Bari Food Cart serves Italian street food in southeast Portland

In this pizza-obsessed town, how do you take the doughy, cheesy staple to the next level? Just ask Trifone Walter Ferrante – his name is Walter – who serves Southern Italian street food rarely seen in the US called panzerotti at a Foster-Powell food cart.

In its essence, the panzerotti basically resembles a fried pizza or a calzone. Fresh dough is rolled out by hand and filled to order with tomatoes, cheese and options such as anchovy-capers (Ferrante’s favourite), mild southern spicy ‘nduja sausage or our choice, carciofi (artichoke). Then it is lovingly fried until golden brown, where the batter puffs up and becomes crispy while not absorbing too much fat. Magic! It’s airy, flavorful and delicately crispy – think Chinese fried dough stick or fried bread. Slice a panzerotto to reveal the stretchy mozzarella inside, and don’t forget to grab a freshly squeezed cannolo loaded with lemon zest for dessert.

But if panzerotti and cannoli alone aren’t reason enough to visit, then Ferrante itself is equally appealing. Born and raised in a small town in the Puglia region, he brings that southern Italian warmth and hospitality to every customer interaction. “How are you?” he said, poking his head out the window as I finished paying with the cashier on my first visit to Bari. “I’m happy to cook for you!” When my panzerotto was ready, the cashier pressed a bicycle horn, drawing curious stares and laughter from all the other food cart customers. Later, a nearby food cart owner came over, gave Ferrante a big hug, and asked, “Can I honk the horn?” He honked his horn rhythmically, and soon the whole gondola of the truck was applauding: “Walter! Walter!” Come for the puff, stay for the party.

Bari Food Cart (closed July 23-September 1 for holidays), 5205 SE Foster Rd,