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Restaurants & Bars 3

Regional Italian in Memphis

Splangy | Sep 6, 200411:43 PM

New poster here (but been lurking for a while). Just got back from Memphis where some friends and I had a truly fantastic meal at Bari Ristorante in the Midtown neighborhood on Cooper. I am frequently disappointed in what passes as "Italian" in most restaurants, especially in this neck of the woods (considering so many restaurants seem to offer Italian-American rather than regional cuisines). Bari focuses on the food of the region of Apulia in southeastern Italy - where the city of Bari resides. As such, seafood is rather prominent on the menu. I was also pleased to learn that the dishes are served ala carte. Given a number of tempting choices I ordered a Campari soda to whet my palatte while perusing the menu.

The wine list also offered a wide variety of reasonably priced Italian wines in addition to apertivi, and digestivi not always available in other settings. We settled on a couple bottles of a Barbera d'Asti to get us going but there were also a good amount of selections available by the glass - a nice option given that I really wanted something different than the Barbera with my fish later on. Anyway, the following is what I had ordered; each item was fantastic.

Antipasti: Many choices are available and we decided to build our own plate consisting of roasted red bell peppers, braised endive with balsamic vinegar, grilled & marinated eggplant, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and gorgonzola. I was expecting (but did not ask to confirm) a sweet gorgonzola (dolce) rather than the more piquant type served. Nonetheless it was very enjoyable.

Pasta: Penne alla Puttanesca (crushed olives, garlic, roma tomatoes, capers, and anchovies).

Entre: Spigola d’arrosta (roasted sea bass filet with celeriac, yellow bell pepper, and lemon), paired with a glass of Gavi. Very tender and almost bearing similarity to a scallop.

Dessert: lemon and raspberry fruit tart with a glass of Bartenura Moscato d'Asti.

Then finished it all off with a Strega and then an espresso (illy to boot!)

Taking a sample of my friend's meals, I can say that everything I tasted was delicious. The service was outstanding as well - very patient as we seemed to take our time with things and helpful in making recommendations. The timing of the delivery of each serving and portion sizes were also right on (although some might feel that the sizes are too small if compared to the monster sizes served at places like Maggiano's, etc.). The kitchen was out of a couple items by that hour of the evening (polpette and the striped bass). My only complaint is that I will have to travel 3+ hours to return! If you are looking for something a bit different from the Americanized Italian restaurants and are in the area, I would highly recommend giving Bari a try.


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