Puglia cuisine and where to try it in Bari
Restaurants in Bari: what to try and where to eat

Puglia cuisine and where to try it in Bari

In Italy, a trip turns into a gastronomic tour, especially if you come to the south, to Bari. In the city you can experience the traditional cuisine of the country or local specialties. All the food is fresh, flavorful and juicy — perfect for the real foodie.

What does the traditional cuisine of Puglia consist of?

The city of Bari is just under 1000 years old, the authentic dishes of Puglia about the same age. The local cuisine is based on the gifts of the sea: mussels, oysters, sea cuttings, urchins, octopus. Puglians consume these in raw form: for example, a typical Puglian dish is raw octopus, polpi arricciati (polpi arricciati). For tourists, seafood can be baked, grilled or steamed. Fish is cooked less often: catfish, sea bass, tuna. Anchovies are baked in terracotta dishes, layered with garlic, crumbled bread, capers and mint — this is alici arracanate. Mutton or anchovy is used to make sauces.

Seafood is the backbone of Puglian cuisine
Seafood is the backbone of Puglian cuisine

Around Bari are endless fields of olive trees. Puglia is rich in olives and olive oil, which form the basis of the local cuisine. They are eaten raw, smoked, pickled or as a flavorful puree. Puglia oil is highly valued not only in Italy, but also outside the country: it is considered one of the best olive oils in Italy.

Bari has a warm climate and fertile soil. The surrounding area is abundant in the vegetables and aromatic herbs with which it supplies the north of Italy. Tomatoes, artichokes and chicory are most abundant. Chime de rapa, the tops of turnips, and purple carrots are added to local dishes.

You can’t leave Puglia without trying the typical Puglian pasta of orecchiette (ears) with turnip tops sauce (Orecchiette con le cime di gara). It is made in the narrow streets of the Old Town: in the morning, women bring a special table to the street, knead the dough, mold it into ears and sell them immediately. Another authentic local pasta is cavatelli .

Orecchiette with turnip tops (Orecchiette con le cime di gara)
Orecchiette with turnip tops (Orecchiette con le cime di gara)
This is what fresh cavatelli looks like before cooking
This is what fresh cavatelli looks like before cooking

In Bari, focaccia is the forerunner of pizza. It is a fluffy flatbread with tomatoes, mushrooms or olives and various spices (usually rosemary) that is preferred over any other dish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes it is made with burnt wheat, which gives it a smoked flavor.

Originating from Puglia is the second most famous Italian bread: Pane di Altamura, the bread from Altamura. This bread was invented in the small Puglian town of Altamura. Now its name is protected by its place of origin, and a true Pane di Altamura can only be from Altamura. But all over Puglia they bake bread according to the same recipe and call it «Pane come di Altamura» — bread «like from Altamura».

It has a thick, hard crust and a soft crumb. It is believed that this bread does not stale for a long time.

Altamura bread
Altamura bread

Among the soups, the local soup of different fish species alla brindisina, Zuppa di resse alla brindisina, stands out.

As far as street food and appetizers are concerned, the calzengieddre(calzengieddre, panzarotti) are pies filled with meat, cottage cheese, fish and seafood throughout Puglia. This is an inexpensive and very popular street food: panzerotti with mozzarella and tomatoes cost from 2 €, with prosciutto — from 4 €. The most complex one, filled with several kinds of meat, cost about 5.5 €.

Panzerotto: large pie from 2 €
Panzerotto: large pie from 2 €
Panino with grilled octopus.
Panino with grilled octopus.

The cuisine of Puglia is rich in cheese. In this region they created burratta, a cheese that lasts only a day. It is eaten fresh. Stracciatella , a cheese fiber in cream, and caciocavallo , a pear-shaped hard cheese, were invented here. Also in Bari you can try locally made mozzarella , ricotta and scamorza. You’ll be lucky to find rare local cheeses such as canestrato, pecorino and vacchino.

