Most people barely give Bari a backwards glance as they disembark from the boat in the main port and head to more aesthetically pleasing places such as Lecce, Polignano or Otranto. I think this is rather unfair; it may not be big on monuments, art and beautiful buildings like Florence or Rome, but there are few tourists, so you can shop, eat and drink among the local 'Baresi', and get a feel of the real 'Italy'.
Go to 'Da Donato' pizzeria on via Lattanzio. This is a family-run place and very popular - it gets so busy on a weekend night, you either have to go 'early', ie around 8pm, or book a table. The service is friendly, relaxed and professional, and as far as I can remember there is no English menu, so bring your phrase book! As you'll see from the pictures on the walls, it's popular with footballers from the local club, but prices don't reflect that - three to nine euros for a pizza (go for buffalo mozzarella and courgette flowers when in season). However, you may not have room for one after their legendary antipasti! (Tip: order one antipasti per couple - it's big!) Free sweets and a local speciality of sugared 'taralli' will then be passed around in giant bowls. Round it off with an espresso or amaro.
There are so many beautiful places in Puglia, and definitely visit these, but give Bari at least a day of your trip. With true Baresi food there shouldn't be a 'spaghetti carbonara' or 'hawaian pizza' in sight!
A friend from Bari brought me to this small restaurant just outside Alberobello. From the moment you step inside, it becomes immediately obvious that this is a local fave. They serve good, hearty Pugliese Italian food at affordable prices - think 25 euros per person including wine. In the evenings, this restaurant is packed with locals - some who come all the way from Bari (a 20 minute drive away). I highly recommend their spaghetti alla carbonara, cold cut meat platter and cheese platter.
It is the best Italian restaurant I've ever been to - friendly, authentic, affordable and has a beautiful outdoor patio perfect for summer dinners.
Do be warned, though, that it is closed on Wednesdays and it is best to reserve a table before heading over to avoid disappointment.
This local trattoria does the most amazing seafood! The grilled octopus is to die for. The atmosphere is jovial and the place no nonsense, offering great value food that really stands out from the rest especially in this town which is full of great seafood places. It was so good that when we came back to Bari a year after visiting this place for the first time, we spent an hour trying to find it and squeeze in a last minute lunch before catching the plane back.
Vico X Corsioli, 3, 70122 Bari, Italia
+39 080 5289382
Google map: bit.ly/O3YBSS
Cute little subterranean dining room in Bari's old town, by the market. Scrumptious four course meal plus coffee at a very reasonable price. Heavy bent on seafood, fresh from local waters.
Really liked their riso, patate e cozze (risotto, potato and mussels) -- a signature Bari dish, and a grilled whole baby Octopus! Divine.
This restaurant near the sea on the edges of the old town served us one of the nicest meals we had in Italy at affordable prices. Has a seafood and regional menu.
Incidentally, guidebooks say don't bother going to Bari but to walk around and have great food and a nice old town to wander around, it is pretty good, and you can always get a cheap flight there then a train to Lecce for a day too.
Piazza del Ferrarese, 22
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