Italian drinking culture has served as inspiration for bars across the United States, but few have managed to capture the spirit of Italy’s finest cafés as beautifully as Bar Pisellino in New York. Modeled as an all-day café, with coffee and pastries offered in the morning followed by aperitivo and cocktails in the evening, the West Village bar is the third project for owners Jody Williams and Rita Sodi, who also run Via Carota and I Sodi. “Rita is Italian, and I lived [in Italy] for six years, and we’ve missed that unique Italian stand-up bar where you stand and have your cappuccino, a bite to eat, a little chit-chat and then you go, but then maybe you return in the evening and sit outside with an apértif and meet a friend,” says Williams. “We set out to make that place for ourselves and for the neighborhood.”
Among the bars that inspired Williams and Sodi is Harry’s in Venice, which is one of their favorite places to visit when they’re in Italy. For Pisellino, they traveled through cities like Turin and Milan searching for spare bar parts, napkins and glassware that would help make the space feel authentic. Back in New York, street front windows were restored to create a visual connection to Via Carota across the street, and when the wood bar with brass details and marble top was installed, the space started to look and feel like it was transported straight from Italy.
The bar opened last May during the height of spritz season, so the bar staff obliged with Aperol spritzes on tap, plus bottled cocktails and ice-cold sgroppinos. The 40-seat patio terrace was packed all summer, and in preparation for cooler weather, Sodi and Williams decided the drinks should follow suit by rotating seasonally. Bar manager Stacey Swenson recently joined the team after bartending at New York’s other hub for Italian cocktails, Dante. “It’s a fairly small, simple menu, but we’ll always offer Italian staples like the Bellini, Negroni, the sgroppino,” she says. “Most people won’t want to sit outside during the colder months, so we want to offer something to that’s cozy, inviting and comforting. We’re starting to bring in our version of caffé corretto right now, but I plan to make it more of a large range of hot cocktails, not only espresso and grappa. We’ll get creative with how we incorporate that style of drink into our menu this winter.”
Swenson says she thinks the bar is a much-needed addition to the neighborhood. “I was a big fan before even working there. It’s very authentically Italian more than any other space in the city,” she says. “The cocktails have some modern twists, but the vibe and the aesthetic and culture is very classic. It really feels like you’re walking into a café in Florence that also has great cocktails. You can come in for a coffee and pastry or Negroni and snacks, and it accommodates all those needs and wants.”
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