Salumeria in Bari Vecchia: cheese and salami shop
Salumeria in Bari Vecchia: cheese and salami shop

Like everywhere else in the south of Italy, Puglia is full of sweets. Local sweet specialties:

  • castagnedde — chocolate-dipped , chestnut-like almond cakes with lemon zest,
  • sporcamuss — cream balls in powdered sugar,
  • sfogliato di Canosa — puff pastries filled with almonds, wine, cinnamon and raisins,
  • pasticciotto — pastries made of pastry-like dough with lemon, pistachio , chocolate or any other cream,
  • tette delle Monache is an airy sponge cake in the shape of a woman’s breast, with cream filling, translated as «nun’s breast»,
  • sospiri — sponge cakes with different cream fillings,
  • At Christmas, they bake cartellate , a cookie that can be made with marsala, honey, cinnamon, or figs.
On the right is pasticcio. Tette delle Monaco find out for yourself
On the right is pasticcio. Tette delle Monaco find out for yourself

And finally, the final chord: Puglian wine. In Bari, you should target grape varieties such as primitivo, negramaro or aleatico. Read our complete guide to Puglian wines and Puglia wine routes.

Where to try Puglian cuisine in Bari?

In Bari you can try local cuisine everywhere, but in the historical center they cook more authentic dishes — so a hotelier I know told me. And the very atmosphere of Bari Vecchia disposes you to get to know the city.

The most interesting cafes are in Piazza Mercantile. In a small area there are old cafes honoring the gastronomic traditions of Bari and the Puglia region. Here you can order orecchiette, focaccia and fresh seafood. In the menu there are also «ordinary» pizza and pasta, which many people associate with Italy. But waiters are very surprised when guests, without even looking at the menu, ask for pizza, lasagna or carbonara. You are in Puglia, eat Puglian!

I share with you a few recommendations from locals: where in Bari to try Puglian cuisine.

Map of restaurants and cafes in Bari

Bio 72

If you want to try seafood and regional specialties in Bari, Bio 72 is the place to go. The menu includes orrecchiette with turnip leaf sauce or octopus, fried or stuffed mussels, cheese trio, and Puglian wines. This place has excellent service and low prices, but it opens quite late.

L’Osteria del Borgo Antico

A place that opens early enough for a hearty breakfast: L’Osteria del Borgo Antico. The menu includes buratta, orrecchiette, baked seafood and fish, octopus salad, focaccia with sauce, risotto and pizza with anchovies, all for reasonable money.

Keep in mind: locals recommend eating oysters and sea urchins only in months that have an «r» in their name.

Black and White

Opposite the osteria is the Black and White restaurant — a cozy place with a veranda, plaids and a gas lamp. If you book a table online, you can get a 20% discount on the menu. The menu includes traditional dishes and interesting combinations: burratta with smoked tomato sauce, grilled shrimps and squids, pasta with seafood (mussels, octopus or sea urchins). The portions are very large, you can take for two. Everything is fresh and served to perfection. The chef is a local celebrity.

Bella Bari

In the New Town on Via Roberto da Bari 141, there is Café Bella Bari, where dishes are prepared according to ancient recipes. Here they serve «ears» with a sauce made of haulm or beans and chicory, and shrimp in a spicy garlic sauce. Of course, the restaurant has an abundance of seafood. The menu includes fried fish, red shrimps, octopus, lobster, carpaccio — all fresh from the best fishermen of the city.


Opposite is Mamapulia, a local little wonder and inexpensive café. University students and tourists who want a quick and tasty snack between trains and planes come here for lunch. The cafe is located near the central station in a safe neighborhood. It is open from early morning.

At Mamapulia you should try trofie with buratta, capocollo with dried tomatoes, stracchatella, focaccia and the local dessert — tette delle monache (nun’s breasts). The thin pastry with sweet cream inside and almond nuts perfectly complements the Bari coffee.


To come to Bari without stopping by Pescobar is a great loss. Here they make excellent fish street food: fritto misto, several types of panini with fish and seafood, and even antipasti (appetizers) of raw fish and seafood.

Their legendary panino with grilled octopus and pesto sauce made a name for the establishment: they’ve grown from a small street food bar to a chain of several locations.

Pescobar is a street food with seafood and fish
Pescobar is a street food with seafood and fish