In Genoa's Piazza delle Erbe there is the Gradisca Café, a cocktail bar that has managed to make its way thanks to the solid relationship it has managed to build with its customers and the quality of the cocktails offered. In the recent period, two ideas have been developed: a line of professional products, Gradisca Spirits, and a new venue, Gradisca Lab. We interviewed the partner and bar manager of the Gradisca Cafè Giulio Tabaletti and the one who will be primarily responsible for the new sign, Tommaso Gava.
Hi Giulio, when and by whom was the Gradisca Cafè opened?
After some experience between the city and the Riviera during university, first as a waiter and then as a barman, I decided to return here to open Gradisca, together with my parents, in 2006. At the beginning it was a neighborhood tobacconist's bar then, by obtaining the adjacent room, we managed to split the two activities.
In what context did you inaugurate your restaurant? When did you start doing research and what flavors does the Genoese prefer?
We opened in an area, Piazza delle Erbe, which is very busy in the evening, and this is why from the beginning we also focused on this time slot. The historical moment in which we opened coincided with the explosion of mixing. When the level of supply dropped significantly in the streets surrounding Piazza delle Erbe, in 2008-2009, we decided to raise prices and do more research, proposing a unique mix in our area and which at the time could be in other 2-3 places in the city. Now there is a lot of research, experimentation and willingness to try. From the beginning, despite the large capacity of the place - organized on two floors and with 120 seats between outside and inside plus those at the counter - we have always tried to offer a tailor-made service. Over the years we have created recipes that have become certainties for our customers, such as the Negroni Superbo which, despite not being on the drink list for 4 years, they continue to request from us. It's a twist on the Negroni with Hippocratic wine from Porco Sarvego replacing the vermouth, which gives a slightly softer and very spicy result. It is a cocktail that our very varied clientele - ranging from 25 year olds to 40 year olds - loved and still loves very much because the Genoese prefer bitter and intense cocktails. In Genoa, cocktails such as the Gin Tonic, the Bloody Mary, the Martini and the Negroni are popular. I believe that the context in which we are working has lowered the demands of customers who, in order to have a drink, adapt and no longer have time to queue.
What type of proposals do you offer during the day?
In this period we have decided to focus on collaboration with 3-4 companies that make high quality street food, to help each other. We provide the place settings and the cocktails and they provide the food: from the fish sandwiches of Mescite Erbe to those of Roast 'n Roll, and from the burritos of Veracruz to the vegan brunch proposal in collaboration with the Jaa Nù Vegan Food delicatessen.
In recent months you have launched another project, Gradisca Spirits. Can you tell us about it?
Gradisca Spirits is the realization of an idea that I and the person who would become my future partner, Andrea Tomasi, had five years ago. We wanted to create a line of spirits for our restaurant, in order to offer an exclusive product for customers. The many activities that we have been involved in in recent years did not allow us to think about it calmly until the previous quarantine when, with the entry of two new partners - Tommaso Gava and Matteo Finocchiaro - we were finally able to dedicate ourselves to the project. Unlike what was initially thought, we have chosen to create a line of four references - we are evaluating others for 2021 - which we can also distribute in other cocktail bars.
What products have you created? What inspired you to choose the name?
We have studied 4 recipes - a gin, a bitter, a low-alcohol aperitif liqueur and a vodka - to offer bartenders a quality alternative to the classic products on the market. The Gin 969 it is a 40 degree distilled, in whose recipe we wanted to create the feeling you get walking in the city on a windy day, given by marine and citrus algae and bitter orange. It is perfect for making a gin and tonic with lemon, because it does not contain citric notes inside. The Bitter UAU it is a very bitter product, made with all the classic bitter spices, such as cascarilla, quassio and cloves, but with a lower quantity of sugar and a higher alcohol content than the standard: 28% vol. instead of 24. It exalts itself perfectly in the great classics. L'Centoventitré aperitif it is an aperitif liqueur with a low alcohol content - 11% vol - with an excellent citrus component, and a lower sugar content than that of classic aperitif liqueurs. It is made with lemon, rhubarb and gentian and is perfect for preparing a spritz or a low alcohol drink. There Vodka 31r it is characterized by a delicate flavour, with a spiciness that varies across all the nuances of anethole, with notes of fennel, licorice and anise, and a few degrees of alcohol less than the standard, 37,5% vol. In all the products, except for the bitter, the name was inspired by some characteristic elements of the city of Genoa. The '31r' of the vodka stands for 31 Rosso, my first place, the '969' of the gin is the city code of the health card and the '123' of the aperitif is the local postcode. As mentioned previously, for the bitter we made a different choice: 'UAU' is the expression we said the first time we tasted it, while the red lines depicted on the label represent the square of our restaurant.
