If you can’t make it all the way to Italy – the home of May's Bordiga Occitan Gin – but you’re craving a slice of la dolce vita, a beautiful bar on The King’s Road in London can offer you instant access to the best aspects of life in Milan. Welcome to Ritorno, where bella Italia has breathed new life into the London cocktail scene.
This elegant lounge bar and kitchen was opened by Giacomo Longo, an Italian expat who was missing the Milanese style of socialising, where it’s common to sip cocktails and nibble at small plates while you wile away the hours. When Giacomo couldn’t find anywhere to achieve that aperitivo experience in the Big Smoke, he determined to open his own.
Ritorno has now established itself as Chelsea’s go-to Italian bar. Open from lunch ‘til late, its calming interior and marble bar are ideal for stopping in at any time of day, be it for a cappuccino or a cocktail mixed by Ritorno’s best-in-class bar staff.
As Head BarmanPaolo Viola, whose CV includes five-star hotels and Rivoli Bar at The Ritz, says: “London is the world’s mixology capital, and at Ritorno we aim to harness and enrich this local expertise with Italy’s finest artisanal and rare produce, amalgamating it with the Italian aperitivo concept.”
Ritorno’s cocktail menu is split into four sections: Bollicine, or bubbly; Ritorno Classics; Ritorno Specials; and Regional Specialities. This latest section is full of specially-crafted cocktails that express the spirits of Italy’s many beautiful regions through booze.
As Paolo explains, “We’ve interpreted the essence of each of these regions with high quality, craft and traditionally made ingredients. It’s a unique cocktail experience.”
With such an extensive cocktail menu, it can be hard to know where to start. But, according to Paolo, you simply can’t go wrong. “Every guest asks if I have a personal favourite,” he laughs. “But it is a very difficult question to answer, because I hand-picked a unique cocktail list, and I love everything on it.”
When in doubt, go for a Ritorno G&T. At six, the gin selection at Ritorno is small compared to some bars, but these hand-selected bottles have one thing in common: they’re the best gins that Italy has to offer.
“We made a choice to only use Italian gins, and we exalt in it,” Paolo says. “We’ve enhanced the usual gin and tonic experience with a special service, serving our G&Ts in a wooden board accompanied by hand-selected botanicals and Mediterranean tonic.”
While you may come to Ritorno for the cocktails and G&Ts, you can’t leave without trying some of head chef Filippo Salzano’s amazing cicchetti, or Italian small plates. Already a wildly popular way to eat in Italy, this relaxed, Mediterranean dining style is winning hearts and minds in London and beyond – and Ritorno executes the concept like pros.
Filippo says, “We have carefully studied every cocktail and dish combination to ensure that they complement and enhance one another. Just like the cocktails, we have returned to the land to source the best possible ingredients and combine them in an innovative and exciting way.”
While Paolo may not have a favourite cocktail, he can pick a pairing he loves more than any other. “The Lady Giulia Cocktail – a gin base with raspberry shrub and Prosecco – is delicious with our Octopus carpaccio, which is served with mint sauce and fresh pomegranate,” he smiles.
So whether you’re stopping in for a quick drink or planning to settle in for cocktails and small plates, let the amazing service, beautiful surroundings and Italian flair of Ritorno convince you – even if just for a moment – that you’re experiencing the best of beautiful Milano.