With a Italian gold pin sommelier overseeing the wine list, LA's Beer Chicks curating the beer selection, and Vincenzo Marianella (of Copa d'Oro) consulting on the bar program, patrons at Pasadena's Trattoria Neopolis are not likely to go thirsty.
The opulent Italian restaurant and bar boasts grand Italian decor with marble, leather, and dark wood throughout. A wrought iron balcony oversees the long white marble bar at the middle of the restaurant, where the open kitchen and wood-burning pizza oven are also on full display.
This being an Italian eatery, and Vincenzo Marianella being Italian himself, many of the cocktails at Trattoria Neapolis feature Italian liqueurs and cordials. The Italian Necktie, for example, features floral Amaro Meletti mixed with Templeton rye whiskey, Punt e Mes, and mole bitters. For a drink called The Surgeon General, Amaro Montenegro and Amaro Nonino are combined with Old Overholt rye and served in a hickory smoke-filled mason jar.
According to bar manager Ken Baranda, the overall focus of the drinks at Trattoria Neapolis goes beyond amari, though. "While we wanted to have some Italian influence with our drinks," says Baranda, "we also wanted to focus on market-fresh ingredients, as well as aromatic cocktails that would appeal to everyone."
One such cocktail is the sweet and savory Eve's Desire, which features apple and sage-infused Evan Williams bourbon along with fresh lemon juice, cinnamon, and celery bitters.
While the cocktail menu at Trattoria Neapolis features a number of complex drinks meant to please, Baranda won't necessarily turn down special requests.
"If someone comes in here and asks for a Long Island Iced Tea, we might suggest something like a gin sour with a splash of Coke," said Baranda. "We never say no here, but we do try to meet people where they are at, and gradually teach them about other spirits without making them feel like they've committed some kind of mortal sin."
Baranda's previous bar experiences instilled in him a sort of sixth sense of customer service. "I was in Julian Cox's program at Playa for about a year. Before that I was at Soho House with Chris Ojeda, and before that I was at First & Hope with Naomi Schimek and Marcos Tello," said Barranda. "And although bartenders on the west side tend to be labeled as 'purists' or even 'pretentious', I learned so much about being friendly and just providing great customer service from those previous experiences."
Baranda continued, "Being a bartender really comes down to being a fortune teller. Ask [the customer] a couple questions, see where they are at, and go from there. Usually, our guesses are pretty right."
We asked Baranda which Trattoria Neapolis cocktails he particularly recommends. Check out the slideshow for his top picks.
About the author: Marvin Gapultos is the author of the Filipino food blog, Burnt Lumpia. His first cookbook is due out in 2013. When he isn't cooking or writing about Filipino food, Marvin is usually enjoying a beer or cocktail, and thinking about what to eat with said beer or cocktail. You can follow him on Twitter @BurntLumpia.