As an adolescent growing up in Brussels, restaurateur Aldo Zaninotto—owner of Logan Square’s Osteria Langhe and Testaccio—often took weekend trips to Paris, where he’d frequent the city’s boîtes: intimate, late-night clubs hidden off alleyways or behind unmarked doors, always dimly lit and humming with energy.
Zaninotto channels that sexy Parisian spirit at Soif, a new speakeasy-inspired, 24-seat wine bar housed in the basement space below Testaccio. Named after the French word for “thirsty,” Soif (pronounced “swaf”) centers around a rotating wine list of 50 to 60 bottles, plus a selection of cocktails, beer, spirits and French bar bites meant to encourage visitors to linger a while in the lounge’s Old World environs.
Soif's wine list focuses on hard-to-find French bottles, with an emphasis on small batch and limited production wines—like grower Champagne, which is produced in small volumes by the same person who grew the grapes—as well as natural and orange wines. Zaninotto, who describes himself as “old school guy” when it comes to his wine sensibilities, worked with Soif beverage manager and sommelier Alyssa Missurelli (Bar Avec, Cafe Cancale The Purple Pig) to straddle the line between classic French appellations and more contemporary natural options.
“All the way from Champagne covering down to the Rhone Valley, to the Loire—you name it,” Zaninotto says, describing the selection—adding that most bottles are between $58 to $60, though a few wines are also available by the glass.
Missurelli’s lean cocktail list highlights French spirits in traditional drinks, like a highball made with creme de cassis and Maurin dry vermouth, while the beers are mostly French or Belgian (with a Dovetail brew thrown in for good measure). Testaccio executive chef Jacob Solomon (Dusek’s Board & Beer, Lettuce Entertain You, Second City) has crafted an accompanying food menu filled with wine-friendly bites—everything from caviar served with creme fraiche and potato chips to a daily assortment of macarons.
Visitors will find a similarly French influence in the bar’s decor. Previously home to Todos Santos—the subterranean mezcal bar beneath Quiote, which closed in 2019—the space is accessible through an unmarked door; inside, it’s been transformed into a cozy, dimly-lit den stocked with oriental rugs and salvaged bits of decor (including red velvet banquettes transplanted from La Sardine, the iconic West Loop French restaurant that shuttered last year, and a handful of vintage treasures Zaninotto’s picked up during his travels through Europe). Soif’s late-night atmosphere is completed with a multi-genre roster of DJ nights curated by Zaninotto’s son Alec, pumping in a low-key selection of music not unlike what you’d find in the eclectic boîtes of France.
“All of sudden, in the middle of Logan Square, you have a piece of Paris,” Zaninotto says. “You’ll discover you feel like you’re in France.”
Soif, located at 2456 N California Avenue, will be open Wednesday through Thursday from 6pm–midnight and Friday through Saturday from 6pm–2am beginning November 17. Reservations are recommended and available via Resy. Take a look at its French-inspired decor and dishes below.