Published on 05 Jun 2009 by Alison
These pics come from Milan’s wine bar “Le Barrique”, a sophisticated little spot not far from Parco Sempione and the Piccolo Teatro. In a side street called via Anfiteatro, that leads onto via Legnano, you’ll find “Le Barrique”: a bar, wine shop and restaurant in one.
There used to be a car parts shop here once, but seven years the owners saw the possiblity of opening a wine shop, when they then decided to open the ground floor of this traditional building for a new restaurant in Milan.
The interior is characterised by warm wooden floors, and a large classic bar, with bare brick walls and arches to the ceiling. The chairs are comfortable and the bar can easily hold 25 people, though you’re more likely to find it hopping with 40 to 50 customers during special events. Bottles of wine everywhere decorate the place, along with more curious decorations such as metallic ties and artist prints. We had a chat with Alessandro, sommelier and founder of “Le Barrique”. See after the jump for the interview.
What is the philosophy of “Le Barrique”?
The great thing about our bar is, given the reduced, we can offer our customers the wines we think are interesting to taste. If customers want a particular label though, we’re happy to accommodate that. Italy is naturally the most represented, followed by the Alsace area of France. Currently fashionable wines in Milan are Sauvignon, Gewurztraminer, Nero d’Avola and Syrah, while Tuscan wines are a little in decline. In spring and autumn we also organise themed dinners on a monthly basis, matching typical dishes with DOC wines from the same region and we’ve had a positive response from the public.
What type of customers do you have?
80 percent of the people who come here live in the area, they know and they’re happy here. Then we have small companies that come along on weekends, and we’re a perfect place for people who want to chat with their friends with a glass of wine and some sliced meat (four to six euros depending on the wine). There is no happy hour in milan philosophy that characterises Corso Garibaldi. At lunchtime we see mostly business workers and professionals who want to discuss work. In the evenings, given the proximity of the theatres, it’s normal to see actors from the Piccolo Teatro.
What impact has your bar had on the street here?
Do you know what? The atmosphere can be frightening. I’ve discovered this over the years - customers are maybe scared of how we present ourselves. They get lead by the appearance of a place and don’t come in, choosing another bar. We have a specific identity that means at lunch you will spend more than some of our competitors, but in the evenings we are in the average price range of this area.
So at lunch, you don’t have a fixed price menu.
Exactly. Here you’ll find a traditional menu with everything from antipasti, salami and cheeses, to salads and dessert. There are 25 places to sit and there are only three of us serving. We have a few special dishes: ravioli with gorgonzola and chocolate, or noodles with peas, mint and prawns. For mains, in my opinion, our lamb is excellent… This cooking, along with over 130 wine labels, distinguishes us from other restaurants in the area.
You’re very active, not just as a wine shop, but also as an exhibition space.
From the beginning we wanted to bring together wine and art, culture and music. We tried to offer evenings of poetry and literatures but unfortunately, without any success. So we turned to painting and sculpture, talking with young and emerging artists. The result is they sell, we’re happy and the public likes the idea. The artists can come and introduce themselves and if they’re convincing, if they have works that can be displayed, we host them willingly.
Something interesting for our readers?
Do you see the sign? There’s a mistake… we used the wrong accent! The small barrel that the French call “barrique” is a single feminine article, and so we should have used “la” [not “le”]. Actually, we would have had the same name as a wine shop in Rome and so it’s okay this way, and without wanting to, we saved ourselves some litigation. Many interesting things have happened in seven years, but I want to remember some small harp and violin concerts that you can’t find in many places in Milan.
We were written up in “Gambero Rosso” and in the pages of the monthly “Dove” which may seem small, but once you enter “Le Barrique” it takes only once to find your own space. You can discover it for the wine, for the food, for a quiet corner in the Garibaldi area or for the art shows that we occasionally host - like at the furniture show in Milan, the Fiera del Mobile, where you can buy some of the pieces on display. Recommended.