Pass the Aperitivi
Marco Vacchi adds a homey wine bar, Sorsó, to his burgeoning Madman Espresso empire.
Marco Vacchi isn’t the original mad man behind Madman Espresso, but over the years he’s come to embody the brand.
The gregarious, handlebar-mustached transplant from Emilia-Romagna is an entrepreneur by necessity, a photographer by passion and vocation. He began slinging coffee originally to supplement his portrait studio work, assisting his mentor, photographer Michele Civelli, who launched New York’s first Madman outpost on West 35th Street in 2012 (Mad Men, the TV series, popular at the time, helped inspire the name).
After Civelli returned to Italy, Vacchi built Madman Espresso into a small chain with a fierce following—the sixth New York outpost, in a 1962 Airstream trailer, opened in the East Village this month. The 220-square-foot branch on Greenwich Village’s University Place draws a steady stream of neighborhood regulars. Alec Baldwin, for one, patronized the postage-stamp café from day one and was known to buy coffee for everyone when the line got too long. The actor hired Vacchi to shoot headshots, and introduced him to friends, like Jeff Bridges and Robert de Niro, who sat for portraits too.
Now Vacchi has moved beyond coffee to launch a neighborly wine bar, Sorsó (translation: to sip), on the ground floor of a residential building next door to the Madman Espresso on University Place.
The new business is built on relationships forged over coffee—Vacchi’s partners all started as café clients. The décor includes his own flea-market finds along with donations from neighbors and antiques from Maison Gerard just up the street. “It makes it very homey, like you are in your living room,” he says of the eclectic design.
The tightly edited list of mostly Italian wines was curated by another neighbor, Ron Prashker, a lawyer who makes wine in Tuscany (his Salchetto Sangiovese is the best-value red on the list, at $13 a glass). There’s also a small selection of aperitivi, low-alcohol cocktails like the Hugo spritz, a Dolomite Mountains specialty of Prosecco spiked with elderflower liqueur.
Executive chef Michael Fiore, working in a tiny kitchen with no oven (everything is prepared here sous vide), was once the private chef for legendary opera-singer Luciano Pavarotti. His concise menu ranges from simple platters of salumi and cheese to more complex compositions, like ribbons of rosy veal speckled with edible flowers or cured salmon and caviar with confited potato.
“We wanted to have a sort of dating place, quiet, romantic,” says Vacchi. “To keep the building and neighborhood happy, at 11pm it’s done.”
Sorsó is open Tuesday–Sunday from 5–11pm at 56 University Place; sorsonyc.com
Hero Image courtesy of Sorsó