Bar e Cucina: Modern & Bold Dining

A new wind of change has arrived on the local restaurant scene (see video) with the recent inauguration of Bar e Cucina (via dei Neri 12/R). The establishment represents a homecoming for owners Matteo Mechelli and Matteo Boglione—both of whom returned to their birthplace, Florence, after a career in New York.

Both share a modern and bold vision, one reflected in Bar e Cucina.

“We wanted simplicity in a city layered with history,” says Mechelli. He was responsible for the name “the idea was to have a counter with a kitchen and a few tables so that people could come in for a glass of wine and stay for a meal if they wish” and the décor. Complementing the clean lines of the tables and chairs is a bookcase from the ‘50s behind the bar, lighting fixtures from the ‘40s, and faithful reproductions of 1920s-inspired Tom Dixon lamps.

Matteo Boglione is the chef, and although young, has already had a notable career. Mentored by culinary star Daniele Pescatore, Boglione went on to create restaurants in Boston’s Financial District and New York’s Tribeca before returning to Le Cirque as an executive chef. He had previously established Le Cirque’s restaurants in India for the Maccioni family.

“My recipes are simple, revisitations of classics with a contemporary twist. In glowing lights on the walls is Boglione’s signature recipe for crème brulée: cream, pecorino cheese and eight egg yolks. Bar e Cucina’s menu is different for lunch and dinner, although dishes are always seasonally based, with an emphasis on fresh fish in the evening.

With a clear influence traced to New York brunch, the lunch menu (available between 11 am and 3 pm) includes a fantastic club sandwich with breast of chicken, bacon and a sunny side up egg, smoked salmon on toast accompanied by poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, avocado and tomato, a Caesar salad consisting of romaine lettuce, anchovies and parmesan with a poached egg on the side in addition to an authentic eggs Benedict with hollandaise sauce on toasted bread.

Not to be overlooked is the hamburger or the cheeseburger, topped with tomato relish instead of ketchup. For those who cannot do without pasta, there is garganelli with fresh tomato, black olives, smoked scamorza cheese and basil pesto.

Dinner (7 – 11 pm) brings veal tonnato 2.0: a fried veal Milanese cutlet with mayo, capers, grilled tomatoes, lemon and a tuna roll; potato tortellini sauced with clams, calamari, tomatoes and leek purée; a salad with cannellini beans, cod fish, pickled red onions and a garlic vinaigrette plus other offerings.

The wine list favors small vineyards and local producers. Above, all, “Bar e Cucina is a place to come and relax,” says Mechelli, who, like Boglione, is the son of a Florentine father and American mother.

Their mothers are Susan Mechelli and Mary Rose Pincelli, the latter well known in expat (and local) circles for her career as a dental hygienist. Despite being in Florence and New York at the same time, their sons only met recently through mutual acquaintances. “I feel at home in both countries,” says Mechelli. It is a philosophy evident throughout Bar e Cucina. (rosanna cirigliano)