Piccolo Bar, the faded 69-year-old former star of the Sydney hospitality scene, reopens this week after a life-saving reboot from new owner David Spanton.
It's a risky play. Located just off the main drag of Kings Cross, the precinct has, to say the least, been hit and miss. With just 12 seats inside and eight outside, there isn't much margin for error. And Spanton is tweaking the espresso bar model that has etched Piccolo on the psyche of Sydneysiders since 1952. He has transformed it into an aperitivo bar and diner.
"Back when it opened, there wasn't good coffee in Australia, but times have changed and the coffee market has been flooded, so it lost its relevance," he says.
Spanton's interest in the site was initially altruistic, drawn to it after he learned Piccolo was about to be lost to Sydney forever. But he realised it needed to forge a new path to survive. He drafted in designer Michael Delany (Honkytonks, The Oxford Tavern) to reshape the space yet still offer a nod to its history. While the venue has been given plenty of lipstick, the famed photo wall remains.
Spanton hopes the aperitivo bar is the 21st century equivalent of the mid-20th century espresso bar. "It's a really small space with not much storage, so we've concentrated on cocktails with fewer ingredients, which usually brings you back to the classics," he says.
The "low-key" lockdown launch will see Piccolo offer a takeaway menu of cocktails by the bottle and a pruned food menu. It's booze-friendly fare: pork and pistachio terrine, Ortiz anchovies, a goat's curd and piquillo pepper panino, and a LP's frankfurt hot dog.
"It's good to open up, work out some of the systems, and meet and greet the locals. I hope we can cover our costs, it'll be good to get going," he says.
Lockdown hours: Wed-Sat noon-5pm.
6 Roslyn Street, Potts Point