Bari – posher nosh in mid-town Murat

Please see my previous post for buildings, bars and shops in Murat. This post is just about restaurants. Most of the more modern mid range to high end places seem to be in this neighbourhood. Here’s my Google map with everywhere on.

La Pignata (Advanced A), 173-175 Corso Vittorio Emmanuele

This is my new favourite up-market place in Bari having knocked La Bul (see below) off the top spot after my visits to both in 2017. They are on opposite sides of the same block so if you can’t get into one for whatever reason, you can always try the other. You have to ring the bell to get in at both places so don’t think they are shut if you try the door and it doesn’t open.

The proprietor, 82-year old Mr. Franco Vicenti, warmed to me just for asking to try the local specialities of his choosing in my iffy Italian. He is naturally a very warm-hearted, outgoing person and spends a lot of time walking around the tables talking to his customers who obviously hold him in high regard. I felt honoured when he told me I was ‘under his protection’ by which I presume he meant he’d look take care of all the culinary decisions!

After a welcome plate of warm foccaccia (A)…

…followed by Fried Baby Squid (B+) and then the Misti di Mare della Casa (C)(blurred pics sorry) which was served in old school style, as were all the dishes, under a silver cloche to be whipped off under a customer’s nose to surprise them. I’d never experienced this so it was quite fun.

Next a primo of the local classic Fave e Chicoria (B+).

After this another primo (not on the bill?) of unusually brown Orecchiette, perhaps made with Grano Arso, burnt wheat flour, and grated ricotta. Whilst discussing the dish I learned that Ricotta Marchotica is ricotta made in March and is better than that of other months.

With these a couple of glasses of Chardonnay (B+).

Next, a secondo of Lamb in a a slightly oversalted mushroom sauce (B+) with rosemary roast potatoes (A).

Which I had with a glass of Negroamaro (B). Got better after a while so maybe it should have had longer to breathe.

Then a Sorbetto to clean the palate (B+) followed by a Sporcomusso ‘dirty mouth’ cakes (B+) to dirty it again.

I had a Moscato di Trani sweet wine to accompany this but (B).

With a tiny slice Cassata cake (A), some almond brittle (B+), a shot of Grappa (B+) and a Macchiato (B) the final bill came to €75, which was great value.

This was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had in an Italian restaurant and I’ve made a vow to be a faithful customer as long as they continue to be open. Do try and go.

Terranima (High Intermediate A), 213 Via Nicolò Putignani, Tel. 080 521 9725,

Another one of my favourite places in town, it’s also a Gambero Rosso selection and a Lonely Planet top pick. You can eat reasonably-priced well-cooked traditional fare, served by nice people in pleasant surroundings. What more could you ask for?

Everything I’ve eaten here is A/B and their own label house red is a good buy. They have some interesting local amari should you like this kind of digestivo.

On two different occasions I spent €35 and €45, which was good value for money.

La Bul (Advanced A), 52 Via Pasquale Villari, Tel. 080 523 0576,

Off the beaten path so a little hard to find. It looks like it’s shut but ring the bell and they’ll let you in.

From 2017:

I really liked this place when I last came in 2014. It’s still good but I think I preferred their Menu Territorio (€55) rather than the Menu Mare (€60) which I had this time, and it was nicer to sit outside in their backyard in the warmth of summer rather than their inside dining room at the front in the early spring. They also have a Menu Internazionale and a Vegetariano, both for €60.

After a Spritz (B), lots of nice bread (A) and a few amuse bouches like a shot of Gazpacho (B) and a Canatbrian anchovy (B), I began properly with Battuto di Mazzancolle, Spuma di Ricotta e Buccia di Cedro, or pink shrimp tartare, ricotta cheese mousse and cedar skin (A).

Next, Triglia Cruda, Bietole Arlecchino e Acqua di Aglio Nero, that is raw red mullet, “arlecchino” swiss chard and black garlic water, which was a bit too salty (C+).

Sgombro Affumicato in Casa, Coffettura e Gelee di Friggitello, or smoked mackerel, little sweet pepper confiture and gelee (A).

Cappelletti Neri di Latticello, Brodo di Cicale di Mare e Verdure, or ‘little hats’ of black, stuffed pasta, mantis shrimps and vegetable consommé (B).

Dentice, Zuppa di Olive Leccine e Croccante di Pane Azzimo, or sea bream, “leccina” black olive soup and crunchy unleavened bread (C).

Torta alle Nocciole, Cioccolato Fondente e Scaglie di Sale, that is, nut cake, dark chocolate and flakes of salt (A).

With this, a lovely glass of Passito sweet wine which could have done with being chilled (A-).

Antonio is a nice chap and a very talented chef but I found some of his creations a bit hit and miss on this occasion (A/B+/B/C). I received excellent service again from his partner Francesca but I wasn’t too keen on the dour male waiter or his timid female trainee.

One of my justifications for coming to these fine dining establishments is to try their wines so that I can select the best ones for my pop-up restaurant ClandesDine but only one scored higher than a B. I really liked the Tramari rose wine (B+) and later ordered a few for the cellar.

With water, and seven glasses of wine the final bill came to €105. I also tried a couple of their wonderfully perfumedgrappas (B+ and A-) which did not appear on the bill. I was slightly disappointed with the food but I would still absolutely recommend them.

