Bars , Cocktail bars Surry Hills
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Sydney’s first Italian rock bar has arrived with a flourish

Star Sydney bartenders Max Greco (Eau de Vie) and Luke Ashton (the Roosevelt) have ripped off the shirt-stays and suspenders and traded them in for cut-off denim, trucker hats and a hefty fistful of rock’n’roll. The only tie you’ll see at Vasco is on Ringo Starr. And on closer inspection, we’re pretty sure that’s a cravat.
Vasco Rossi, if you’re not an Italian rock’n’roll buff, is one of Italy’s most prolific singer-songwriters. The bar may be named for him, but it’s rockin’ all over the world here. The entire room is a shrine to Greco’s rock’n’roll heroes, from the ‘RIP Kurt’ crucifix to framed pics of the Beatles and the Foo Fighters. Then there’s the Sailor Jerry Fender Stratocaster, the piles of records and the mini jukebox in the corner. Out the back, there’s a little Astro-turfed outdoor area with a lounge just made for a ciggie and a chat.
Even the bar stools are Fender. And check out the lightshade fashioned from an old cymbal (apparently Greco’s already smashed a couple of globes hitting the cymbal every time a drinker walks through the door)
It’s always a good sign when you spot one of the guys in the kitchen sporting a St John T-shirt. Even better when the smallgoods they’re using for the hotdogs and the bruschetta are from local salumi specialists Quattro Stelle.

So chefs Fabricio Campos and Claudio Greco (Max’s brother) are spreading 'nduja over little crusts of bread, then topping them with cherry tomatoes, a little basil, a sliced white anchovy, then adding a few crumbly shards of parmesan cheese. Delicious. The soft, funky and smoky hotdog is on a soft roll, filled with tomato chutney and caramelised onion. Another winner. Crisp polenta chips smothered in a runny gorgonzola sauce are a great veggo snack, but we want to hit Vasco up again for the house-made pasta.
Even the menus are captured in old 45 covers. Ours is Cyndi Lauper’s 'She Bop'. She sure does. The drink names are all plays on classic tunes – a Lucy in the Sky, an Eagle Rock, the Hendrix Experience – and many of them lean on herbaceous Italian bitters and liqueurs. The Daiquiri No 6 is a sharp-shooting and bitter mix of rum, lime, Fernet Branca and falernum (that tropical syrup of almonds, ginger and spices). It’s just the thing to wipe a bad day off the agenda in one no-nonsense cocktail. If you’re keen to stick with shaken citrusy things, give the Old Yellow Bricks a nudge: nothing blows out the cobwebs like rum and whisky in the same glass. Here, they’re shaken with lemon juice, sweetened with agave and pimped out with cherry bitters. Knock it back and fist pump. Or sip it slowly, you animal.
Stray from the list if none of this pleases you. They’ll whip out a Tommy’s Margarita or a perfectly perfect Manhattan very happily. There’s also an Esky full of Rio Bravo tinnies sitting on the bar just begging to be necked – maybe even chased with something from the extensive rum collection. (We certainly can’t help but notice the modest selection of vodkas sits very high up on the shelf.)
Vasco is fun – pure and simple. The ’Stones said it best, and it’s scrawled on the back wall of the bar: “I know it’s only rock’n’roll but I like it.”
We do too.
Venue name: Vasco
Address: 421 Cleveland St
Surry Hills
Opening hours: Tue-Sat 5pm-midnight
Price: $10-$50
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