Bari – Barivecchia – Piazza Ferrarese

Piazzas Ferrarese and Mercantile, the two main squares in the heart of the old town, blend into each other imperceptibly and are effectively two sides of the same square. This is where the Barese, especially the youth, come to meet and chat on a warm evening. 20140614_145648

In Piazza Mercantile you can see the Palazzo della Provincia and its clock tower, once the home of the provincial administration, built in 1936. Please click on the pics for the best view.

20140614_145216In Piazza Mercantile you can see La Colonna della Giustizia, ‘the column of justice’, a stone punishment pole to which fraudulent debtors were tied and lashed, which is nice.

Around the square you’ll see women selling the traditional local street food, sgagliozze, fried polenta cubes. 20140614_145235

Both piazzas are lined with restaurants, a couple of which are recommended by various guides. While I might come here for a drink I personally would avoid most of the eateries around here. They’re not bad, just very average in my opinion.

You’ll find all the places mentioned in my Bari posts, and some more I haven’t been to, on my Google map.

Paglionico Vini e Cucina (Elementary C), 23 Strada Vallisa, off Piazza Ferrarese, Tel, 330 433 018, closed Sunday evening.

If you can find the section of uncovered Roman road on display in Piazza Ferrarese, as you’re looking at the information board, Strada Vallisa is to the left.

This place is very famous, thanks in particular I think to Lonely Planet, who list it under the name ‘Vini e Cucina’. In fact however, this title refers to a type of restaurant, traditionally much cheaper than a mid-range ‘Osteria’ (although these can also be quite expensive now) or a posh ‘Ristorante’. You won’t find a wine menu or a credit card machine in this kind of place and the ‘wines and cooking’ will be simple down-to-earth fare, which can be great, or not…

I first came in 2009 and wrote this: Run by the same family for over a century (you’d think they’d learned to cook by now), this vaulted cellar has a nice basic ambience with its paper tablecloths and simple decor. Sadly however the food was very disappointing.

The ok-ish antipasti of grilled peppers, provolone, processed ham and fried olives (A/B/C/C) were followed by seafood pasta (B) and a queasiness inducing fritto misto of prawns, sardines and squid (C). My vegetarian friend was restricted by the fixed menu to having a plate of fave bean paste (D) and cime di rape (B).

Cheap Moretti malt beer and an ok house red (B-) made the food more palatable. It does have a nice atmosphere and we only spent €20 a head but I wouldn’t go back.

Five years later in 2014 I did in fact give it a second chance in the interests of research and wrote:

Nothing has changed, not even the vivid green table cloths, which are the only thing I like about this place.

The owner is quite brusque, which I don’t have a problem with most of the time, but it would be nice to get the drinks order in as well as the food (the menu is spoken only and delivered at high speed) before he walks away to talk to his friends. 20140630_213016We warmed to each other by the end of the night though, perhaps because I spoke some Italian, unlike many of the tourists he must get here. Unknown Italians get a similar treatment too.

I did eventually get some water and red wine, the latter being pretty rough (C-). All of the (unordered) antipasti were C (cheese, olives) or D (vinegared courgettes) except for the cured ham and a potato frittata which were B. 20140630_211443

Next the classic Barese dish Patate e Cozze but not particularly well made here (C+). 20140630_212632

For the second  course some cavallo (horse meat), rolled up with garlic held together with toothpicks and simmered in tomato sauce, C+ for the meat and B for the sauce.

With a slab of watermelon and a limoncello (both A) the meal came to €30.  Go to somewhere in my next two posts instead.

20140630_222121

Even if you can’t buy, you should check out the fantastic displays of hams and cheeses at Salumiere Nino at 31 Strada Vallisa, just a few doors up from Paglionico above.

La Locanda de Federico (B?), 63 Piazza Mercantile

A Lonely Planet top pick, open every day, However, I didn’t like the atmosphere or the attitude of the staff (a common complaint on Trip Advisor).

When they wouldn’t give me one of the vacant tables on their terrace because I was a single diner, I went to the place below instead.

