Deciding where to eat in Bari, Italy is very much part of the charm of this pretty, ancient little seaside city. With so many food options tucked away in its maze-like streets, knowing where’s good to go is a treasure hunt. Here are our top 3 dining options for the Puglia capital.
Let’s face it, finding food in Italy is never very hard. And the likelihood that the food you find will be delicious is high.
However, there’s one snag we’ve discovered with this: the further south you go, choosing a spot for lunch or dinner seems to become more difficult.
The arrays of dinner options hide away down bending nooks and forked streets that once you’ve past, you never find again. We often found ourselves stood in the street at a loss as to which place looked or smelled better, or what we felt like eating that evening.
From grilled octopus (polpo) pulled from the sea that morning to equally fresh pasta turned by the hands of local women into delicate orecchiette, the wealth of options here in Puglia will make the mouth water and the head spin.
To help, here are 3 places (plus our favourite gelatoria) to get you started on your hunt for where to eat in Bari. These are all in the old town of Bari – the confusing, ancient cobbled streets that people have paced in search of a meal for centuries!
Where to eat in Bari, Italy
Via Vallisa 23 – near the port in the old town.
Osteria Vini e Cucina was in fact a recommendation from a friend of ours who hadn’t been to Bari for about 15 years. I wasn’t convinced it’d still be around.
I was wrong to doubt its longevity. This place has been an osteria – a kind of casual restaurant – since 1870 and it’s still going strong.
Stepping down into the wine vault-like room of this eatery gives you that feeling of history. And in spite of its quaintness, the patrons of Vini e Cucina are still a healthy mix of locals and visitors.
The menu is all in the waiters’ heads, so you have to listen hard. The kitchen only offers a couple of dishes a day though, so it’s never too daunting. You’re also guaranteed a remarkable meal whatever you order here.
In 35 BCE, Ancient Roman poet Horace described Bari as a place “rich in fish”. This still rings true today; at the city’s heart, the fish markets by the port play the passionate beat of Bari’s languid yet busy rhythm.
You can still see the fishermen beating the octopus with wooden paddles or rocking them gently in water-filled wooden baths to soften the skin and tenderise the flesh.
Some shout fish prices while others busy themselves with games of Scopa, but it’s here that the keen eye of the kitchen from Pescatore levels to find the best of the day’s catch.
Before you sit down in your table at this harbourside restaurant, make sure you take a look at the assortment of the frutta di mare on display on the ice trays. Everything from crabs and lobster to small marlin await your plate.
The food is excellent, but make sure you book. It gets busy here.
Piazza Federico II di Svevia in front of the walls of the Castle – if it’s open you won’t miss it!
If you’re looking for a local hangout, it doesn’t get much better than this. From this tiny hole-in-the-wall pizzeria comes some of the best pizza I’ve eaten in Italy.
Set in the little piazza of the Arco Alto just across the road from the Castello Normanno Svevo, you’ll barely notice Pizzeria el Castillo during the day. But at night, the pavement is a thronging maze of tables and chairs, families, lovers, friends and parties congregate here for something pretty special.
There are menus but the ordering system is a bit strange. You have to order inside and you order before you have a table. It can take a while for the food to come when it’s busy, but that gives you a chance to find a good spot.
The pizza comes to you in takeaway boxes (Italians consider anything less than a whole pizza per person nonsensical) and you eat straight from the box. The cheese is oily and delicious, the base is rich, and the crust is crusty and puffy on the edges and gooey in the middle. It’s exactly how southern pizza should be.
By the way if you follow this piazza round, you’ll find two arches – Arco Alto and Arco Basso. Through Arco Basso are the ladies who mould the pasta into orecchiette and have done for generations. It’s fascinating.
Two doors down from the pizza place on the Piazza Frederico II di Svevia
Finally, gelato. Two doors up from the pizzeria is Antica Gelato Gentile. The gelato here is made on site each day, and when a flavour has run out, they wipe it off the menu.
I had dark chocolate gelato one night (amazing) but the very next night it was gone. I was devastated.
Order and pay for how many gelati you want, the size, how many flavours and whether you want a cup (la coppa) or a cone (il cono). The staff member will give you a receipt and a number.
Watch and listen for your number, then squeeze into the small shop, hand over your ticket and tell the person behind the counter the flavours you want.
The gelato here is superb; creamy, smooth and so full of flavour you’ll never look at ice cream again.
And if you’re not sure what the difference is between gelato and ice cream, here’s your answer.
We hope these tips of where to eat in Bari are useful. Buon appetito!
Do you have any tips for where to eat in Bari? What’s your favourite Italian food? Tell us in the comments below!