One part calzone, one part fry bread, panzerotti are what Hot Pockets always wished they could be: a deep-fried street food meant to be wrapped in a napkin and eaten on the go. Panzerotti are traditional to Southern Italy, especially the Puglia region, and the brand-new Bari Food Cart in the SE 52nd and Foster pod specializes in an authentic version. It's owned and operated by Walter Ferrante, a man from the coastal Southern Italian city of Bari, a hotbed of panzerotti.
"Someone is always having a birthday," Ferrante tells Eater, referring to life back in Italy, "and that means panzerotti." He says he remembers getting a veritable slap from his mother for stealing bites of panzerotti dough as a child. And that's just the dough. Inside are tomato sauce and mozzarella, and when it comes out of the fryer, it's a piping hot pocket of melty, saucy cheese.
Ferrante says he's been surprised by the number of Southern Italians living in Portland he's met since opening. "I'm always asking them for feedback," he tells Eater, "to make sure I'm making it right."
Along with the traditional $6 (for a large) Mozzarella e Pomodoro panzerotto, Bari Food Cart makes creative panzerotti, whether stuffed with asparagus, prosciutto, and gorgonzola or mortadella and provolone. Panzerotti come in small and large sizes for between $3 and 4, and $6 and 8, respectively. The current menu has around eight panzerotti options.
Down the road, Ferrante says he'll be adding other Southern Italian street food, both well-known, like arancini, and obscure, like rustici, a mashup of tomato sauce, cheese, and bechamel inside of a puff pastry. Bari Food Cart is open Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 12:30 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday 1 to 9 p.m.