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.
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.
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. We 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.
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.
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
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.
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.