Tuesday, August 4, 2015

I Love This Bar, Part I

Bar Santo Stefano
 “All true friendliness begins with fire and food and drink..."   ― G.K. Chesterton

Last year at this time, I was just starting my first week in Bologna.  After I finally woke up the morning after I arrived, I went in search of cappuccino. As luck would have it, Bar Santo Stefano was a 15-second walk from my apartment.  I stumbled in the door and ordered a cap and apricot brioche from the guy behind the bar.  As I stood and had my breakfast, we talked.

His name was Cesar, and he and his significant other, Lilli, had just bought the bar.  That morning, August 1, 2014, was their first day as owners of the bar.  Originally from Barcelona, Cesar had met Lilli when he was working in China. They worked together in Piacenza and decided to open their own bar in Bologna.  I was one of their first customers.


I had gone in the bar in search of coffee but also to see if I could connect with someone in Bologna. Since I was there alone, I wanted to have friends who would know to keep an eye out for me. They became friends, and I enjoyed talking to them on my daily visits.  I had cappuccini and got to practice my Italian...except when I lapsed into Spanish with Cesar. 

 Bars in Italy are not quite what bars in the US are.  Italian bars offer offer everything from espresso and brioche in the morning to panini and soda in the afternoon to appetizers and drinks in the evening.  Bar Santo Stefano is no different. Cesar usually opens the bar between 6:30 and 7:00 to serve people on their way to work or school.  Lilli joins him around 9:00 or so, and late in the morning, he goes home to rest. After he returns, they work together until they close, sometimes as late as 8:00 or 9:00 pm.

Cesar is a great cook.  When I asked him if they could provide aperitifs for my two tour groups this year, he made a number of different things that included a Spanish tortilla (eggs and potato omelette), something with tuna, something with peppers, and a few other things. I don't remember what everything was, but they were all great.


If you were to ask everyone in my groups what they thought about Bar Santo Stefano, I think they would all tell you the same thing:  Cesar and Lilli are wonderful people.  The bar is a friendly and comfortable oasis on a busy street.

 Last year, Mike didn't have the chance to get to know Cesar and Lilli since he was only in Bologna one night. I'm glad he got the opportunity to meet them this year.

"Thanks for watching out for Chris," Mike told Cesar after he arrived this year.  "I appreciate it."

"I am like her little brother," Cesar replied.  He most certainly is.

With Lilli and Cesar this year...
Tomorrow: More of what makes Bar Santo Stefano #1 in Bologna

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