Corallo on bringing Italian hospitality to Artesian

24th March, 2020 by Owen Bellwood

He worked in his parents’ nightclub when he was 12, but now Marco Corallo is leading one of the world’s best bars. SB speaks to the bartender on his mission to bring creativity and Italian hospitality to London’s Artesian.

*This feature was originally published in the December 2019 issue of The Spirits Business

Marco Corallo has just emerged from the bowels of London’s Langham Hotel where he has been working in Artesian’s lab, learning the finer details of the bar’s A Minimalist Menu.

Having joined the venue as head bartender in November, Corallo has a few weeks to master its current menu of two‐ingredient cocktails, before he and the team tear it down and create a new list of drinks for next year.

“I feel the pressure, of course, because the legacy of Artesian is quite strong and what Remy [Savage, former head bartender] and Anna [Sebastian, bar manager] brought to the bar is incredible,” he says. “The eyes of the industry are on the bar and on me, so the pressure is high, but at the same time it is positive because pressure always pushes me to deliver.”

In joining Artesian, Corallo has taken over from the outgoing Savage – who joined the bar in 2017 and worked with Sebastian to earn bar awards and recognition around the world. “The team is fantastic,” Corallo adds. “I worked with Anna Sebastian before in The Savoy in 2012, and I know most of the team here from before when I came as a guest as well – so it was an easy fit.”

AT HOME BEHIND THE BAR

The Italian bartender moved to the Artesian from Dubai, where he worked as beverage manager at Caesars Palace & Resort, overseeing 14 food and drinks outlets, and was the creative director of its cocktail lists. He says: “In Dubai, as well as being beverage manager, I was also looking after the wine programme, which didn’t really allow me to spend that much time behind the bar. That is also the reason for coming back to London as head bartender; I miss being behind the bar.”

Corallo’s love of life behind the stick stems from his upbringing in Italy, where his family worked in the hospitality industry. His cousin was a pastry chef and his father owned the nightclub where Corallo carried out his first shift at the age of 12.

“My family really introduced me to hospitality and how it is nice to make people have a good time,” he explains. “We can really change the mood of our guests and then the overall world, because spreading positive energy is the beauty of hospitality – that is when you can make a difference.”

A few years after his first taste of life behind the bar, Corallo started working in cocktail bars and wine bars full time. Initially, he trained to become both a bartender and sommelier, but was soon inspired to further his education in wine and studied with the Associazione Italiana Sommelier to develop a greater understanding of the work of a somm.

After his training, Corallo moved to Dubai to work in the bar at the Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa. Here, after starting out as a bar back, Corallo worked as a sommelier and began to develop his appreciation of five‐star surroundings.

“My first manager at Armani was Italian, and my English was really bad, so I took my first job as a bar back and I didn’t have contact with the customers for the first six months,” he explains. “The thing that attracted me to Dubai was the chance to work in a five‐star environment. It gave me a first glimpse of what luxury is, but then when I came to London I found out that it is a completely different environment.”

The Artesian launched its minimalist cocktail menu last year

LIFE AT THE SAVOY

With his eyes set on the luxury hotels of London, Corallo moved to the UK and began working at The Savoy. During his tenure at the five‐star hotel, Corallo was the last sommelier in the River Restaurant before the hotel closed for refurbishment in 2007, and was part of the opening team at Kaspar’s Seafood Bar and Grill following the hotel’s re‐opening in 2010.

During his time at The Savoy, Corallo worked alongside former American Bar head bartender Erik Lorincz, and it was this working relationship that inspired him to pick up his cocktail shaker once again.

He says: “I love drinking wine and I love the wine world, but what I always say is that the sommelier opens a wine and releases the magic that somebody else did for them 10 or 20 years before, whereas the bartender is creating the magic here and now for the guests.”

Corallo left The Savoy and moved back to Dubai. On his return, he found that cocktail culture and hospitality in the region had changed dramatically. “Dubai is becoming quite similar to what London, New York and Singapore are,” he explains. “Dubai is a city of transit between the east and the west, so everybody that works in Dubai is coming from different parts of the world, and they are bringing parts of their culture with them. In Dubai you can find bars that are very Singaporean, bars that are London‐inspired and bars that are inspired by New York – that is the beauty of Dubai.”

It was during his second stay in Dubai that Corallo says he experienced some of his proudest moments behind the bar, triumphing at the national final of the Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition in 2018 and leading the bar teams at Hendricks in the Four Seasons and Laurel Bar at the Caesars Bluewaters Dubai to regional nominations at Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards.

He says: “It is all about the team; the fact that I managed to bring recognition to two bars, Hendricks in the Four Seasons and Laurel Bar at the Caesars Bluewaters Dubai, is kind of a new thing for Dubai to have.”

Corallo with Artesian bar manager Anna Sebastian

Corallo with Artesian bar manager Anna Sebastian

ITALIAN HOSPITALITY

Despite having spent most of his career working outside of Italy, Corallo says Italian hospitality has seeped its way into every aspect of how he operates behind the bar.

“In Italy we are very proud of our style of bartending and our style of hospitality,” he says. “You can see from things like the World’s 50 Best that places like Mario Farulla’s Baccano and Patrick Pistolesi’s Drink Kong, both in Rome, are really bringing that Italian hospitality to the table.”

Corallo then remembers a quote from Farulla, who said: “The drinks are a garnish to the experience – the experience and the way you feel is what guests will remember.” Corallo says this sums up Italian hospitality and his welcoming approach to bartending.

When we chatted he was just two weeks into the job and at the start of his mission to bring creativity and Italian hospitality to Artesian. Corallo considers what his future at The Langham will entail. “A place like Artesian will keep me busy for a few years,” he says. “The sky is the limit because in terms of luxury, Langham as a group is raising the bar – it is a beautiful hotel and I see myself working for this group for a long time.”

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