Longstanding Sydneysiders may recognise the name Piccolo Bar. For more than 60 years, it was a famous hole-in-the-wall cafe attracting one of the most vibrant cross-sections of the city’s artistic community. Actor Judy Davis; stage icons Peter Allen and Danny La Rue; even former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam passed through at various points in time.
But in 2017, owner Vittorio Bianchi decided to retire after the lock-out laws decimated business, and the cafe was in danger of closing for good. Cue Bartender magazine and Spanton Media Group founder Dave Spanton who, after months of planning and pandemic-induced drama, finally opened Piccolo Bar 2.0 in November 2021, reimagining the iconic space as an aperitivo bar and diner.
To bring his vision to life, Spanton ordered a completely new fit-out. For fans of the original, don’t worry, its bones are still very much intact. Every detail – from the vintage matchboxes to the historic photographs of Kings Cross – has been executed in a way that pays homage to the original cafe. Framed mugshots of various celebrities who have visited over the years line the walls; names like Jeff Buckley, Mel Gibson and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
Santon has brought his 25 years of bar experience to the cocktail list, which spans 17 drinks hinging on classic ingredients and flavours. And at aperitivo hour, from 4pm–5pm, five of these drinks (Negroni, Garibaldi, Spritz, Americano and Bellini) are just $13.
Accompanying cocktails is a formidable selection of aromatised wines and vermouths. To ease the decision-making process (and to showcase some of the more obscure bottlings), each type includes tasting notes and serving sizes.
Being such a small space, it was a challenge to create a food menu that was easily prepared with one’s elbows tucked in. The problem was resolved with small, easy-to-assemble eats such as salted peanuts, Sicilian olives, Pollastrini Italian sardines and gourmet hot dogs. Plus a weekly rotating plate of cheeses.
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