Vesuvio mixes history with the drinks and coffee

Vesuvio We usually try to not kick off happy hour earlier than, say, 5 p.m., but Vesuvio bartender Tony Lioce has given us a newfound reason to go as early as, say, 6 a.m. That’s when the Rhode Island transplant starts his shift at this famous bar, which has seen the likes of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums at its stools. Lioce first visited the bar in 1975. In fact, it was the very first place he dropped in to see. Take that, Golden Gate Bridge! Now, 34 years later, the former newspaper reporter works from 6 a.m. to noon on Sundays through Tuesdays, and he’s a treat to meet. The private tables on the second floor are the perfect way to dream and drink away the day. And if you’re wondering where all the artists have gone; they’re now working here. 255 Columbus Ave., S.F.; (415) 362-3370, www.vesuvio.com

So how are you liking the career switch? I’m loving it! The biggest difference between working at a place like this and working at a place like the Mercury News is that in a place like this, if anybody gives you a hard time you can throw them out. At the Mercury News you say, “Yes, sir.”

If you think about it, it’s kind of like being a reporter, you just don’t have to write about it … though you could. It’s all those interrogation skills, getting people to talk, because that’s the job. Anybody can make a drink. The good bartenders are the guys who make people feel welcome, they bring him in, you get them to talk, “How you doin’, where you from?” And it’s the same thing that an interviewer has to use to penetrate that sometimes frosty exterior that people will put up to protect themselves.

This bar opens every day at 6 a.m. Who comes by at 6 a.m. to get a drink? It’s amazing. Every time I tell people they have images of all these hopeless degenerates … and there’s some of that, but you just get a lot of people who were working all night, like hotel people. They’re just getting off so they’re coming for their 5 o’clock cocktail. You get a lot of people who just come in for coffee. You do get the odd businessman who wants to have a little shot before he has to go face the pressures of the day. But what I love about this bar is it’s a really great combination of neighborhood bar and a tourist trap in the best sense.

What do you typically order? Oh, I’ll drink anything except nickels. I like Manhattans. I’ve developed a taste for Manhattans in my dotage. But it depends. I’m not a big beer drinker because I get full. I drink two beers and I’m full. I really envy those people who sit and drink beer all day because they look like they’re having a great time.

If you could serve a drink to anyone, who would it be? Arthur Lee, who had this band called Love that came out of L.A. in the ’60s. They had three albums and then by the time they were 23, they just fell apart. Too much acid.

What would you serve him? Probably something to calm him down.
 — Tiffany Martini

 

Irish Coffee

Add a little spoon of brown sugar to the bottom of a glass Irish coffee mug. Fill with coffee two-thirds of the way up. Add Powers Irish Whiskey until the liquid is ¼ inch from the top. Take heavy cream and whip in an old-fashioned blender. Float over the top.

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