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Beer, wine and aperitivi are front and centre at Thornbury’s Italian boozer
“It’s how you know we’re the real deal,” says the bartender at Joanie’s when she hands over a Sicilian playing card to start our tab. The Giotto mural adorning the bar is another indicator that the latest addition to the ever-flourishing top end of High Street is as proudly Italian as spaghetti aglio e olio.
In the corner, you’ve got a DJ playing smooth drinking tunes, encouraging you sit back and watch the world go by. Smokers are welcome in the courtyard, to which owner Marco Finanzio invites all the local nonnas on a Sunday to roast pork, the king of meats, over open coals.
Joanie’s already feels quite established, as it’s the same family who run the convivial, Italian neighbourhood restaurant Umberto’s just a few doors down. Naturally, as a baretto, there’s an aperitivo hour – offering Aperol spritzes are $8 5-7pm from Wednesday to Friday. Joanie’s is also a place to nibble, with a blackboard listing the snacks of the day: a zucchini and potato frittata (which is listed as gluten free, but served next to bread dosed in a heavy glug of grassy olive oil); a salumi platter, which on this day included thick coins of truffled salami next to the prosciutto, bresaola and capacollo; and a cheese board featuring their much-loved baked ricotta.
It’s a locals’ bar, and you’d expect it to run like the old, dingy social clubs for the first-generation Italians playing cards and sipping on spirits late into the night that populate much of the strip. Instead, you’ve got the young kids who’ve just moved out to their first share houses next to the older work crowds and couples on dates who, after a few Negronis, are quite open with their PDAs. The only similarity between Joanie’s and a social club is that it is loud and boozy.
Wines are Italian and priced very kindly. Joanie’s encourages you to try the Castel del Monte nero di troia with the low price of $8.50 a glass, as it’s a lesser-known varietal next to the higher-priced, best-sellers of nebbiolo, Montelpulciano and dolcetto. Alongside the ubiquitous Peroni, beers include a Mastri double malt stout from Umbria, Ichnusa pale lager from Sardinia, and Tuscany’s La Petrognola spelt-fermented.
Joanie’s not trying to bring you the experience of a bar in an Italian back street of Italy. They’ve done it: right down to the Corretto (an espresso with a nip of grappa in it) to finish off your night. Nonna would be proud.
832A High St
|Transport:||Nearby stations: Thornbury|
|Opening hours:||Wed, Thu 5-9.30pm; Fri, Sat 4.30-11pm; Sun 11.30am-9.30pm|