Be careful if you go to their loo…

From 2014:

The interior is bright and modern but I preferred to sit in their pleasant yard with its honeysuckle covered walls. The helpful and friendly co-owners Antonio, the young chef, and Francesca, the manager, both speak  English and are always chatting with their customers.

I had the €50 tasting menu which was good value given the quality of the food and that included a few glasses of wines from Salento. There was more than one amuse bouche as I remember but the star was a grissini wrapped with what I understand was cured pigs cheek. It was a flavour epiphany for me (A+).

Next I had Mazzancolle al Vapore e Acqua dei Tre Pomodori (steamed king prawn with three types of small tomato). This and other dishes were garnished with a wild herb called ‘limoncello’ (due to its lemony taste) which Antonio told me grows wild on the rooves of Trulli.

Francesca told me their seafood had come from Mola di Bari  the local port where I was working the next day (please see separate post).

I followed on with Risotto al Peperone Crusco, Straccatella e Polvere di Alici (risotto with red peppers, creamy mozzarella and powdered anchovies).

Maialino con Gelatina di Mocato di Trani e Salsa di Aglio Dolce (a tiny piece of piglet with a fig and a jelly of local muscat wine and sweet garlic sauce).

Varazione di Crumble e Crema agli Agrumi (I think apple crumble with citrus infused cream).

Finally my favourite Amaro di Capo, enlivened with a strip of orange peel.

The final bill came to €55, which is good value for what I got I felt.

All excellent and highly recommended for a treat. Definitely on the favourites list.

Biancofiore (High Intermediate B+), Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, Tel. 080 523 5446, Closed Wednesday

Another modern and slightly posh place but still friendly. I had their tasting menu for €35 which was good value.

This involved Calamaretti Scottati con Piselli e Scaglogno al Forno (seared squid with peas and shallots baked in the oven).

Cappellacci con Mantecato di Baccala su Vellutata di Asparagi e Scaglie di Bottarga (a stuffed pasta filled with cream of saltcod and asparagus and shavings of mullet roe).

Trancio di Ombrina con Parmentier di Patata, Rucola e Friggitello Saltato (local fish with mashed potato, rocket and pan fried green peppers).

Soffice ai Frutti di Bosco con Salsa allo Yogurt (forest berries with a yogurt sauce), and a couple of little extras including glasses of Muscat di Trani and their own thick, treacly, homemade nocino (a local amaro made with walnuts).

So in short a modern, friendly place that serves good food at a good price.

Ai 2 Ghiottoni (Advanced A/B), 11B Via Putignani, Tel. 080 5233330,

This is generally considered to be the best place in town. It is good but a bit too high end for me. I’ve been twice and had two different experiences, once as a lone diner and once as part of a group.

When I went by myself in 2014 I received a warm welcome from the tactile owner but was underwhelmed by the slightly snooty service. Perhaps to be expected as I tend to show up in t-shirt, jeans and trainers.

In 2009 I’d had my first taste of burrata here which was a flavour epiphany at the time but I wasn’t that impressed by it this time (B), perhaps because it was a day old. The fresh ricotta it came with was amazing though (A).

The Bavette (‘little dribble’, thinner and wider than linguine) ai Frutti di Mare was good for the price (B+). Everything else was fine except the unsolicited house special, the Spaghetti Assassina I think, long pasta tossed in singed chilli oil, which was one of the worst things I’ve ever eaten in an Italian restaurant (D). And it’s their special! Maybe I just caught a bad one…

I did have one good new experience though. Their homemade ‘Mandarino’ made a nice change from limoncello, but you wouldn’t want to drink too much of it (B).

The bill came to €44 which isn’t too bad but I don’t think I’ll be back by myself.

In 2009 I wrote: Eleven of us went to this fantastic restaurant (appropriately named ‘The Two Gluttons’) after a training convention and had a huge multi-course banquet with drinks for only €40 a head.

Our starters included some sublime ricotta, burrata mozzarella (hard exterior and a soft interior filled with cream ) and panzerotti (deep fried air pockets of dough filled, in this case, with mozzarella) and a salad of boletus mushrooms with celery and parmesan (all A).

Also nice were the fried olives, polenta, two types of octopus, some other grilled mushrooms, omelette and deep fried polenta (B).

My main was a plate of grilled prawns and scampi (A), one neighbour loved her Orecchiette with Cime di Rape (a member of the broccoli family) and another the Spaghetti Assassina (pasta coated in chilli and tomato and flash-fried).

The wines were a wonderful Negromaro red (Cantine due Palme)(A) and the white a Locorotondo DOC (Bianco Vendemmia ’08) (B+).

And then came dessert! Several plates piled high with canoli, baba, sfogliatelle, fruit tarts, almond macaroons, figs , pomegranate (A) as well as chocolate balls, roast chestnuts, a huge bowl of liquorice, a slab of chocolate and jugs of homemade limoncello (B).

Pizzeria O’Chalet (Intermediate B), 18 Via Domenico Nicolai, Tel. 080 523 8303

Recommended by a colleague for its seafood, this reasonably priced family restaurant is quite handy if you’re staying at the Hotel Leon D’Oro. The Neapolitan style pizza is supposed to be good too.

Everything I had (Cavatelli ai Frutti di Mare and char-grilled baby squid) was fine (B). The cooking is simple and the portions are generous which is all you want most of the time.

I couldn’t manage the house white though (C-) and.I felt the replacement bottle of Fiano (B) was a bit expensive at around €20. Maybe check the price before ordering bottles. A good place all in all.

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