The best focaccia in existence
The best focaccia as it’s possible to create exists in Bari, Italy. The oldest bakery in town cooks up a mean focaccia. It’s perfect. Precisely the right amount of yeast to make it rise to the level of around 1/2 inch. Remember too much and it will rise too high like a cake, too little it will be like flatbread. It comes out of the oven piping hot, fresh as can be. It’s still so hot you can barely hold it as it’s thrown in your direction by the cashier. Doused in a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil it creates that melt in your mouth feeling and extra crunch. Topped with a olives and a smear of tomato sauce for sweetness, this is the complete package. For €1, I dare you to find a better lunchtime snack than this!
Hand made pasta, orecchiette
The old town in Bari is home to traditional pasta making. Countless old women sit on the streets and open kitchens, hand making tiny, ear-like pasta shells. The take about 30 minutes to make around 500g, which are dried in the sun. Feel free to speak to them, they are friendly and love the adoring masses.
Italian hospitality is unmatched it seems. Peering into a courtyard we ask if it’s okay to take a peek at what folks are cooking. Veal, mozzarella wrapped in a fresh pastry. It’s called panzarotti, so simple yet effective. We converse in Italian, small talk at first. We are intent on learning how they are made, a dough is spread out onto a table outdoors. The meat and cheese mixture is placed squarely in the centre of the dough. Folded and cut with knife to seal the package, they fry for around 3-4 minutes in fresh vegetable oil. We are imparted the virtues of fresh oil, this is key to a quality product apparently. The panzarotti are bronzed and super hot, fresh and as authentic as can be! We are ordered to eat panzarotti and drink beer with the famiglia, it’s a hard life.
We are still blown away by how good the food is here. As if it could get any better, our favorite vice coffee, sees its spiritual home here. Walk into any coffee shop and you’ll see elderly men standing, chatting (loudly, this is Italy after all!) an espresso at the bar and a small pastry on the side. It doesn’t seem to matter the time of day, any time is coffee time. One tip, don’t order a latte or cappuccino other than in the morning. Frothy, milky goodness is a morning thing here and you might get some strange looks.
A typical coffee menu here could list 20 or so items, a fabulous and diverse array of caffeinated goodness. An espresso is a good start, or try a macchiato to take the edge off. Cappuccino, lattes (translates directly as milk) are divine. Or even grab yourself a noccolina, a scoop of hazelnut gelato poured over with espresso – can’t deal with how good this is. The best thing of all you’d be hard pressed to pay more than €2 ($2.20) for any of the above!