Locanda Bar Preview

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Lou Bustamante
The back bar at Locanda
This Saturday, Locanda, the modernized Roman osteria from chef Anthony Strong and owners Craig and Annie Stoll, opens to the public. Locanda's cocktail program was created by bar manager Eric Alperin.

SFoodie were sad to see that Brian MacGregor wasn't going to serve as bar manager at Locanda, but if anyone could fill those shoes, it's Eric Alperin. An industry vet who has spent time working at places like Little Branch and Milk & Honey in New York, Alperin established the bar at Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles. Osteria Mozza has cocktails with a strong Italian inspiration and a huge amaro collection, which seems to fit the Locanda style. The influence of working at these establishments will not simply show up in the taste of the drinks, but also in the aesthetics and service.

SFoodie spoke to Alperin yesterday to get a sense of what to expect. As of press time, the names and recipes for the drinks were still being finalized. "You want to have your time with [the menu] before you give it to the world," explained Alperin. He was able to confirm that from the list of five cocktails, a few would draw on Locanda's large collection of grappa (a grape-based digestif) and amaros (bitter liqueurs). He describes the program as "classically focused with an Italian twist."

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The Varnish
Eric Alperin behind the bar at The Varnish
In the works is a long drink with ginger, a stirred scotch cocktail, and an aperitivo that's a variation on the Vesper with prosecco. A "bartender's choice" option will expand the selection, with rotating sour, long, and aromatic cocktails each night. Locanda will be using a Kold-Draft machine to create clear ice cubes for mixing, stirring, and long drinks, and using molded two-by-two-inch cubes for old-fashioned-style drinks. The beer selection will include Italian beer, local brews, and Miller High Life. "We want to take the experience seriously, but we don't want to take ourselves too seriously," Alperin said.

The management team hasn't determined who will take over once he goes back to his bar in LA, The Varnish, on May 9, but the six bartenders he's been training -- Jesse Vida, Tonya Keeck, Nahiel Nazzal, Eric Mejia, Alex Phillips, and Harmony Fraga -- will remain. Moving forward, "I always think it's good to have someone to who allows everyone to express and share together," Alperin says, "and I'm sure that someone will be identified to manage that."

Locanda, 557 Valencia (at 17th), 863-6800.

Lou Bustamante tweets at @thevillagedrunk. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.
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