La Cecchina (Intermediate B), 31 Piazza Mercantile, Tel. 080 521 4147

Recommended by some guide book. I got pleasant service from a nice lady but the food was unremarkable. 20140629_212640

The Antipasti ‘La Cecchina’ looked nice but was rather flavourless (B-). 20140629_220058

The Calamarata pasta Ai Frutti di Mare was ok but unspecial (B), just featuring squid, mussels and cockles and no promised chickpeas.

My tastebuds might have not been working properly though (I was very tired after working seven days straight) because a previously favourite wine (Polvanera’ s ‘Minutolo’) also failed to excite (B).Or maybe it was just served at the incorrect temperature.

20140629_223012Finally some sfoglia con crema pasticcera (pastries with vanilla custard) (B) and an unfiltered limoncello (B+).

It was reasonably priced though, 3 courses with all the usual trimmings for €43.50, which was then reduced to €40. Not too expensive, and the food was ok, but there are other places to go.

I grouped all the average places here together. Please see my other Bari posts on Barriavecchia and Murat for the good stuff.

2 Responses to “Bari – Barivecchia – Piazza Ferrarese”

  1. Ah! Now instead of following Dibdin’s Aurelio Zen around Italy you’ve taken to the tracks of Gianrico Carofiglio’s Guido Guerriere. If you’ve not read any of Carofiglio’s novels, now is the time to start. Almost certainly the best of the ‘New Italian Noir’ writers. And Carofiglio himself, a former anti-Mafia prosecutor, is one of the good guys.

    Unfortunately many of the bad or irritating things you list about these restaurants are all too familiar to visitors to Italy, in particular the bad attitude and service met with when going to ‘guidebook’ or ‘Trip Advisor’ restaurants (though you didn’t mention a Roman favourite: the surprise – and illegal – ‘service charge’ which only appears on the ‘stranieri’ menus and never on the Italian ones. Always ask for the menu ‘en Italiano, per favore’). Then there’s the ‘bait and switch’ with the wine: you order a bottle and it is brought to the table uncorked and, almost certainly, filled with a cheaper wine. Send it back and either ask for a bottle with the cork still in and sealed or order carafe wine, which is what you would have been getting anyway. If there’s any problem with this (‘Oh, that’s the last bottle of this’) then walk out, these people have just tried to cheat you so don’t deserve your business.

    Virtually all the places listed in the main guidebooks for Rome, a place I know well, as well as most of the high scorers on Trip Advisor, are on my list of places to be avoided at all costs. Some of these are places that were worth visting once, usually around ten years ago, but standards have slipped very badly as the owners have become complacent and greedy and content to serve out rubbish to tourists at ever inflating prices. Some always were complete tourist traps and you wonder how they got in the book in the first place (free meals? a bustarella? or just bad taste on the part of the author). A lot of high scorers on Trip Advisor appear to be there not because of any food quality but because they meet the expectations of a certain kind of nervous tourist unfamilar with the country and make life easy for them. A lot of good places in Rome – especially in the Centro Storico and Trastevere – have simply been ruined by the huge numbers of tourists there and have been deserted by Romans and lost all local character. Some appear to be in there only because they epitomise some (usually outmoded) hipster fashion thing. For Rome at least, websites like Parlafood are a far better bet than guidebooks or TA. In guidebooks a lot of the restaurants listed may never have been actually visited by anyone to do with the book, they’ve been passed on from previous editions or lifted from other guides or websites. The ‘Time Out’ guides seem to specialise in listing places that were closed four or five years ago or longer. TA is riddled with astroturfing and sock puppets.

    And as for that thing about not letting you have a table outside because you’re a single person or a couple and ‘anyway those tables are all reserved’. Cazzo! That really irritates me, anywhere that does that goes straight on my Never Visit Here list, no matter what the reputed quality of the food. Pigneto Quarantuno in Rome is one such place and, anyway, the food quality is, unsurprisingly, ludicrously overrated by Trip Advisor. Apologies for the protracted rant here but you’ve touched on certain things which, as you see, can set me off on one……….

    • Ha ha! Sage words Iain, and all true! It’s another minor reason why I write the blog, so I can vent my spleen occasionally.

      Rome really is a minefield, I don’t think I know of another city with so many rip off merchants running restaurants. Looking forward to trying yours and Parlafood’s tips when I finally get to go again

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