair it with mortadella or mozzarella or even a salad.
Bari Food: Calzone di Cipolla
This is not like the calzone you see in the United States, this salty, rustic hand pie is stuffed with grated cheese, olives, onions, and anchovies. While the traditional version calls for special onions called Sponsali, you can substitute different onions such as red or shallot.
Many Italians take calzone di Cipolla on picnics or to parties as they are easy to transport and are best eaten at room temperature. It is best paired with a fresh salad to help offset the strong flavors in the calzone di Cipolla.
Bari Food: Tiella Barese
Also commonly referred to as Riso, Patate e Cozze, Tiella Barese is a first-course dish that is made with potatoes, rice, tomatoes, onions, and mussels. It is prepared in a terracotta dish and baked in the oven; tiella refers to that terracotta dish.
It is a very heavy dish with a lot of layers, but the layers combine to create a fragrant, delicious bite that will send your taste buds soaring. Tiella Barese is best during the summer months when mussels are fresh. Pair the dish with a glass of white wine or possibly a rosé to bring out the most flavors of both the dish and the wine.
When eating this dish, make sure you have an empty plate to toss the mussel shells, this makes it easier to eat! Just remember to scrape out the rice that gathered inside the shells so you have more flavorful rice to enjoy. If you have leftovers, you want to seal them in an airtight jar and consume them within a day.
Bari Food: Orecchiette alle Cime di Rapa
This is one of the traditional dishes of not just Bari but the Puglia region. It is one of the healthiest dishes on the list so for those looking for something with a little more health benefit, check this one out. It is also perfect for vegans as no animal by-products have been used to create this dish.
Made using pasta that is ear-shaped, using garlic and broccoli rabe, orecchiette alle Cime di Rapa can taste a bit bitter when you first try it. It has some strong flavors that you will eventually get used to. Since broccoli rabe is in season during the winter, this dish is best when made with fresh broccoli rabe and is usually made in the cold season.
Some chefs do add ingredients such as cheese or anchovies and some choose to serve orecchiette alle Cime di Rapa with a simple sauce and use handmade pasta so the flavors of the broccoli rabe and garlic and absorbed into the pasta, creating a whole new dimension to the dish. You can add some turnip tops for more health benefits and an earthy flavor.
Bari Food: Fave e Cicoria
This is one of the simplest dishes to make but is still one of the best traditional dishes to eat when in Bari. Made with fava broad beans that have been smashed to create a puree and served with chicory, it is a cheap dish that does have a lot of health benefits. A bonus is the fava beans will fill you up quickly so you do not eat as much.
The fava puree and chicory are generally served separately but some people do like to mix that together to create a different consistency for your taste buds. Many times fave e Cicoria is paired with Pane di Altamura with olive oil drizzled on it.
Bari Food: Pasta al Forno
This classic dish is simply baked pasta with mortadella, cheese, and tomato sauce. While there are a lot of different versions of this dish, the basic components are always the same. Some variations include using a bechamel sauce instead of tomato sauce or adding meatballs or eggplant. It is a comfort dish in most Bari homes.
You will want to eat this dish warm so the flavors of the dish combine to create a fantastic meal. The best part about Pasta al Forno is that you can keep it in the refrigerator for two to three days before you need to toss it out. To reheat the dish, add olive oil and cook over medium heat for about five minutes. This dish does not taste good reheated in the microwave.
Bari Food: Sgagliozze
This dish originated in Bari and is made with square or rectangular-shaped pieces of fried polenta, salt, water, flour, and oil. When the dish is cooked, it is cooled and then sliced into rectangles that are then deep fried until they are golden brown.
Traditionally, these crunchy polenta fritters are sold near St. Nicholas Cathedral after mass. Street vendors love to offer the best Sgagliozze during the winter and it is always served hot, so don’t burn your mouth when you take that first taste. It is one of the most well-known street foods in Bari.
People eat it as a snack, starter dish or appetizer, or as a side dish. Some people choose to fry Sgagliozze in olive oil and not sunflower oil which does change the taste, especially when using flavored olive oil.
Bari Food: Zucchine alla Poverella
Loosely translated to mean poor zucchini, this is a simple dish that is usually served as a starter or appetizer. Zucchine alla Poverella is made with zucchini, olive oil, vinegar, and mint. Many do pair it with a protein such as fish or with Pane di Altamura.
