Tuesday, June 12, 2012
An Apero at Zucca in Galleria in Milano, Italy
My friend and oyster Guru Jon Rawley sent me and others via facebook recently the question: What do you expect from an oyster bar? I started to think about this question. To begin with, all oyster bars I know are not places to hang out. You get there, order you oysters, eat them and you move on. You do not stay and have a couple of glasses of wine or beer. Incidentally, I do not recall to have seen any oyster bars in Paris. There, people eat oysters in a brasserie at a table, but not at a bar.
Here is Jon's lovely article: "If I had an Oyster Bar".
When I was in a bar in Milano recently – Zucca in Galleria, right in the center of town, next to the Milano Cathedral – I also noticed a number of things I thought were noteworthy to write down.
I went to the bar at around 6:30, the time when Paris bars are full with clients who take a drink, often a glass of wine, before dinner at 8:00.
What is Different in Italian Bars
First, you always pay in advance at a cash register. You get a ticket there and then hand the ticket to the barman who serves you the drink.
Second, the habit of opening a tab is unknown. People do not hang out at the bar. They come for a quick drink (and bite) and move on. There is little conversation among the people at the bar.
Third, I ordered a glass of wine. It took them some time to get me the wine, because I was the only one who has having a glass of wine. People ordered Grappa, Bellini, Campari, Café, but not wine. In Italy, more than in other countries, I found, wine is a drink that accompanies meals. You do not drink wine without food. Italian wines are perfect food wines.
Fourth, there was basically no selection of wines, as is the case in many other countries, like in the US or in France. You had a choice between a rosso and a bianco and both wines were vino de tavola, the lowest category in the Italian quality ladder for wines. Remember, I was in the center of Milano.
Fifth, there were no bar chairs at the bar; everyone was standing. However, if you wanted to sit, you could, outside in the Galleria at small tables and people did this. I think there is no service at these tables (but I am not sure); you have to go through the same procedure, starting at the cash register.
Sixth, the bar counter – in the early evening - was stuffed with snacks and everyone was snacking. At the Zucca they offered cucumbers, onions, chips and salty pastry. In other places I have seen cheeses and also charcuterie.
Seventh, Zucca in Galleria was dark at 8:00 pm; they close very early.
Zucca in Galleria
On the corner of Piazza del Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, historic Zucca in Galleria has been a Milanese stalwart since 1867, when the Galleria opened. There are glorious Liberty dining rooms upstairs, which I did not see, but most people come here for an espresso in the morning or a drink and a bite during the aperitivo hour. Its prime location at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II entrance gives a great view of the Cathedral of Milan.
This elegant bar was opened by Gaspare Campari, the founder of Campari company, and it became one of the most vibrant centers of the Italian cultural, political and industrial exchange. King Umberto the First used to come here for the best “espresso” and this was the favorite relaxing place of musicians Giuseppe Verdi and Arturo Toscanini after performing at La Scala Theatre.
Rabarbaro Zucca Amaro Liqueur
The famous entrance sign promoting Zucca, a rhubarb-based amaro liqueur, gives the bar the unofficial name by which most locals refer to it. Created in 1845 by Ettore Zucca, this rabarbaro (rhubarb) Amaro liqueur was a symbol of sophistication in Milan. King Vittorio Emanuele insisted that it be served in the royal court, and many fine restaurants began serving it as well. Based on Chinese medicine, this rich Amaro is infused with rhubarb rootstock, cardamom seeds, China fruit, bitter orange peel and other herbs. Its delicate, bittersweet flavors are joined by a hint of smoke on the finish.
Closed Monday. Open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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