Before you go to a new restaurant, what do you want — or need — to know most? In our series The Rundown, we’re sharing all the essentials about newly opened spots, as well as some of your favorites.
This time out: Bari, a newcomer from Chi Spacca and Campanile vet Chad Colby.
For all the darkness the pandemic brought, there were some glimmers of light — like the puffy square pizzas and pints of extraordinary hand-spun ice creams coming from Chad Colby’s Antico kitchen, the east-of-Larchmont restaurant he opened in June 2019.
It was a smart pivot for Colby. Throughout most of 2020, everyone was clamoring for comfort food, especially pizza and soul-affirming sweets, and with Antico, they had a delicious new option. The steady business helped Colby and his team ride the waves of lockdowns, changing mandates, and uncertainty.
But it also allowed space for Colby to consider what he would do next.
Turns out that would be to open an entirely new concept, Bari, on West Third Street. The food, the space, and the vibe are all reminiscent of his travels through the Puglia region in Italy, a very specific change from what he’s been doing at Antico (and what he has planned for its next iteration, Antico Nuovo).
Here’s everything else you need to know.
1. The rustic space inspired the concept.
If Antico celebrates the Italian countryside with its open hearth, grilled meats, and plates of homemade pastas, Bari is all about the Adriatic Sea, snacks you’d find while roaming the streets of the Puglian town of Martina Franca, and L.A.-meets-Italy cocktails.
Colby says he was casually looking at spaces around Los Angeles to see if opening a second restaurant would be a smart move at all, and then he came upon what would become his next project.
“It was beautiful, beyond turnkey. So much was already there. It’s the kind of opportunity that wouldn’t have existed without the lockdown,” he says. “It had the wood-burning grill, the stucco walls. The previous owners were a design-heavy group, and they put a lot into the space. Off the bat, it reminded me so much of the masserias around Puglia. The space definitely inspired the concept.”
2. It’s ‘like walking into a masseria in Puglia.’
Since it (the former Kassi Club) had so much going for it, Colby and business partner Alex Racioppi had a leg up on designing Bari. They wanted it to feel like you could be anywhere along Puglia’s jagged coastline, or the countryside studded with olive trees. The Greek influences of the space translated well here. Architecturally, masserias — historic farm estates now often turned into boutique hotels — have strong geometric lines and are painted all white, much like Bari’s dining room.
Colby says Racioppi took the lead on design, adding olive trees, arches, and a few walls to make the dining room feel more intimate and “less loungey” than the previous space. There are new banquettes and upholstery, clean lines, and warm earth tones. The bar remains, and it’s pretty lively. You can see into the kitchen, but it’s not as open as Antico or Chi Spacca; you can get a glimpse from the bar. Unfortunately there isn’t a patio — it was enclosed pre-pandemic — but Colby says they hopefully can open that up at some point down the road.
“I brought in these beautiful splatter-ware plates that are iconic to the region, which were held up because of the [Suez] canal closure this past spring,” he adds. “I’m so glad we got them. They put me in that region immediately. I want people to feel like they just walked off of Third Street into Puglia.”
3. The menu is (almost) straight out of Martina Franca.
Taking cues from what Bari started to look like, the chef found himself creating dishes that he tasted around the region.
“I love how simple and communal the food is there,” he says. “Where you start out with a full spread of antipasti, really good breads, really good burrata, some charcuterie, and it all fills the table really fast. It’s one of the poorer regions, so the cucina povera food is some of the most interesting, through necessity.”
That means living off what people grow and raise themselves, from vegetables to small animals like lamb, pork, and poultry, plus seafood on the coast. Unsurprisingly, it was the butcher shops where he found the most inspiration. Colby made a name for himself with his butchery and salumi at Chi Spacca, so when a friend took him around Martina Franca, famous for its capocollo, he was delighted to find clandestine snacks and wine served at the shops.
“I went with a friend from the area, and he was showing pictures of my charcuterie to others around the neighborhood,” he recalls. “We went to the bar, and the bartender came along. We go to the church, and the priest loves capocollo, so he comes along. Soon we’re collecting people along the way, and end up at this little butcher shop and get these little bites. It was one of the best days of my life.”
While he’s not making his own charcuterie for the time being, for Bari he took the idea of those bites — little fennel taralli crackers; mini lamb and pork sausages; bombette made with caciocavallo cheese wrapped in capocollo and grilled; and panzerotti, crescent-shaped pastry filled with oozing cheese — and added a tinge of Californian flair. Spiedini, or skewers, hold everything from octopus to branzino. Think small plates via Puglia, resting comfortably in L.A.
You’ll see more representation from the coast, like crudos and oysters, plus a few handmade pastas, like the region’s traditional handmade orecchiette with broccoli rabe and anchovy.
“I’m inspired by so many regions in Italy, but with Puglia it’s so similar to here,” Colby says. “The cuisine lends itself to what we’re doing with Southern California produce and what’s available.”
4. Most of the wine and cocktails channel Southern Italy.
Mozza wine vet Sarah Clarke is now director operations for Colby’s two restaurants, and oversees the wine program for both. At Bari the focus isn’t just Puglia, but also other regions of Italy, plus wines from a few favorite producers around California. If the Antico wine list matches the more special occasion steakhouse format, Bari is all about communal, social fun. Yes, bubbles. Lots.
“There’s a strong presence of Champagne because it goes so well with the food,” Colby says.
Cocktails are overseen by Jager Stewart, most recently at Majordomo, who had a blank slate to create something that will keep people busy and interested at the beautiful bar. The menu reads as basic — gimlet, margarita, julep — but don’t be fooled. The vodka gimlet has snap pea and absinthe; the julep, apricot and Cynar. As things build up, including Bari’s spirits list, look for more exciting choices.
5. You can still take home the pizza and ice cream.
As for Antico Nuovo, Colby says the switch was to make it more of a special experience, and to open Bari as a good contrast. The Beverly Boulevard restaurant itself has matured, as has he. He felt his customers wanted something more luxurious and memorable, and coming out of a pandemic, that tracks. It’s all about finding something elevated and different from what we’ve been getting out of cardboard boxes, or what we could whip up at home. Adding Nuovo to the name — the old and new — is the next iteration.
Thankfully the takeout pizza and ice cream isn’t going anywhere. Colby plans to keep doing it because it’s so popular. Plus, Bari has a soft serve version of the Antico ice cream for dessert as well, so there’s plenty to go around.