With a classic, understated decor and a unique menu featuring Roman inspired food and drink, Locanda has, in just a matter of months, become one of the busiest hot spots in the Mission. When he has a chance to catch his breath, lead bartender Michael Sager has added innovative cocktails to the menu — and he and his staff also serve up unique cocktails created and designed on the spot. Part of the Delfina Group, the restaurant’s expansive wine list features wines of the continent, as well as local wine on tap.
Locanda, 557 Valencia St., San Francisco, (415) 863-6800, www.locandasf.com
How long have you been bartending? I was a barista in Switzerland, where I’m from, and ended up in London in 2006 where I worked in a restaurant as a server. I spoke Spanish, which was good because it was a Spanish place. After two months, I was bartending. Then I joined Milk and Honey, which is the U.K.’s most-prestigious bar company.
When did you come here? I came here four months ago. I liked it so much that I handed in my resignation. I was a wine buyer and getting a diploma in wine, which is kind of why I moved here. This is the place to be if you are into wine and food.
What’s the concept of this bar? This is a neighborhood bar that uses our California resources. The whole food concept is Roman. We also have the widest selection of amaro [Italian herbal liqueur] in town and have a whole shelf of amaro glasses.
What’s the cocktail menu like? We print new menus every day and we rotate the drinks every month, reflecting the seasonalities of the region. For example, I went to the farmers market and asked what is the best now. They said cantaloupe melon, and so we are using that.
How would you describe the cocktails? We like to make supersimple cocktails and drinks never have more than four or five ingredients. We don’t use speed pour and pour directly from the bottle and measure with a jigger.
How do you come up with new drinks? I smell an ingredient and then I write down what I smelled. Then I look for contrasting or complementing ingredients. Sometimes it takes 10 to 15 tries to get the perfect mix.
What’s your most-popular drink? It’s the La Bella Confusione, which is the bartender’s choice. You tell us your favorite spirit and we’ll make a drink.
The menu is not self-explanatory. Why is that? That’s always a point of conversation. I like it when a menu provokes a conversation.
What do you like about bartending? I like the social factor and the creative factor. I like approaching old cocktails and making them drinkable again. What I like here the most is the creativity. I also like the competitive factor and being a host. There’s music, the lights, the environment. The drink is only 10 percent of that.
Shake and strain over cubed ice into a double rocks glass. Garnish with an orange slice and a mint sprig.