You've been to Vini. You've been to Berta. And now, here's 121 BC - the newest member of the family. A couple of issues ago, we wrote about the 121 BC bottle shop, filled with vinuous treasure from every region of Italy. You might recall us having a little liquor crush on gregarious store manager Giorgio De Maria. Well, he's now running the wine bar, attached Voltron-style to the bottle-o. And the only downside to this completely enchanting bar is that there's only one Giorgio to go round.
If you want a seat, get there early. From around 7pm onwards, 121 BC gets an absolute workout and once it's full, it's full - there's a certain amount of settling in that goes on here. And you want to know why? Let's start with the value: most of the wines are around $8 a glass, some at $6 and very few above $10. The by-the-glass gear runs the gamut, from Friuli to Abbruzzo, Sardinia and Basilicata - it's all there. Plenty of it's weird – wines that are biodynamic and preservative-free, not much time on skin, plenty of flavour and depth of character – and we are loving it. And if you're after a bottle of something you can't see on the list, head to the bottle shop next door and choose something off the shelves - it's $15 corkage, but what you lose in pocket change you make up for in deliciousness.
We're also loving the casual, inexpensive menu of tasty bites to eat. The menu pretty much changes day to day so while we can't guarantee there'll be the $8 buffalo mozzarella in carrozza (a carb attack of a pan-fried sandwich filled with melted cheese. Your eyes'll roll to the back of your head) or the Roman beans with sardine butter ($6!), we can tell you should probably order up whatever you can fit in. A minestrone soup with shreds of lamb and bulked out with barley will set you back a mere $8 but if you want to spend a little more and are just looking to prop up the wine offerings with a little edible set dressing, consider the salumi plate. It's $14, so a little jump from the other gear, but you'll get silken ribbons of prosciutto, salami, bresaola, and spicy cacciotore.
121 BC is one of the most important things to have happened to the Sydney bar scene, offering fantastic service, great value wine and food in a sweet, laidback setting. This, wine and food fans, is pretty much the uncut, A-grade stuff of dreams.
There's something to be said for taking choice out of the equation. At 121 BC, the new bottle shop and soon-to-be wine bar from the Andrew Cibej and the Vini crew, it's regional Italian wine, or nothin'. And we really like that. The shelves are filled with everything from natural wines from Friuli to $14 table wine. It's reasonably priced too. Sure, you can buy a $70 bottle of Radikon, but a lot of the gear is in the $35-$45 price bracket. And hell knows, there's nothing better than rocking up to a dinner party toting some delicious Italian wine no one's ever heard of. You might even be lucky enough to taste some of the wine that sommelier/store manager Giorgio De Maria has cracked open that day.