Maybe you just returned from a summer trip to Italy and are craving a perfectly crafted Aperol Spritz? Or perhaps you’ve just finished Stanley Tucci’s “Searching for Italy” series on CNN and are longing to visit that secret cocktail bar in Milan, but your passport is in renewal purgatory. No need to worry, Bar Franco is here to help!

Stepping into Bar Franco feels like being whisked away to an elegant nook at one of those grand old hotels in Venice, Florence, Rome or Milan. The space is beautiful, intimate and sophisticated, with a restrained decadence hard to find this side of the Atlantic.

Bar Franco is not the sort of place to roll up to in your ripped jeans. It’s best to dress up a bit — iron that shirt or wear a breezy dress. But make no mistake. Bar Franco is not stuffy. The hospitality is warm and welcoming, the cocktails expertly crafted, and the complimentary bar snacks — perhaps some Castelvetrano olives, bites of focaccia or Taralini Pugliese crackers — deliciously take the edge off before dinner. This is as close as you can get to experiencing a proper Italian aperitivo hour in Montclair, right on Church Street.

Bar Franco Tarantella. (MARY CONNOLLY)

Let’s start with beautiful cocktails ($15-$18), some of which come with an unexpected, extra tasty twist. Head mixologist Luca Cinalli and his expert team hail from Italy, take pride in their work and are not messing around.

Order up the “Tarantella”, a bourbon-based concoction with Amaro and orange peel, topped with a piece of baba au rhum cake. Or try the “Fennel-Oil Martini” — gin-based, served ice cold and with a delicate anise scent, dash of dry vermouth and delightful little nib of Parmesan cheese — Marie Fromage approved! If the weather outside is frightfully hot, consider the “Sambuchino” with tequila, St. Germain, lime and jalapeño ice. Sorry kids, this snow cone is for adults only. And if the “Aperol Spritz” is your summer jam, try the “Bar Franco Spritz” variation made with vodka, orange limoncello, Aperol, passion fruit and Prosecco. The Negroni needs no introduction; the classic one served at Bar Franco has the perfect combination of bitter, sweet and strong with a heady orange essence.

Want to turn your cocktail hour into a meal? Choose from cicchetti menu (small plates ranging from $12-$26). There’s a gorgeous platter of curated Italian salumi and cheese to nibble and share. Still hungry? Level-up to crispy zucchini blossoms bursting with whipped ricotta and fresh mozzarella, or a fluffy Margherita pizza oozing with burrata. Or just come for something sweet — tiramisu ($15) and a bespoke dessert cocktail. 


Yes, you’ve probably heard all about the other “dessert.” You know, the one that comes with a sprinkle of gold leaf, a diamond-encrusted fork and shot of pricey cognac called “La Bomba” for $1K? It is really on the menu if someone is so inclined – maybe you can propose to your intended with an engagement dessert fork instead of a ring?


Listen, I really, really like this place. And I didn’t want to because of the pretense of the $1K dessert and the secret, exclusive members-only bar in the basement, which is not the typical Montclair I know and love. However, I went to Bar Franco several times. The service and quality never wavered, and I was seduced. It is a mood you have to be in. They clearly aim to make you feel cared for, especially if you just want to peacefully enjoy a proper Negroni without having to book a flight to Bologna. Buonissimo!

Bar Franco, 5 Church Street, Montclair. Open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 5 p.m.- midnight; Saturday, noon to midnight; Sunday, noon to 10 p.m. Closed Tuesday.

Mary Connolly is also known as “Marie Fromage”. Follow her in Instagram @MarieFromage

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