After a few weeks of operating quietly, Bar Piccino is ready for its public debut as a welcoming space in the neighborhood to grab a drink, incorporating Piccino’s best qualities — but in bar form. After an eight-week renovation of the main restaurant, the reopening comes along with the debut of Piccino’s dedicated bar, including a small-but-mighty food menu and cocktails from bar manager Andi Miller, who brings experience from Arguello and Third Rail to Bar Piccino. The bar is part of the Yellow Building, where Piccino resides, taking over the former MAC retail store space next door, with a separate built-out space that draws in elements of Piccino but also situates itself with its own presence.
First things first: Piccino, the restaurant has been a mainstay of the Dogpatch neighborhood since 2006, eventually landing in the Yellow Building. During the first years of the pandemic, the Piccino team mulled over an expansion into the blue building next-door for the bar, but the timing didn’t work out; instead, they expanded in the other direction for the bar and are using the blue building for two private dining rooms, Piccino Group partner Sean Manchester says. For the renovations to the restaurant, the team grew the footprint of the kitchen, added a new pizza oven, expanded the walk-in and dishwashing station, and moved the restrooms. The menu, as always, will continue to focus on seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients — except now produced in Piccino’s larger, more functional kitchen.
The new bar, however, is meant to be a separate endeavor. Bar Piccino will allow certain elements of the restaurant to stay, such as a more thorough and thoughtful wine menu to pair alongside the restaurant’s food; the bar meanwhile creates space to imagine mezcal- and tequila-leaning cocktails, as well as a multi-negroni menu that serves as the anchor point for the menu. “The way I really feel about it is, we’re not trying to be a second Piccino, we’re essentially trying to take the things that we love so much about Piccino already, and implement some of those influences into a different experience,” Miller says.
Beyond the negroni being one of Miller’s favorite cocktails, she says she feels the classic cocktail is “an endless loop, you can do riffs on negronis forever.” Indeed, there are five versions on Bar Piccino’s menu including two gin options, two mezcal versions, and a boulevardier made with, of course, a 10-year-aged bourbon. One interesting bit to note: the bar will be making a red bitter in-house, to be employed in various cocktails, using four different aperitifs from both Italy and Mexico. “It’s like creating a superhero aperitif,” Miller says.
Already Manchester and Miller are finding favorites among the drinks: the Cloudview features a coconut-washed gin mixed with apricot, lemon, bergamot, and bitters, with a Champagne float and a touch of honey made in beehives at Piccino owner Margherita Sagan’s Sausalito home. Miller also has a soft spot for the negroni that bears her name; Andi’s negroni features Espadin mezcal, pineapple rum, strawberry-infused aperitivo, and a house vermouth blend. There are four beers on tap, more by the bottle, a truncated wine menu (with a larger menu available at the restaurant), as well as a number of mixed non-alcoholic drinks and a couple of nonalcoholic beer options.
Piccino fans, meanwhile, might be surprised at the bar menu, but again it’s meant to give the two spaces their own personalities: one sit-down (Piccino), the other bite-focused. Manchester highlighted a few items such as the maitake mushrooms fried in a tempura-like batter and served with a Calabrian chili hot sauce (“I call it mushroom fries,” Manchester says); potato tostone with kumquat kosho, salmon roe, and chives; and a whipped mortadella dish with pickled cherries, toasted pistachios, served with ciabatta toast.
The 2,500-square-foot bar space incorporates many design details distinct from the restaurant. Many will immediately notice the 25-foot-long Monterey cypress bar top made from a single slab of locally sourced wood, as well as the marble base it sits atop; a local furniture company also made the bar stools, using Italian leather. Handblown, amber light fixtures shine throughout the space. And should the bar become busy, there is also a not-so-obvious, smaller lounge tucked behind the bar, which can accommodate about 20 to 30 people, for a more intimate feel. The tall and expansive ceilings of the restaurant and bar are intentionally lower in the lounge, for a cozier environment filled with leather and velvet. “It’s like this little secret backroom essentially, where you could come in after work and have a beer, but you could also wear heels and bring your date and have this more intimate experience,” Miller says.
Miller is excited to welcome more customers into the bar and share the drinks and the food of Bar Piccino. She also hopes the staff and the welcoming environment they create will keep everyone coming in. “I’m really excited about people enjoying the space and creating that staff culture that has been so much of the reason I’ve stayed in hospitality: People feel like your family, and if the staff is getting along well and like working together and are happy to be there, then they make people feel that way when they come in,” Miller says. “And then if we have amazing drinks and foods, it’s all more than the sum of its parts.”
Bar Piccino (1003 Minnesota Street) debuts Friday, August 26 and will be open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.