Shhh, it’s a secret
I was in Milan, looking for a giggle. I had heard about a bar that didn’t exist. Well, at least not in the find-it-in-the-phone-book sense of existing. Rumor had it that there was an itsy-bitsy hole-in-the-wall that served delicious and beautifully mixed drinks – a speakeasy, where to enter, you just needed to know how and who to ask.
A little bit of flirty chatter with the men of Mag Cafè (with owners Flavio Angiolillo and Marco Russo, to be precise) and I was given a number, told to send a message, and wait for the response. Once I had the address, I crossed town and landed in front of a quickie mart. Yes, a cheapish convenience store whose counter was stocked with everything from water and panini to waving plastic cats and herbal medicine. An aproned attendant asked for my name, whispered it into a medical cabinet, and walked me through a secret door.
1930. Millenovecentotrenta. It rolls off the tongue with the same ease as its delicious cocktails. Angiolillo and Russo’s cozy speakeasy is hidden behind the hustle and bustle of Italy’s fashion capital. First, the atmosphere. Very 1930s, with exposed brick walls, warm tones, and period furniture: gramophones, leather couches, telephone tables, and credenzas. Fitzgerald, Gillespie, Piaf, and Armstrong are on replay. The joint only fits about 35 card-carrying members, but that’s the point. This isn’t the party. This is the other side of things.
Like all 21st-century speakeasies, 1930 is all about creativity, with a splash of cuteness. On-point bartenders with styled hair, pressed shirts, and sleeve garters mix a curated menu of cocktails that changes seasonally. I had Sushi (salmon-infused vodka with a litchi and roe) and Sherbert (Pimm’s, ginger syrup, mashed lemons), then perused 1930’s novella of a menu penned by Michael Love. It’s filled with Love’s short stories, cocktail listing, and food suggestions designed by some of Milan’s best chefs.
1930 is serious, so serious that 50s Best consistently names it in its top bars in the world. Yes, there are a lot of speakeasies happening, and maybe the trend is clichè, but 1930 is a cut above everything else for its amazing cocktail program- the best moonshine in Europe. And this year’s menu has an Africa focus sourcing particular ingredients like niche grape varieties from Algeria and baobab tree.
Russo, Angiolillo, and the bartenders know their cocktails and their customers. They created a place where their friends could hang out – a sophisticated, cocktail-loving spot away from the craze of Milan, where there would be no lines to get in and lots of elbow room. The catch? Russo and Angiolillo won’t tell you anything unless you know how to ask. Check it out on Instagram.com/1930cocktailbar because I can’t print the address.
A version article first appeared in Fathom in June 2014.