The Locarno Bar

From the outside, the Hotel Locarno in Rome, situated in ideal proximity to the Piazza del Popolo, looks fairly unremarkable. But it houses one of the best restaurant bars in Rome, if not Italy. Isabella Rosellini has called the establishment her living room when in Rome, and it’s easy to imagine her sitting in one of the plush corners enjoying the eclectic and at times daring mix of jazz and seventies glam rock. As if haunted by an aged grandeur, the curiously decorated central room resembles a pre-war youth hostel dressed up as a 1920s gentleman’s club. A gilded mirror hangs above the open fireplace, which fills the room with a suggestively wicked air. It’s like being in a Prohibition Era speakeasy in Al Capone’s Chicago.

When Catarina Valente, daughter of the hotel owner, realized that Rome didn’t have a single classic bar to speak of, she decided to do something about it. She spent an entire year traveling the globe, visiting hotel bars and meeting acclaimed mixologists, all the while acquiring the knowledge required to open a bar that takes itself seriously. With her newfound expertise she returned to Rome to create a menu that rivals the very best bars in the world. Taste profiles remain grounded in traditional recipes – delicately interpreted – that incorporate cocktail bases made on-site from the best ingredients. In addition to superb drinks, Locarno does offer a limited but thought-through menu of exceptional Italian home cooking. It’s worth indulging in one of the homemade pasta dishes, served with a selection of delicious local antipasti, even if the gastronomy plays the supporting role here.

One evening, a few fellow guests, engaged in seemingly profound conversation, sip Negronis and the like. As if in deference to this timeless backdrop, no one talks, texts, or even looks on their mobile device. This is no small matter, especially given how much Italians love their telefonini. PK

This review is included in TTA7. Click here for more information about the issue.

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