Franco Capone, the savoir-faire of a barman of yesteryear
Franco Capone has been at the helm of the Due Torri Hotel bar for 38 years. He is a highly professional barman who can recognise a client’s tastes at a glance. Hospitality and the ability to make the client feel at home are hallmarks of his style, as he demonstrated on one occasion, looking after Bruce Springsteen before a concert …
Do you remember your first day working at the Due Torri?
I remember it as if it were yesterday, even if 38 years have gone by! The hotel was very different then: the décor was different as were the marbles and the curtains. The first impression was that of entering a holy, intimate place. With the passing of the years, I’ve seen the hotel change, while preserving its charm intact. What with the hall with its naves and gothic windows and, in the corner, the bar that seems to dominate the whole place – it’s a charm that few hotels manage to convey, The position of the bar is particularly fortunate because it allows me to see all the clients who enter the hotel, to welcome them and make them feel at home. The first impact is always very important because we barmen have to identify the context and regulate ourselves accordingly. For example, depending on whether a guest is here for pleasure or on business, our approach changes completely. After all these years it’s still a challenge: it takes experience and savoir-faire to grasp a guest’s desires at first glance.
In your opinion, which is the cocktail that best captures the soul of the Due Torri? And why?
The cocktail that represents the Due Torri is the Casarini, made with berry fruits and champagne, inspired by the famous artist Pino Casarini, who painted the frescoes in the hotel. Many clients, guests at the hotel but also locals, who see the Due Torri bar as a meeting place, come to us for our Negroni and our Martini cocktail, both great classics that represent our style very well. One of the things I enjoy the most when a new client arrives is trying to guess their tastes, and when I succeed it’s very satisfying: I still remember the time I prepared a guest a Callas, a cocktail dedicated to Maria Callas, with ginger, pink grapefruit and gin, and she told me it was the best she had ever drunk.
You must travel yourself sometimes. What is the first thing you notice when you visit hotel bars elsewhere?
One thing I often note is the position of the bar: bars were once very visible at hotel entrances, today they are more hidden away. Then I note the way in which work is organised and the way staff behind the counter present themselves. The way of behaving of the staff is a hotel’s visiting card. It’s fundamental to welcome everyone with a smile and make guests feel as comfortable as they would be in their own home. In this job, professionalism is everything. Do you want an example? If a guest comes back to the hotel accompanied by someone else, it’s always better to say “welcome”, never “welcome back”, because we aren’t to know who the person with them is!
What’s your favourite memory of the Due Torri?
I’ve worked here for almost 40 years and my clients are always asking me if I’ll still be here the year after. There’s one guest I’m very fond of who used to come as a child with his parents, and now comes every year with his wife. In the course of my career, which began when I was very young in the Aeolian Islands, I’ve seen all sorts: when I was at the Ritz in London, I even found myself preparing Martinis for Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother, and a double Black Label for Frank Sinatra. Here at the Due Torri, I’ll never forget the time Bruce Springsteen was staying as a guest: he was ill but he had a concert the day after. At one o’clock in the morning, I had him a plate of pasta and escalopes prepared. The next day everyone was impressed at how well he looked!
How would you describe your typical day?
I generally come in at 3.30pm: the first thing I do is prepare the line for the evening (we use only fresh fruit), then we have a briefing and squeeze the fruit and check if we are out of given bottles or other products. During aperitifs, we devote ourselves to our clients, on the terrace and in the hall. Most of the work is concentrated on the terrace but in the evening, when the terrace closes, we wait for clients to come back from the opera, in season, to serve them sandwiches and cold dishes to bring their evening to an end. We don’t have a fixed closing time and sometimes we go on until two or half past two in the morning. That’s what happened once when Kiss were staying!
What could you never do without at your work place? A liqueur, a spirit, a specific utensil …
What I could in no way do without is the main tool of my trade. A barman isn’t a barman without his shaker!