Bar Mercato – The gallery of 150 regluar portraits
It is quite unusual that a bar joins this fast, this easily but definitely my all time favorites. It’s already a good start when a place is located in the Via Belvedere in Bologna, right in front of the Mercato delle Erbe market hall but there is something more about Bar Mercato. On an incredible way, they achieve a certain thing I have missed from other pubs so far: paying tribute to the former regulars of the bar, with the help of 150 paintings on the wall.
First, you only notice that there are quite many paintings around.
This could be a contemporary exhibition just like in the Fun Cool Oh but it’s actually not. You can see the self-portrait of the actual painter in the middle behind the bar as if it was the guardian of the pub and all around him and in front of him, the rest are the portraits of his models, the regulars.
These paintings create a very unique frame to the bar and particular atmosphere. Faces of alive and already passed away guests gaze down on us from the walls. In any other venue, it would be quite a progression to place a few photos or relics of the guests but here, they really made the most of it. Of course, Paolo Roversi, the Bologna activist artist had to be once one of the regulars of the bar to make this all happen. He was painting the portrays throughout 3-4 years after 2004. He passed away 2 years ago though. You can find more than 150 of his portraits here. He used to organize exhibitions and some paintings and objects of other artists also remained here adding even more features to the artistic experience.
This could already be enough for a “pub chemistry” and good vibrations but there is still something more about the place. That night Steve and Mariano worked behind the bars just like most of the time.
Mariano switched the fashion industry 2 years ago to be a pub owner. He first visited the Bar Mercato about 8 years ago and immediately liked the place. Steve is originally from Eritrea, Africa. After 40 years, he has become a dedicated occasional Italian language instructor, whenever he bumps into foreigner guests who are learning Italian like me. He taught me quite many new words, expressions and the right accentuation just for fun but explaining as conscientiously as in a professional language course. He used to own a quite famous and popular restaurant in Bologna but he has been spending his days seemingly happily in the Bar Mercato for already 15 years. They both look much younger than they are. They said laughingly that the Bar Mercato keeps them young. You can even find Steve on one of the portraits on the wall inside.
Furthermore, their friendly and hospitable service also added extra value to this noble background story.
On my first day in Bologna, I asked for a spritzer here too and I realized then that Italians make them from prosecco unless they are asked to make it differently. And why would they actually do so? I liked its specialty and good quality but I didn’t expect any difference in the alcohol strength since in general, the prosecco is slightly weaker than an average Hungarian wine but maybe, the random proportion of the wine and sparking nature of it makes a difference. I didn’t manage to come to a conclusion about this and when I drank my second spritzer with two chatty regulars, I decided to go back to my hostel because that night assisted by the prosecco spritzer ended quite quickly. From now on, I am finished with the prosecco spritzer for a lifetime.
The next day, I consciously returned and I was even looking forward to restart my pub crawl here. Steve and Mariano already greeted me as a regular, calling me on my name loudly and cheerfully. I guided them towards the Hungarian spritzer proportion of 100 ml wine and 200 ml water and they liked it. We were counting the wine together up to a 100 ml. Of course, just to show that it was not entirely Hungarian, a slice of lemon landed into my drink too.
There were less people in the bar that day and they mostly stayed outside on the terrace, therefore it was much easier to talk at the bar. They also have a quite nice little backside garden but on these two days, nobody chose its intimacy over the festival spirit of the Via Belvedere.
This time, there remained a greater variety of aperitivo too. There was a twice baked frittata on the bar which was very special according to Steve and also according to me because I hadn’t tried so many frittatas in my life but after this one, I immediately became addicted. It is unfairly easy to gain weight in these Italian bars but it’s also interesting to see what snacks are offered in different places. This is another new aspect of uniqueness. In the Bar Mercato for example they had carrot pieces with dip, seasoned biscuits and sandwich snacks with different creams on top.
And when I thought that nothing more could happen after such satisfaction, I just heard key words like Budapest and Unicum (famous Hungarian bitters) coming right from the direction of the bar. A small group arrived and one of them spent a few days in Budapest last year and he wanted his friends to try our “amaro”. When I introduced myself as someone from Budapest, he straightaway ordered another Amaro Lucano to me in response to Unicum.
Then he was proudly showing his holiday pictures taken in my home city about the Széchenyi Bridge and Thermal Bath and the Heroes’ Square.
The phenomenon of proudly showing and pointing at things is anyway regular in the Bar Mercato since many young people who come here might just randomly spot one of Paolo Roversi’s paintings and say that it was his father 10 years ago. May the Bar Mercato always remain like that and may we once reach the age of being able to point at great grandfathers portrayed on the wall 50 or even more years ago.
DRY MATTER CONTENT:
There is a great choice of drinks and they are especially proud of the wide palette of wines. The bottled ones are also nice as a gift option.
People who plan to eat out here can find toothsome food, mostly including light snacks.
Opening hours: 11:00- 1:30 Monday-Friday They are two-faced just like many other Italian bars. In the morning hours, the counter fridge is full of pastry, cheese, cold cuts which makes the place resemble to a salumeria and panificio (deli shop and bakery). On Saturdays, they open at 18:00 and on Sundays the bar is closed.
Facebook page (unofficial) https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bar-Mercato/289063207808716?fref=ts
Address: Via Belvedere, 13, 40121 Bologna, Italy