In April 2017 I made my second visit to Taranto. A few things had changed on the dining scene since November 2009, but a lot was the same. My map with these restaurants and more is here.
My favourite restaurant is still Al Gatto Rosso and it’s still the best in town (please see my next post).
As in 2009, I stayed in the Hotel Mercure Delfino www.accorhotels.com at 66 Viale Virgilio. My tip is to try and get a room at the back for the relaxing sea views. The staff are helpful and the breakfast is okay.
The two nearest decent restaurants to the Hotel Delfino are ten minutes’ walk, or less…
Braceria Via Vai (Intermediate B), 7/B Piazza Ebalia, www.facebook.com/BraceriaViaVai
The restaurant that used to inhabit this spot in 2009 (Ebalia, see review below) had closed by 2017, which is probably for the best as Taranto could do with some new culinary ideas. In a town famous for its seafood there is definitely a place for this ‘Braceria Italiana’ (Italian Grillhouse).
Via Vai isn’t cheap but the choice and quality of the meat on offer probably merits the prices.
The servers are all young guys who were a bit rough round the edges but are relatively attentive. We had a couple of miscommunications; I said ‘patatas fritas’ in Spanish instead of ‘patatine fritte’ which got me some freshly made crisps when I just wanted chips (French fries), although they replaced them without argument. When I finally got them, the chips were pretty good (B+) although they went down to a C once they’d cooled a bit.
I had the Chianina Costata; a rib steak from a Tuscan cow breed. It was overdone even though I asked for it medium rare (B). ‘Medium’ for a steak in Italy means bloodless according to Ivan and Bruno, a friendly local young couple on the next table. The steak was okay (B) but also needed a fair bit of salting to bring the flavour out.
After three days of fish I had a real hunger for meat so I ordered an additional plate of pork sausages (B). I thought they would come as a starter but they came with the steak so I had my work cut out for me. I nearly made it but I had to leave a sausage, a chunk of steak and half the chips. As usual my eyes were bigger than my stomach.
The Primitivo red was decent (B) but Ivan informed me that Negroamaro is nearly always better. He should know about these things as his family run Ristò Fratelli Pesce, a local fish restaurant in the old town.
Total cost with a barrique grappa, water and cover was €64; a bit pricey but there are cheaper cuts and kinds of steak available.
This next place was also excellent in 2009. It’s in the opposite direction from the old town but worth the excursion…
La Fattoria (Intermediate A), 9 Via Abruzzo, www.facebook.com/lafattoriataranto
Eight of us sat down for lunch and had the Antipasti di Frutta di Mare which included mussels in breadcrumbs (A), sweet pan-fried olives (A), fried red mullet (B), grilled aubergines (A), marinated anchovies (A), grilled courgette with mint (A), prawns and baby squid (lightly poached in fish stock) (A).
My main was a sea bass cooked with delicious olives (A). The Falanghina (A)and novella Primitivo red (B) were very nice too. We finished with a fruit salad that included Figi di India prickly pear (B).
This next place is worth knowing. It’s extremely popular, partly because it’s ridiculously cheap and also because it’s very conveniently located for the train station…
Trattoria L’Orologio (Elementary B), 27/29 Via Duca D’Aosta
This is quite possibly the cheapest restaurant I have ever eaten in! All the pasta courses are €3 and the second courses are €5!
Although the building is very modern and clean, it seems they’ve been knocking out basic but tasty food to the masses since 1938.
I had the Penne al Sugo di Carne, Salsiccia Arrosto, Sorbetto al Limone and a Limoncello for the princely sum of €12.
Okay so haute cuisine it ain’t as you can see but it’s nice to know there’s somewhere people can receive nourishment so cheaply.
And if you’re looking for a drinking establishment, this one might have potential…
Exit Village (B), 120 Via Cavallotti, on the corner with Lungomare Vittorio Emanuelle).
I was alerted to this bar by the scene of a bloke snogging a drag queen against a skip outside late one night. Just the kind of decadent place I love! It’s a cool little cellar bar with a mixed crowd, handily near the Mercure Delphino hotel. In 2009 a grappa with a very camp half a grape on a cocktail stick on top cost €4. They shut at 2am.
You can stop reading from here if you like as these next two places are ones to avoid and the last one is closed…
Marco Aurelio (Intermediate C+), 17 Via Cavour
I came here when I couldn’t get into Al Gatto Rosso on my first attempt. It’s completely bland and boring so there’s no reason to come unless there really is no other option, or if you want somewhere handy to eat before or after visiting the Archaeological Museum (see coming post) which is immediately over the road.
The young female owner is nice and friendly but her waiter is a member of the dull and sullen brigade. He did his job but without the slightest hint of aplomb.
I had a mezzo of the house white and the antipasti mare (all B).
I finished with an amaro called San Marzano which I’d never come across before. It was pretty horrible (C) so most likely no other restaurant will have it.
All his cost me €21 which isn’t too bad I suppose.
Pizzeria Landhaus (Elementary C+), 107 Via Cesare Battisti, www.pizzerialandhaus.it
I fancied a pizza for once and as this place was ranked #3 on TripAdvisor in 2017 so I thought I’d give it a whirl.
This proved to be a mistake as the food wasn’t great and my visit coincided with a little girl’s birthday party. Woe was me!
The decibels were such that even the other customers were telling them to shut up, to no avail! That’s something I’ve never witnessed before because the Italians usually let their kids run riot.
The Arancino rice ball I had as a starter didn’t do much for me (C).
And the Neapolitan style Margherita was just okay B-).
With a large beer and a limoncello the bill came to €14.50 which is normal.
You’ll never see me in here again though, just in case those little girls are still around.
Ebalia (Intermediate B), Piazza Ebalia NOW CLOSED!
In 2009, seven of us went to this restaurant recommended by the Delfino reception.
The highlights of the shared antipasti were, steamed mussels, sardine roe béchamel gratinata baked in a scallop shell, deep fried artichokes stuffed with ricotta, polpo affogato, or ‘drowned’ octopus, which all scored a strong B.
My main course was a huge portion of seafood linguine (B) whereas my friend Nicky had beef steak tagliata on a bed of red chicory (A).
The wine was an excellent Primitivo di Manduria (Villa Mottura ’06) (B+). Claudia our local manager, a wine expert, told us she has never had a bad bottle of Primitivo di Manduria.
I loved the dessert of Sfoglia con Crema Pasticcera (B+). The little sandwiches of puff pastry and vanilla cream, dusted with icing sugar, were described as ‘sporco musso’ by the waiter, which translates as ‘dirty mouth’!
They are so described because they cover your lower face with powdered sugar and flakes of pastry when you bite them.
They are absolutely wonderful when they are still warm (A). We washed them down with a glass of Muscat di Trani (A).
The best place in town deserves its own post. Al Gatto Rosso next!