When Mario Simeone opened Sbriga, he wanted a real Roman espresso bar. With his Allpress coffee, artichoke light-fittings, pizza lingue (a long, Roman-style pizza) and biscottini, he came pretty close. But something was missing: booze. “If you are a Roman cafe or restaurant, the assumption is that you will be serving alcohol,” says Simeone. “To have a little aperitif before a meal or a dinner is a necessity, not an option. It’s just something you do; it’s not questioned.”

To rectify this oversight, Simeone is opening Friday evenings as a genuine aperitivo bar. Offering a limited range of wines and beers (think Stone & Wood beer or a glass of Pinot Gris), Sbriga’s food menu will be amended to match. “We’ll still offer the same pizzas that we do during the day,” says Simeone. “But at night we will also offer our meatballs, cured meats – salamis, prosciuttos all that stuff.”

Sbriga has also loosened-up on the standing-room only option, offering stools for people to park a while. While Simeone doesn’t expect Sbriga to become a dining destination, he hopes to encourage locals to unwind a little at the end of the week. “The same little crowd that come in through the day who pop in for several coffees are very much the same people who will come sweeping through after work,” he says. “It’s all about that light snack you have with a glass of spritz or wine or beer before going off to something else.”

Sbriga Espresso Bar
Shop 3, 280 King Street, Melbourne
(03) 9077 7653

Mon to Thu 6.30am–4pm
Fri 6.30am–11pm