When Federico Lombardi was 14 he joined the Amerigo Vespucci hospitality management school that was nearly two hours away from his village near Lake Como in Italy. “It felt like a sacrifice but I was determined to make it in the hospitality world,” Lombardi, now 28, says. A few days ago, Bar Paradiso in Barcelona where Lombardi works as Head Bartender, lost its top position and dropped to #4 on the World’s 50 Best Bars list. He immediately called for a meeting, found and plugged a few gaps and is now hoping to regain the top position next year.
Lombardi is on his first visit to India for a bar takeover at Masque in Mumbai, a first for Paradiso where the team takes over a restaurant in the city. Masque’s resident bar head Ankush Gamre welcomed Lombardi with a drink stuffed inside a pineapple while picking him up, marking the beginning of the latter’s first ever experience of India. “I’m from Naples and we have a similar kind of hospitality,” he remarks.
Lombardi himself travelled to London seven years ago to learn about drinks. At the time, London was regarded as the cocktail capital of the world and New York was the only other city that had seen the world’s best bars. After working at Cahoots in SoHo, he went back to Italy to join Filippo Sisti to work at Talea. The duo had previously worked at Carlo e Camilla in Segheria where Sisti was known for his kitchen mixology style of making cocktails.
After a year at Talea, Lombardi joined Paradiso in 2019 until moving to London’s Gibson Bar a couple of years later. He returned to Paradiso as Head Bartender and hasn’t looked back since.
Paradiso opened in 2015 with co-owners and husband and wife duo Giacomo Giannotti and Margarita Sader. The speakeasy bar is located inside a pastrami bar that you enter through a special fridge door.
When Lombardi joined Paradiso, he used his learnings from London to create a professional and high-quality bar that was celebrated for the bar’s innovative offerings. From being one of the top bars in the world, Paradiso became the number one bar in the world according to the World’s 50 Best Bars list in 2022.
“Paradiso’s cocktails are known for their wow effect. Our latest menu (we change menus annually) is inspired by discoveries of humankind, of which Tesla is the most talked about cocktail. The glass has a coil base that creates electricity while you’re drinking the cocktail. Another popular cocktail is called The Cloud which is a mezcal highball that comes with an edible cloud as a garnish,” Lombardi says.
For the bar takeover at Masque, Lombardi has brought Tesla along with three other cocktails that he is excited to serve to the Indian bartending community and enthusiasts. There’s colour-changing Kryptonita from the Evolution menu; Evolution Negroni made with tropical flavours; and Legacy that is garnished with local ingredients such as fennel cordial.
Speaking of local ingredients brings a smile to Lombardi’s face as he discusses how he loved trying Chai, mangoes, and mukhwas on his visit.
“These aren’t flavours that are common in Europe. I loved discovering these savoury flavours that are used from breakfast to dinner over here. I would love to work with some of the amazing produce that India has to offer,” he says.
Travel and hospitality
With the crown of the world’s best bar comes travel to other parts of the world. Indeed, Lombardi believes that part of the job of being the top bar in the world is to share knowledge with other bars and bartenders. From being in Singapore recently to New York last month and now Mumbai, the head mixologist says that ‘Paradiso is one of the most travelled bar’.
With great power of being the top bar comes great responsibility to live up to expectations. “As the top bar, you need to showcase creativity and give something new to the bar community. Other bars should watch and learn from you as you share knowledge with them. We always focus on our consumers as well. Paradiso is a high-volume cocktail bar with 800 drinks served on average and we maintain consistency and perfection in every cocktail that passes the bar,” Lombardi says when asked what it means for Paradiso to be the best bar in the world.
India and the world
Lombardi is bullish on Indian bars and bartenders, saying that he has seen the bartending community grow and is confident about their potential. At an event in Singapore early this week, Paradiso was edged out of its top spot by Sips, another bar from Barcelona that is currently the top bar in the World’s 50 Best Bars list.
When asked what makes Barcelona the drink capital of the world, Lombardi says that the city’s brilliant restaurants—many of which have Michelin stars—and the year-round tourism industry helps to put the spotlight on drinks as well.
From innovative cocktails to creating a whole vibe at their speakeasy bar to support from the city’s hospitality and tourism industries and learnings from travels across the world, Paradiso is placed in the right place at the perfect time.
A bar takeover in Mumbai then, is as special as it gets.