The importance of well-considered restaurant design cannot be overstated, and a good designer understands that everything the guests see, hear, smell, touch and taste becomes part their dining experience and forms a memory they will either choose to repeat, or forget in entirety.
Given that Jared Merlino’s latest venture, Bartolo, is named after his great-grandfather, it follows that the design is one that was always going to be ‘close to home’. The brief was to create a warm, inviting space that could successfully transition from early morning coffee service to a late-night cocktail bar, and everything in between. The finished design is a modern interpretation of classic Art Deco character, working with a palette of dirty greens and blues, accented with chrome details and solid walnut timber.
Jared’s rich family history was a beautiful starting point for the design, and for designer and friend, Pete Harley from Archery Rd. Pete was inspired by the story of Bartolo’s immigration to Australia, and the life he built for his family. ‘Stories like that of the Merlino family are so woven into the fabric of our country and have played a pivotal role in making the culinary scene in Australia what it is today,’ explains Harley. ‘A lot of the design elements were chosen to reflect the style of the period when Bartolo came to Australia. In fact, I spent time imagining all of the things he would have been seeing and doing at that point in history and then distilled these into a modern restaurant space.’ Original family photos and documents, along with Aunty Rita’s champion greyhounds, all provided the perfect visual language to tell the story, with the family story woven into the design narrative from the outset.
Some of the more noteworthy design details include the 12-metre custom-profiled green marble benchtops that run the length of the venue – from the espresso bar to the bar and the kitchen pass. A personal favourite of Pete’s, everything about the bar is completely bespoke. To encourage a casual interaction with patrons and bar staff, Jared and Pete meticulously planned the proportions and layout of the bar and working areas. The green marble was sourced from offshore quarries and finished with a custom-edge profile, and the stunning detailed timber moulding and veneer work on the bar fascia were finished with a custom Archery Rd walnut veneer.
Additional standout design elements include bespoke indoor and outdoor table tops featuring the trademark Bartolo Double Bullnose and vintage light fittings throughout, including original 1940s Prague tram lights! Pete also created a custom ‘Bartolo Green’ paint colour for this project, which features on the bar fronts and original windows.
Jared’s vision for Bartolo was always to create a space that felt like a little Italian home that catered for amazing drinking and dining experiences across both day and night.
Upon opening in November 2018, Jared started the application process for a PSA (Primary Service Authorisation) that would allow guests to drink without having to dine. It has taken six months, but this has now come through along with extended trading hours. This is an opportunity for Jared and his team to focus back on their strengths, which are cocktails, long lunches and late-night dining. With the PSA approval, Jared and Pete have worked together to make some subtle venue changes, including a distinct bar area at the front of the venue, with beautiful walnut floorboards and bar-height tables and stools to cater for those who want a more drinks-focused experience. The dining room has also been carpeted to make the space feel even more inviting and homely for those late-night hours.
The recent renovations are an exciting evolution for Bartolo. It has become a much more cosy and intimate space – perfect for long sessions spent exploring everything the F&B menus have to offer!
359 Crown Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
0455 027 378