Who takes care of the production aspect? In what formats do you sell your products and where do you distribute them?
After a long search to choose who would take care of the distillation, we chose Casoni Fabbricazione Liquori, a company from Finale Emilia (MO) with over 200 years of experience with which, after just two meetings and four tastings carried out in a time of five months, we have developed the definitive recipes. The four products were made in the liter format only, for convenience and for a question of environmental sustainability, in order to use less glass. As mentioned before, our target is primarily cocktail bars. Since they are simple recipes, we do not veto them because they cannot be found in other places, absolutely. For example, Gin 969 can be used in the kitchen for marinades, as can bitters, which has a very herbaceous bittering part. Cuzziol Craft takes care of the distribution of Gradisca Spirits throughout Italy. We are also delivering them to our customers in combination with other products, such as tonic, ginger beer or vermouth, in cocktail kits, to make classics such as Gin Tonic.
Could you give us three cocktail recipes with Gradisca Spirits?
'Fizz like you mean it' with Banana Shrub, Bitter UAU, Tonic Water and Sea Water Drops, 'Tepache or you don't like it' with Vodka 31r, Aperitif 123, Tepache, Lemon Juice and Grapefruit Soda, and ' Genovesi a Bassano', in collaboration with Distilleria Nardini, with Gin 969, Bitter UAU, Tagliatella Nardini, egg white and tonic water.
Do you plan to take the Gradisca Cafè mixing idea elsewhere too, Tommaso?
Yes, we are planning to open another place, Gradisca Lab, the idea for which was born during the quarantine. There is this street that runs next to Gradisca, San Donato, the parallel to Piazza delle Erbe, where there is everything negative that is said about nightlife. Previously there was a place here, Alla Goccia, which opened in 2008 and where I worked for 9 years. The strong point was the speed in preparing the cocktails and we, with this opening, want to maintain this workhorse and bring the idea of Gradisca here.
How will Gradisca Lab's proposal be structured? And the venue?
The offer will be that of cocktails in chupito format, in which quality will be the real strong point. The aim will be to have multiple flavors tasted on the same evening, even in tasting courses starting from the same alcoholic base. We decided to dry up the previous menu, which had 300 proposals, by about two thirds, and to include both some great classics from the previous brand and from Gradisca. We want to offer a quality but at the same time mass service. The place will be very small and, in addition to the 20-25 seats inside, it will work a lot with orders at the counter. For those who like it, upon request we will also prepare cocktails in the classic format, for the aperitif but also for after dinner.
Can you give us two examples of cocktails that can be tasted at Gradisca Lab?
The former is a trademark of the place that has been served since day one. It's called Mental Suck and it's a spectacular shot, prepared with absinthe and a little mint and consumed in two well-defined and secret steps. The second is instead a classic from Gradisca Cafè, also very scenic. It's called Dis Topic Mule and is made with gin, buttered beetroot extract, ginger beer, lemon and sugar.
When will you open?
The venue is ready and we are just waiting for the right moment. We decided to give a refresh to this place that had been around for many years and which closed in March, making some aesthetic changes. We have chosen to take up this challenge because we believe the perception of drinking well is being lost. We voluntarily open in a difficult area to encourage conscious consumption. The Gradisca Cafè will remain what it is today, with the possibility of tasting the same mix during the aperitif and after dinner, in a nearby restaurant.[:]