Dark, sexy and surprisingly unpretentious, Bar Bandini is the neighborhood wine bar Echo Park didn’t know it needed. Named after Arturo Bandini, the writer protagonist of LA Depression-era novelist John Fante, the bar has the attitude of a brooding classic with a design and atmosphere that is decidedly of the 21st century, all without resorting to exposed brick, Edison bulbs or even chalkboard menus. Instead, Bar Bandini’s curated selection of natural and organic wines and beers is listed on black letter boards, both legible and imposing in its scale. Dark painted walls, suede banquettes and black slate surfaces are balanced with rustic exposed wood, invoking the feeling of a chic garage conversion left intentionally unfinished. Hanging globe fixtures and candles add a welcome hint of warmth to the dim interior, while street lights and passing cars cast a reflective shadow of the “BANDINI” on the shopfront windows to the adjacent wall—it’s very noir. Somehow, Bar Bandini manages to simultaneously accomplish cool and cozy, providing a unique inventory and ambiance that not only wows on arrival, but invites you to stay for more.
Good for: Any social encounter conjunctive to drinking wine (read: all social encounters). Bar Bandini’s sultry lighting makes it a romantic choice for date night or a first date—assuming you already know what your date looks like. It’s equally versatile as an après-work hideaway or a catch-up spot for friends looking to unwind but still be in bed by a reasonable hour.
The scene: Drinking in your thirties versus drinking in your twenties. Bar Bandini is cool enough to party, but prefers to chill rather than rage, as is evidenced by the upbeat but understated energy of its patrons. No need to fear any wine snobs here, either—the selection is as accessible as it is extensive, so both connoisseurs and novices will feel right at home.
Drink this: California is well-represented through Bandini’s tap offerings, which are all produced here in the Golden State. Zin fans might opt for the Field Recordings Fiction ($10), a robust and brambly blend from Paso Robles. You can also venture a bit further with international selections by the glass or bottle. We fell deeply in love with the Andrea Calek ‘A Trois Nous’ ($14/$56), a deliciously unique Syrah Grenache blend from Ardeche, France with a velvety, almost nutty finish. For white wine drinkers (and even red wine drinkers who think they don’t like whites), the Batterieberg C.A.I. Reisling ($13/$52) is close to perfection: dry, crisp, ripe and seriously quaffable. One thing that struck us on the menu was the inclusion of an “orange” wine. If only for the sake of adventure, the Vinos Ambiz Airen ($12/$48) is worth a try. Essentially an unfiltered white wine made with red wine techniques, the Madrid-born Airen takes its amber hue from the skin of the grapes from which it’s produced. Slightly briny to the nose, it has a subtly savory profile that grows on you as you sip it.
Our tip: Feeling indecisive? Not to worry: Bar Bandini’s patient and knowledgeable staff will help you find the perfect pleaser for your palate, offering generous sample pours along the way.