Whenever I’m in Bari, there’s no question of where to eat. It’s a no-brainer. Biancofiore is the name of the place, and the surname of Diego who runs it along with his wife Daniela. You’ll meet them when you try it out because they’re always there, front of house, in persons, exceptional hosts. It’s a small restaurant, unassuming from the outside and mellow within. Between exposed vaulted ceilings and flagstones underfoot, the interiors are an elegant take on Greek-tavern style: Mediterranean blue/white rustic in the painted wooden seating and mismatched vintage tiling; stylish simple table settings and other décor detail. Biancofiore serves the best fish dishes. Raw or cooked, seafood is invariably fresh, selected daily by Diego, in person, as it comes off the boats that ply this stretch of the Adriatic Sea. Patently talented chef Giacinto Fanelli does the rest, starting with time-honoured local culinary customs to which he adds an inspired creative twist or two. They look refined and delicious and taste better.
Bari may be a port city and fish its default staple, but the inland gastronomic delights of Apulia (meat, extraordinary cheeses, vegetables, fruit and ancient durum wheat varieties that go into the homemade pasta) are also legendary. Biancofiore’s non-seafood menu is inspired by the same criteria and subject to just the same care as the fishier one: selected, seasonal produce artfully prepared. Which means the menu is subject to day-to-day changes, and anyway it’s always a good idea to ask what Diego recommends – or simply to go for his excellent tasting menu. He’s the expert, self-taught, fired by passion. On and for wines too. Choose, or again let Diego do the pairing, from a bounteous list of excellent bottles produced in the region, in the rest of Italy and also beyond its borders. He knows and chooses his producers and he’s particularly proud of more than a few organic and biodynamic labels. He cares about that sort of thing. If you make it to the desserts, they’re amazing too. Honestly. The restaurant is in the heart of Bari, where the labyrinthine alleys of the old town give way to its ninetenth-century expansion, and a stone’s throw from the seafront promenade