Whenever we go to Bari I head to Barivecchia to stock up on homemade orecchiette. A few weekends ago, while visiting Signora Nunzia I not only came away with pasta, I also learned a few new things.
First of all, as you already know, I learned that the signora also makes panzerotti. And she kindly let me follow the process while her family turned out panzerotti after panzerotti with military like precision while I made this video.
I also got the chance to see the family turn their skills to orecchiette making. While I’d seen orecchiette being made before, it’s the kind of thing that (IMHO) you have to watch again and again and again to even begin to get a grasp of the technique and skill involved. While I kept my eye closely glued to the moving hands, trying to figure out how it’s done, Nunzia kept her eyes on the TV. Yes. She doesn’t even have to watch what she’s doing, her hands just keep going non-stop.
After I had hung out in the kitchen for an hour, and bought my 2 kilos of orecchiette to take back home, Nunzia asked me to come back the next day to try them prepared by her, with rape. Here? I asked, looking around the tight little kitchen.
No! Nella nostra ristorante! she said, pointing across the street. All I saw was a staircase leading up to a small doorway. Vai, vai. Vai a vedere she said.
So I climbed the stairs to find their hidden restaurant. Two rooms, furnished with just enough tables and chairs to act as a makeshift ‘ristorante.’
Of course we came back the next day for lunch. After asking if we ate everything, and were hungry, the food just started coming.
To start, of course, freshly fried panzerotti. Then a speciality from Molfetta, a nearby town: a rustic pie stuffed with slowly cooked onions and a type of local cod. A small dish of bubbling eggplant parmigiana was one of the best I’d ever had. A small portion – ‘just to taste’ – of a barese speciality, riso, patate e cozze. Rice, potatoes and mussels is one of the first dishes I had ever eaten cooked by Domenico’s mother and I’d never seen it on a restaurant menu. I knew this would be the test. “E buono,” Domenico’s mother declared. As she did for everything that came to our table.
The main pasta course was, of course, Nunzia’s handmade orecchiette, dressed alla barese with cime di rapa and anchovies. Our main course, tender, tiny bracciole,(involtini) in a rich tomato sauce. It was only later, at the end of the meal, that we learned the delicious beef was in fact horse. “Never beef” Nunzia’s son declared, shocked that we would even think they would use beef.
And finally, when we thought we couldn’t eat anything more, small slices of torta ubriaco, a kind of drunken chocolate cake made with red wine. I meant to get the recipe, but forgot. Luckily Domenica wrote it up here.
Here is the video I made of the orecchiette making and eating in action. If you watch the video enough times, you may be able to recreate the pasta at home. But for the full experience? Book at seat at Nunzia’s table.
Arco Alto, Bari (Barrivecchia)