Y'all know I don't care much for gourmet fare. I'd take a big ole slice of vegan pizza or a bowl of mashed taters and gravy over a fancy five-course meal any day. But there's something about special occasions that makes you feel compelled to dine out somewhere nice. For Paul's 31st birthday on Tuesday, we opted for Bari Ristorante, a gourmet Italian joint specializing in cuisine from the region of Puglia. Here's the birthday boy actin' fancy with wine and un-vegan pasta:
We started with a bottle of pinot and bread with olive oil and cracked pepper. I'm not sure the vegan-ness of the wine, but I rarely check when dining out. These were wines from Italian wineries and they weren't listed in my iPhone vegan wine app. When it comes to wine in restaurants, I have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy (Except I'm telling y'all now. Oops!). I also ordered a bowl of Mixed Olives, and it had black, green, and red ones! I'd never even seen red olives before!
For my salad, I went with the Radicchio e Indiva salad — a grilled endive and radicchio salad with a red wine vinaigrette. It typically comes with gorgonzola, but I asked for that to be omitted:
It was tasty, but the vinaigrette seemed a little heavy — too oily and also too heavy on the vinegar. But I'd never tried grilled lettuces before, and I must say, they were quite delicious.
Next up was Fava con cicoria — fava bean puree with chicory root:
Bari offers a great selection of veggies sides, but the fava beans were calling my name for some reason. Maybe I just needed protein. These mashed beans were peppered with bits of savory chicory, which tasted a little like the radicchio. Even though this was "gourmet," this dish felt more like comfort food. Probably because it was mashed.
For my pasta course, I went with a veganized version of their Orecchiette alla Pugliese — little ears pasta with sauteed broccoli rabe, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic:
This dish normally comes with anchovies, but that is disgusting. Thankfully, our super-nice server was happy to order the dish for me sans the tiny fish. Though most pasta at Bari is fresh pasta made with eggs, I was told the orecchiette and rigatoni noodles were egg-free. These were absolutely delicious. I loved the chewy texture of the "little ears," and there are few veggies more satisfying that broccoli rabe and tomatoes.
I was far too full for dessert after this indulgent meal. Bari's menu does feature an option that I thought was vegan — grapefruit segments drizzled with Campari reduction and sugar crystals. But an anonymous commenter just informed me that Campari isn't vegan because of the red dye they use, so nevermind! No vegan desserts at Bari.
Even though Paul and I typically go for more Americanized Italian (yes, we love the Macaroni Grill!), Bari offered a little something different. They don't even serve marinara! Paul didn't understand how an Italian joint doesn't serve marinara, but I suppose that says something about how very un-bourgeois we are.
Anyhow, I was impressed with Bari's friendly service and willingness to work with a picky vegan. Definitely a great option for a future special occasion dinner.
Bari Ristorante is located at 22 S. Cooper. Call 901-722-2244 or check out their website.