Bar Carolina’s Southern Italian Wine Obsession

From Italian Sunday Roast sessions to BYO available on weekdays with no corkage charges, Bar Carolina in South Yarra salutes the good old fashion way of dining out, with a streak of wild side, where all that matters is a great meal, awesome company and a killer drink list.

With more than 200 wines on offer, the strong focus is on southern Italian varietals here – where fiano from Puglia and digestives from Calabria add to the authentic mood that owner Joe Mammone is tapping into at this southside institution.

New Head Chef Pieter Buijsse (Jackalope, Laura at Pt. Leo Estate) has joined the Bar Carolina team, plating the classics on a Monday – think spaghetti alle vongole and puttanesca for $30 to kick start the working week.

“A new chef is an opportunity to change things up in South Yarra,” explains owner Joe Mammone.

Mammone works closely with his sommelier of five years Alessandro Spezzacatena – both of Southern Italian heritage and with a love for this region’s wine output, it’s no wonder 60% of their drink list captures the best of the bunch.

“We wanted to focus on the quality of the southern Italian varietals and one we are loving right now is a new sparkling rosè from Puglia called Cantele Rohesia. It’s floral and elegant and you won’t get to taste this at many restaurants,” says Mammone. The negroamaro is coral rose coloured with rich aromas that evoked the flowers and fruits of a Pugliese spring.

“The aim is to get our diners to try something they wouldn’t otherwise try when they dine out,” says Mammone. “We’re putting wines on the list that aren’t your standard pinot grigio offering – we want people to add to the magic of exploring other wines,” he says.

A hidden gem from Mammone’s Calabrian heritage hometown is Scala Cirò Rosso – a wine that’s decidedly delicious and a humble mix of red crafted from vines planted more than 60 years ago – think herbs with a hint of leather.

“Gone are the days of putting wines on the list for three months and then moving away from it, we change it up every six weeks, it allows us to interact with the customers a lot more, and keeps it interesting for them. They come in curious about what we’ve discovered next,” says Mammone.

When it comes to the cocktails, the lavender spritz continues to be a local favourite. “You can’t take that off the list if you tried,” says Mammone of its eight-year reign at the bar.The Italian classics come served three ways – a red negroni, a white negroni and a green one.

The latter perfected with the help of Maidenii’s Shaun Byrne who created the vermouth fusion of basil, rhubarb and gintan for a special pour at Bar Carolina.

It’s also where you’ll find the award-winning Bloody Fizz classic cocktail [Bar Carolina won a Four Pillars competition four years ago and this hit is still on the menu] while the Italian digestive Vecchio Amaro del Capo gives a reason to get sentimental for southern Italian holidays, yet salute it to from the comfort of this South Yarra bar.

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