When making this dish at home, be sure to let it rest before you eat it so the mint flavor has a chance to properly disperse throughout, making it a subtle flavor instead of overwhelming. It should rest for about an hour. You can also create a pasta dish using Zucchine alla Poverella by adding cooked pasta and some grated cheese.
Bari Food: Cozze Gratinate
This is another fabulous appetizer or starter dish that is made with mussels, garlic, bread crumbs, and olive oil. Cozze Gratinate is baked to create a crunchy stuffing that fills the mussels’ shells. It is a relatively inexpensive dish to make and does not take a lot of time.
It is best to enjoy Cozze Gratinate during the summer months when mussels are abundant and fresh. While you can make the dish during the other seasons using frozen mussels, the taste is milder than using fresh mussels. You will find this dish on the summer menu of a fish restaurant.
You do want to enjoy the dish the same day it is prepared but you can save it in your refrigerator for one day in an airtight container. Saving it longer than one day can cause the mussels to go bad and create a health risk for anyone who eats the dish.
Bari Food: Braciole al Sugo
The original recipe for Braciole al Sugo called for horse meat, but recent years have seen chefs substitute beef for horse. Although, some restaurants do still use horse meat which is usually noted on the menu.
The meat is sliced and rolled up with garlic, parsley, and cheese then covered with tomato sauce. Many call this a Sunday dish as it is simple to make after spending the morning at mass. In restaurants, it is served as a first course.
When you are served Braciole al Sugo make sure you are aware there could be toothpicks in the dish holding the meat rolls together. They may be hidden in the sauce so use your fork and knife to search for them. If you made this dish at home, use the extra tomato sauce to make other dishes that call for that type of sauce. You can even toss some cooked pasta and grated cheese and bake for a quick meal.
Bari Food: Fallone di Gravina
Originating from Gravina, this traditional cheese is made by mixing goat and sheep milk. The cheese has some spicy undertones and is a favorite with Bari locals. Fallone di Gravina is a rindless cheese and is best consumed when it is fresh. Unlike many kinds of cheese that are made to be aged, this cheese is made with raw milk and needs to be eaten within one day.
This table cheese tastes fantastic with Ostuni Bianco DOP, a lovely, fragrant table wine. This white cheese is delicate and soft and does have distinctive flavors. Some restaurants offer it with their cheese plates and it is a common cheese at wine tastings.
Bari Food: Panino Col Polpo
A traditional sandwich that originated in Bari, the Panino col polpo is made with bread rolls, octopus, parsley, olive oil, salt, and pepper. The octopus is brushed liberally with olive oil and then slowly grilled being continually brushed with olive oil, parsley, salt, and pepper mixture.
Once the octopus is completely grilled, the bread roll is split and the octopus is placed on it with a sauce drizzled over it. Street food vendors love to have this sandwich on hand during many of the festivals held throughout the summer. This Italian dish is absolutely delicious when the octopus is cooked to perfection.
Bari Food: Barattiere
A type of melon that grows in the southern region of Bari, Barattiere is a unique melon that is sort of a cross between a melon and a cucumber. The texture is that of a melon but the flavor is more like a cucumber. The melon is round and the peel stays green or turns slightly yellow.
When the melon is not ripe the interior fruit is green and crispy but when it matures the interior is pink and slightly mushy, kind of like a watermelon. Barattiere generally ripens in June and each plant can produce between one and ten melons. The best time to eat Barattiere is when the interior is still green. Oftentimes it is served between courses to freshen your palate so you are ready for the next course.
Amazing food in Bari
After you have gorged yourself on the rich, delicious foods of Bari, head to an area like Polignano a Mare to admire the cliffs. Or check out some of the best hikes to work off some of the calories you have consumed. A heart meal followed by an outing in the fresh air is always a good idea! And in Bari, from fresh pasta to raw seafood, you will find typical Apulian dishes to sate your appetite.
The best restaurants in Bari will offer traditional Puglian dishes that are delicious and will pair them with natural wines that enhance the flavor. Once you have sampled these tasty dishes, you will want to learn how to make them at home. Typical dishes from Bari are not difficult to make and you will find more amazing food to try when you get home.