Folks in this town on the Adriatic coast sometimes say, “Se Parigi avesse il mare, sarebbe una piccola Bari.” (“If Paris had the sea, it would be a little Bari.”) Um, that wasn’t really my first impression. I kept driving in circles, fruitlessly trying to find a place to park. But that minor annoyance quickly faded when Nick and I called upon Paola, a wonderful Roman woman who had settled in this Pugliese town, famed for its homeboy Saint Nicholas. (Though in Bari, he’s a saint, period; not a jolly heavy-set guy prone to red wardrobes and seasonal gift-giving. They leave that responsibility to a witch called La Befana.) Paola welcomed us into her home and, even though she couldn’t join us for a meal, she kindly made a lunch reservation for us at a great restaurant, Vecchia Bari, calling the chef to make specific recommendations as to which dishes he might serve us, among them the traditional Barese orecchiette con cime di rapa. (Later, Paola wrote out her own recipe for me in her spidery, Italian handwriting.) After lunch and a walk about town, I was driving Paola to the class Nick was going to teach at her cooking club, and she kept admonishing me in English that I was going way too fast (“I’m so angry,” she repeatedly said, meaning “scared.”) I love this picture. If all of Bari were as nice as Paola, Paris would have something to aspire to.