For years, Anthony Barone and Ryan Rubino talked about getting into the bar-restaurant business together.
They pretty much grew up in the business - Rubino is part of the fifth generation of the extended family that owns South Philadelphia's landmark Ralph's Italian Restaurant (his dad is Jimmy Rubino) and Barone has cooked there for about 15 years. Barone also has run the kitchen at the Ralph's in King of Prussia since it opened in spring 2013.
They kicked around ideas, played with recipes in the King of Prussia kitchen - and then came the moment of truth last year: A bar became available across the street from Ralph's, on the corner of Ninth and Catharine Streets in Bella Vista. Previous occupants of 767 S. Ninth St. were The Wishing Well, Pat Bombino's, Bella Mia, and Meze. (Back when you were in knee pants, Meze's chef was Konstantinos Pitsillides, now owner of Kanella and Kanella Grill.)
Rubino and Barone grabbed the place and said they quickly learned that structural issues needed to be addressed, including a sagging floor. The project that was supposed to take five months, including the transfer of the liquor license, stretched into 10 months.
Later this month, Bar One - a riff on Anthony's last name - opens after a flurry of special events. Rubino's sister Gabrielle is manager.
Rubino and Barone, whose fathers are cousins, insist that Bar One is in no way a Ralph's spin-off. Rubino describes the food is only "loosely Italian." The menu (here) is what you'd call fifth-generation Italian bar food - there's house-made mozzarella in the Caprese salad, the burger is made of lamb and is wrapped in prosciutto, the spring roll flavors include roast pork and sausage & pepper.
Brunch menu is here.
Decor is brightened considerably by artwork by staffer and fine-art student Jackie Jensen, whose works include painted hipster versions of Rat Packers Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin.
A heavily tatted Ol' Blue Eyes in a Huf beanie? That's life.
Music playlist is studded with rock gems of the late '90s and '00s.
After a few days of invitation-only meals, Bar One will be soft-open from Monday, Oct. 17 through Oct. 20 (4 p.m. to midnight).
On Friday, Oct. 21, it will be open for happy hour with comp food, cash bar, and a singer. On Saturday, Oct. 22, a comp brunch will be offered from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (cash bar). The official opening will be the night of Oct. 22.
Hours will be 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday.
Above, Gabrielle Rubino whips up an Old Fashioned, done a newfangled way. She muddles maraschino cherry, orange, bitters, amaretto, grenadine, orange juice, and sugar, and freezes the mixture. Per order, the bartender scoops this mixture into a glass, pours over some Wigl whiskey (from a Pittsburgh craft distillery that the partners like), and adds a blast of club soda. There are no rocks, so no real dilution. The drink gets more flavorful as the mixture melts.