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Bari Foods: Some Notes (long, detailed)

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Bari Foods: Some Notes (long, detailed)

Antonius | Mar 15, 2004 09:07 AM

The Bari Foods store (BF) on Grand Ave. (next to D’Amato’s at the northeast corner of May and Grand) is regularly mentioned here but then primarily in the context of discussions of sandwiches and subs. BF is, indeed, a great place to get a sub (they also deliver) but it’s also a very good little grocery and Italian specialty shop. Herebelow I call attention to some specific features and items.

1) Deli counter: A basic range of cold cuts, domestic and imported are available, as well as several kinds of olives (Kalamata, Barese, Sicilian, etc.) and salads (currently including a seafood salad). They also have a number of Italian cheeses which they will cut to order, including the basic grating cheeses (Pecorino Romano (Locatelli), Parmigiano Reggiano), which they will also grate for a fee ($.50 per lb., I believe), and a few table cheese (Taleggio, Fontina, a young pecorino or two).

* Something which they pretty much always have on hand and which is otherwise not so readily available is “ricotta forte”, imported from Italy. This Pugliese specialty is in effect a rather ripe ricotta (I think it’s double fermented and made from sheep’s milk, high fat content and cream cheese like texture) which has a very nice sweetness to go along with its pungency. A small dollop mixed into a plate of maccheroni with a simple tomato sauce or just garlic, oil and parsley is sublime.

** A common problem I have had at BF has to do with how they lay out the prosciutto; specifically, the prosciutto is laid out with too much overlap of the individual slices or, more distressingly, even carelessly tossed so that the slices are folded over and bunched up – if the prosciutto has been sliced thin, as it should be, the excessively overlapping or bunched up slices cannot be handled without extensive tearing. This problem arises sometimes elsewhere but at BF, it seems only the owners do a reasonable job of laying the prosciutto out carefully; other, younger folk who work there, even when given explicit instructions, have given me blobs which cannot be untangled for acceptable presentation to guests.

*** Because of the popularity of BF for subs, the lines can sometimes be a little long. If you’re in a hurry and just need to get some grating cheese, they now have freshly cut pieces (1/2 to 1 lb) of Parmigiano and Romano, as well as cones of ricotta salata in the dairy cooler on the west wall.

2) Butcher Counter: BF has been mentioned here as a source for good sausage. They have three types available: basic Italian sausage (with fennel), spicy, and Barese, which is the thin sausage, without fennel, and copious amounts of parsley and garlic. In my opinion, the Barese sausage should be cooked as soon as possible, for the large dose of garlic imparts an overpowering flavour (and frighteningly strong aroma in the fridge) if you keep it overnight. Fried and cut up, mixed with pasta along with some fresh ricotta and a little of the pasta water, it’s pretty darn tasty.

* The quality of the meat is in my experience always very good and they do a fine job cutting and grinding things per request. Since they are Italian, one can, for example, simply place an order along the following lines: “I need five slices of beef, pounded thin, for braciole” or “I need a chicken cut up for cacciatore.” They produce exactly what you’re looking for.

** I haven’t checked of late, but in times past they were a reliable source for rabbit.

3) Italian Grocery Items: They have a fairly complete range of Italian specialities and a reasonable variety of brands, especially given the limited space they have.

* Pasta: The main brand sold at BF is the pride of Puglia, Divella, and they have a very wide selection of their products. In addition, they carry a number of shapes by G. De Cocco (but note that this brand has recently decided to switch from packages of 500 grams to 340 grams while not changing the price; it’s excellent –perhaps the best—pasta but now the price is a little out of hand); they also carry several of the special regional shapes by La Molisana.

** Olive Oil: Always a good selection and often they have a couple of oils (typically from Sicily) which are great bargains.

*** Salt-packed anchovies. They have whole tins of salt-packed anchovies for sale (ca. $10) from Sciacca (Sicily). There are also a couple of brands of high quality tuna packed in olive oil from Sicily (n.b. ‘Genova’ brand, which formerly was the most widespread tuna from Italy, has been bought out by an American brand and is now produced in the US, though packaged with the exact same old label). Also high quality oil-packed anchovies from Italy (shelves near the check-out counter).

**** They usually have at least one brand of salt-packed capers, sometimes more, as well as a number of other imported items of the salted and pickled ilk (east wall). The canned tomato selection is very good, featuring ‘La Bella San Marzano’ (which bears a highly amusing label) and the underappreciated ‘Rienzi’ brand from Sicily (not San Marzano but really good). Small cans of the pomodorini di collina and jars of passata di pomodoro are also available.

***** Some prepared foods that BF produces are also on hand: giardiniera, cooked escarole, eggplant etc. I haven’t tried any of these but they seem to be popular with other customers.

4) Produce Section: BF carries a very convenient selection of vegetables and fruits, which allows one to put together a whole meal without needing to go anywhere else. They always have onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, lemons, some fresh herbs, and lettuces, and usually have such items as broccoli rabe, eggplant, zucchini, etc.

5) General Groceries: For its limited size, BF offers a surprisingly wide range of basic food stuffs and household items, as well as over-the-counter drugs etc. etc. They also get frequent deliveries of tortillas from Tortilleria Del Rey. If you have a headache, crave Italian sausage, broccoli rabe and Baci, and need to feed your cat, you can take care of it all at BF.

6) Note that as of a couple of years ago, they no longer sell wine and spirits. They do have several Italian soft drinks (Aranciata, Limonata and, my favourite, Chinotto).

Given the quality and wide selection of their wares, together with their location next to the best Italian bread baker in the city, Bari Foods is an outstanding resource, especially for those who can’t easily make the trek out to the Harlem/Belmont area.

Salvete,
A

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