The story of Adelaide’s newest small bar, Bar Torino, starts a long time ago, with the invention of vermouth and its journey from Italy to Spain.
The story of Adelaide’s newest small bar, Bar Torino, starts a long time ago, with the invention of vermouth and its journey from Italy to Spain. The aromatic wine was refined and brought to mass consumption by the Martini & Rossi Company of Torino, Italy in 1863. From there, the drink penetrated society’s higher circles and made its way to Barcelona in 1893, where its popularity flourished even further. In 1902, Café Torino opened in Barcelona, and established itself as the first vermouth bar, becoming second home to much of the city’s bourgeois and creative classes. This link of vermouth’s birth in Torino and journey to Barcelona represents the key analogy in Bar Torino’s concept. What used to be a deli beside Chianti Classico has been transformed into a sophisticated vermouth and tapas bar, promising to blend the best of Spanish and Italian cuisine. The bar is a new offering from Adelaide’s Favaro family, proprietors of the acclaimed bastion of fine Italian dining in Adelaide, Chianti Classico, now branded Chianti for its 30th year. While Frank and Maria Favaro have always run Chianti – from its 16 years in Light Square and following 14 on Hutt Street – it is the next Favaro generation, the brother-sister duo of Nick and Jess, who run the new small bar. Bar Torino’s logo is an homage to Picasso’s Bull’s Head sculpture, and represents that Spanish-Italian blend perfectly. Picasso welded a bike’s handlebars to an old seat to create the piece. The Favaros have brought together these distinct but irrevocably linked European cultures together to form Bar Torino. Indeed, using the image of the bull, a national Spanish icon, and the Italian city of Torino, which translates to ‘little bull’, reinforces this welding of traditions. Sitting in the back of Bar Torino, the Favaro family explain their journey from idea to reality in this brand new bar over glasses of chilled vermouth. Frank says establishing a bar outside of the restaurant has been a dream of his for more than 10 years. While Chianti does have its own bar inside the restaurant, onerous liquor licensing legislation has made it difficult to run that bar as would be expected. For example, one stipulation of the restaurant liquor licence means that patrons must be seated at all times when drinking, or the licence might be revoked. The opportunity to make Frank’s dream a reality came with the introduction and continuing success of the Small Bar Legislation. Frank says the legislation “created something we could grasp more easily” where patrons can move freely, socialise and dine on tapas while they sip vermouth or sherry. This social aspect of the bar is a key to Bar Torino’s design. Nick Favaro lived in Barcelona for a period and came to revel in Spain’s laid-back approach to eating and drinking. Maria chimes in, noting that it took Nick a while to get used to the Spanish way of life, initially preferring to dine at Italian restaurants, but he warmed to the culture. “It took a while to get used to,” Nick says. “You might see people drinking a beer together at 11am in Spain.” This culture of food, drink and social life being so intertwined in Spain is something the Favaros want to capture with Bar Torino. “I’ve always wanted to have something like that. This bar is more about the culture of eating and drinking together,” Frank says. While Nick and Jess have always been around their family’s business, their journey to building and running a bar was not as linear as one might presume. Nick is an accountant by trade and Jess is a trained lawyer. “Do you want to run the bar?” was the question put to Nick over drinks one night. Four weeks later he left his job to begin planning and building the new bar. Of course, having years of experience around Chianti and their restauranteur parents makes that transition all the more easy. “We’ve grown up in the restaurant. We have that understanding of what’s coming,” Jess says. Glancing around Bar Torino, it is clear they already have it under control. The interior is a flawless and contemporary take on a tapas joint. The Favaros enlisted Mandy Keillor, the same designer who fitted out Chianti, Keillor, as it happens, lives in Barcelona. Low-hanging bulbs with large glowing filaments line the edges of the bar, where hard, smooth benchtops and mirrors are interspersed with rustic ornaments, such as oversized cutlery and weatherworn cabinets. Original brickwork hems the long structure, exposed and jagged in the dim light. “We got really lucky,” Jess says, noting the brickwork on the wall Chianti and Bar Torino share. “We pulled all the plaster back not knowing what we would find, but it came up really well.” Next door, Chianti’s design is smoother, aimed at a fine dining experience, while Bar Torino has a bohemian feel to it, as though it’s been transported from an older, smokier time. In terms of food, the bar will serve a variety of tapas and pintxos, inspired by Nick’s time in Spain’s Basque and Catalan regions, with influences from the family’s hereditary experience in Italian cuisine. Frank makes a comparison between the traditional Aussie pub, where set meal times and dishes are de rigueur, and European bars, where food and drink can be had at any hour. “People love to share food now,” he says, emphasising the changing tastes of modern punters. Customers shouldn’t be restricted to predictable fare at certain times. They should have the freedom to have what they like, when they like. The family nods, agreeing on that ethos. “They love to try different things,” Jess says. The establishment of this new bar beside Chianti is not a passing of the flame from Frank and Maria to Jess and Nick, but rather an addition to Hutt Street’s bar and restaurant set. This, like so many of the small bars emerging in the city centre, represents a rejuvenation of local gastronomic culture. As evidenced by Chianti and Bar Torino’s co-existence, there is space in Adelaide for these styles of fine-dining and tapas establishments to sit side by side. There is freedom for young and old to choose their venue now, whether it is award-winning Italian cuisine in Chianti, or the fusion of the Italian and Iberian peninsulas in Bar Torino. The way the Favaros have approached this ambitious and invigorating project proves that an old idea can spark something wonderfully new. Bar Torino 158 Hutt Street, Adelaide 8155 6010 bartorino.com.au chianti.net.au