Archive for the Taranto Category

Puglia – Taranto – Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Taranto

Posted in Italy, Puglia, Taranto with tags , on February 22, 2019 by gannet39

As the son of an archaeologist I’ve been to quite a few museums, and this is one of the best ones I’ve ever been to, so you should definitely go too!

Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Taranto – MArTA, 10 Via Cavour, www.museotaranto.beniculturali.it

It’s especially good for Roman and Greek artefacts. Here’s a small selection of what I saw. Please click on the images to get a better view.

Some amazing finds there I’m sure you’ll agree.

Before you go in to the museum, why not make a reservation for lunch at Al Gatto Rosso on the next block. It’s the best place in town! My review here. Map here.

Back to Bari for the nth time after this. Plenty of good food there…

Puglia – Taranto – Eating at Al Gatto Rosso

Posted in Italy, Puglia, Taranto with tags on February 21, 2019 by gannet39

Please see my other posts on Eating & Drinking in Taranto.

Occasionally I write dedicated posts for places I really like, as is the case with…

Al Gatto Rosso (High Intermediate A), 2 Via Cavour, www.ristorantegattorosso.com

This is the best place to eat in Taranto. Don’t just take my word for it, Michelin and Gambero Rosso agree. This visit in April 2017 was my second after a seven year gap and I’m happy to say the food was still excellent, no doubt just as it was when they first opened in 1952.

I received a friendly welcome from Agostino Bartoli the chef whose grandparents opened the restaurant back in the day. He’s very personable and his English is very good, unlike the waiters who kept trying to speak to me in German!

Whilst I was waiting I was given a drizzle of excellent olive oil (A) to mop up with their good quality bread (B+). Coincidentally the olive oil producer was passing by so he came to say hello as well (I think they’d already guessed I was a blogger due to me taking photographs).

The Taralli were great as well (B+), which as I’ve said before is a good test as to a Puglian restaurant’s quality.

First, a series of appetisers beginning with Bruschetta with Pizzaiola Codfish (no photo) followed by Octopus cooked in local Negroamaro wine with mashed beans.

Some deepfried whitebait.

Shrimp with Rocket and Strawberry.

Fried Squid and Eggplant.

Then a Seafood Risotto.

And finally Orichiette with Mussels.

I asked Agostino to recommend a Puglian white wine but instead he proposed a slightly effervescent 2016 rosé, a Rosato del Salento, which was really enjoyable (B+).

It was made by 2 e Mezzo whose Primitivo I’d had at Via Vai two nights before (see my Eating in Taranto post). I enjoyed it so much I later ordered some for my personal cellar.

The table next to me where also enjoying some fizz, a white called Ca’dil Bosco which I could remember enjoying on another occasion at Don Alfonso near Sorrento.

The total cost with water and cover was €44, which was great value. The bill didn’t even mention the espresso and the Amaro di Salento (B), that I got as well.

Hopefully I won’t have to wait another seven years till my next visit. Many thanks Agostino!

From 2009:

I had to have a big bowlful of the famous mussels, with razor clams, cooked in a white wine sauce, generally one of my favourite dishes and in this case perhaps the best I have ever tasted (€7, A+).

To follow I had melt-in-your-mouth Pacchieri ai Frutta di Mare with prawns, baby vongole verace and squid in a tomato and fish sauce (€10, A) and washed it all down with a local white recommended by the owner, ‘Alta’ Bambino ’08 (A) for €9 from Cantina Teanum, which was quite similar to a Falanghina or a Fiano.

To finish, a lemon tart (B+), some complimentary squares of dark chocolate with almonds (A) and a local grappa (B). Even the bread was good (A) which is unusual in Italy. All this for only €36!

Ideally you should eat here before, or preferrably after, the Archaeology museum (see next post) which is virtually next door…

Puglia – Taranto – Eating & Drinking

Posted in Italy, Puglia, Taranto with tags , , , , , , , on February 20, 2019 by gannet39

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 Rossa next!

Puglia – a walk around Taranto

Posted in Città Vecchia, Italy, Puglia, Taranto with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2019 by gannet39

As Puglia’s dirty little secret, Taranto doesn’t even get a mention in many travel guides. It’s a shame as the town has an incredible history, stretching back to the Ancient Greeks, due to its exceptional suitability as a port.

The town is blessed with an outer bay, known as the Mare Grande, and two smaller inner seas, together known as the Mare Piccolo, the entrance to which is guarded by an island.

However, the sprawling port around the bay and the derelict old town on the island, along with a large navy base on one side of the Mare Piccolo and several oil refineries on the other, have done Taranto’s reputation no favours.

So, there are more beautiful places in Puglia but I still find Taranto to be a very interesting place and it has quickly grown on me the better I’ve got to know it. A visit to the Archaeology Museum made me aware of its illustrious past (see later post) and in this post I describe a walk you could do to become more familiar with its current layout.

You’ll find a Google map with all the places mentioned here.

Turning left out of the Hotel Delfino, walk down to the western end of Lungomare Vittorio Emanuele III taking in the views of the sea and the port in the distance as you go.

On the right just before the end is the former governor’s palace, now the Prefecture of Taranto.

It was originally built in the fascist era as you can probably tell.

On the corner is the Monumento al Marinaraio, the sailors’ monument.

From here you can cross the old bridge to the Città Vecchia on the island.

By now you’ll have a good view of the Castello Aragonese www.castelloaragonesetaranto.com.

Continuing straight along Via Duomo you’ll immediately come to the remains of a Greek temple, the Tempio Dorico www.museotaranto.it.

It’s very atmospheric walking around the old town. Video here.

Even if it’s a little eerie at times.

There are many important buildings here, locked away behind their big gates.

But despite its dereliction, the Città Vecchia is still very much lived in…

Eventually you come to the Cathedral of Saint Cataldo. I’m not a big fan of Baroque so I’ve not been inside.

That said, the campanile around the back is quite striking.

The most important church however is the church and associated monastery of San Domenico. The Chiesa di San Domenico Maggiore can trace its origins back to the Byzantine period and was used by the Templars in the Middle Ages. The current building dates from the mid-14th century.

Nearby, Palazzo Pantaleo www.comune.taranto.it at Vico Civico is fairly interesting to walk around.

In Piazza Fontana, just before the second bridge at the other end of the island, is another local landmark, the Torre dell’ Orologio.

From there you could double back and walk along the other side of the island, along the quay where all the small boats are.

Some are in better condition than others.

There are a few cheap seafood restaurants along Via Cariati that might be worth a try. Paranza is supposed to be good.

Eventually the road will bring you round to this monument on Discesa Vasto, near the first bridge.

If you cross back over to the Borgo Nuovo and aim left, you will soon come to the Archaeology Musuem, the Museo Nazionale Archeologico di Taranto (MARTA). This museum is so good that I’ve given it its own post.

Alternatively or as well, you could go and have lunch at Al Gatto Rosso the best restaurant in town (see later post).

Or you could just admire the dolphins on the gates of Museo TalassograficoAttilio Cerruti“, a mollusc farming research institution on Via Roma.

From here it’s a stone’s throw to the town’s main square Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi and the derelict brown hulk of the Palazzo degli Uffizi , a former orphanage, looming over it.

The bandstand is a much nicer thing to look at I think.

From here you can walk back to the hotel along Via d’Aquino, the Borgo Nuovo’s pedestrian shopping street.

Just in case you’re wondering, if you turn right out of the hotel instead of left, you come to…

… more hotels. Some old…

…and some new.

And that kind of sums up Taranto.

I’d happily come back a third time to get to know it even better.

More about places to eat and drink in Taranto next.

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