Bari is served: 6 traditional dishes that are envied the world over
Patate riso e cozze (potatoes, rice and mussels)
This dish has humble origins: it is easy to prepare, the ingredients are easy to find and it’s full of enough nutrients to satisfactorily feed the whole family. The terracotta pot used was called a ‘tiella’ and it is from here that the recipe takes its name. The pot was placed directly on the embers of the fire which were also put on the lid so that when the stone warmed up, an oven effect was created and this in turn gave the dishes a particularly tasty flavour. The uniqueness of this dish lies in the way it is prepared as well as the cooking method: the order that you put in the ingredients is the key to a successful dish. It is vital that you put a layer of potatoes on the bottom of the pot,then the mussels, with the openings facing upwards, so that the rice which is placed over them is perfectly accommodated. Finally, you have to put a thinner layer of potatoes on top to keep all the flavours in.
Orecchiette con le cime rape ( small ‘ear’ shaped pasta with rapini)
It’s really difficult to pinpoint the origins of this recipe. The arrival of orrecchiette pasta is attributed to various historical periods. According to one theory, they came from the Sannicandro di Bari area during Norman rule. Another theory is that they came from Provence where a dry pasta (crosets) of a similar shape was produced during medieval times and then taken to the Bari area by The Angevins in the XIII century.
Regardless of their origins, the orrechiette have come into their own in the Puglia region. The decision to combine them with rapini, which is from this area, was a natural one and brought out the flavour in this vegetable when mixed with this specific kind of pasta.
Fave e cicorie (beans and chicory)
They say that the best dishes are the simple ones and this recipe confirms that.
The dried, shelled beans and the wild chicory, plants that are like weeds and have a bitter taste, are the main ingredients for this traditional recipe that together form a rustic dish, full of flavour.
Focaccia barese (Bari style focaccia bread)
Focaccia ( a kind of oily bread) is the preferred snack of people from Bari. There isn’t a particular time of day in which it should be eaten. It can be traced back to the ancient Phoenicians. The dough is made from millet grain, barley, water and salt and was described by Catone in the II century BC as a round dough cooked on stone with olive oil, herbs and honey. There is also evidence that the Greeks and the Carthaginians enjoyed focaccia bread made from barley flour, rye and millet grain and cooked over a fire. From the ancient Greeks to the ancient Romans is just a short hop in time and we discover that at this time focaccia was offered up to the gods. It emerged once again at wedding banquets where it was eaten accompanied by a glass of wine. All experiences that ‘certify’ the sublimity of this simple and tasty food.
Cartellate (deep-fried sweet pastries)
The name could come from carta (paper) or incartellate (wrapped) which is synonymous with incartocciate (wrapped in a cone), due to their typical arabesque shape.
Amongst the various hypotheses both the Saracino dictionary and the Nobile one claim that the word comes from the Greek word κάρταλλος (kartallos) = wicker basket or cone.
They were first depicted in a rock painting from the VI century BC that was rediscovered in the area around modern day Bari and which showed the preparation of a similar dessert that was called lanxsatura: the overflowing plate was being offered up to the gods as was customary in the cult to Ceres, which was probably of Greek origin and was associated with offerings made to Demetra, god of the earth, during the time of the Eleusinian Mysteries  cult.
With the dawn of Christianity, these fried cakes were used as gifts to the Virgin Mary and were made in the hope of a favourable harvest that year.
The cartellete are a typical Christmas cake in Bari and they are made by creating ribbons of thin pastry from flour, oil and white wine which are then folded back on themselves to form a sort of choreographic ‘rose’, and then fried in lots of oil. There are lots of variations on this recipe but the traditional one from Bari dictates that they be filled with a grape comfit or honey.
Calzone di Cipolla (an onion-filled savoury pastry)
This is a traditionally rustic dish, used in particular by housewives in the Puglia area.
The strong smell would linger in the houses and many associate it with the typical ‘scent’ in their grandmothers’ homes.
There are lots of recipes: each cook added her own special touch. Some used baking powder in the dough, others didn’t but with regards to the shape, there are no doubts at all: it was a round focaccia bread , filled and folded over around the sides.
The traditional Puglia filling is long white onions, sultanas, olives (without the stone), cheese, oil and salted anchovies but it can easily be personalised.
Once the outside is golden brown, it means that it is cooked and its main characteristics are that it has a crumbly consistency with a salty sweet and sour taste.