Pub/Bar of the Month April 2013: Caffetteria La Cantinetta, Rimini, Italy
Caffetteria La Cantinetta, Rimini, Italy
If you're planning a holiday on Italy's Adriatic coast for this summer, beer is probably not top of your agenda.
Italy is certainly one of the most exciting countries for craft beer these days, but it's really not easy to find great beer along that sizzling strip of sand that runs from just south of Ravenna down to Pesaro and beyond.
Help is at hand, however, courtesy of Caffeteria La Cantinetta, a simple but heavily beer-centred little bar right in the historic centre of Rimini, Europe's largest seaside resort which lies at the heart of the region's beach life.
Most of the sun worshippers who flock to this part of Italy may even be unaware that Rimini has an historic centre, but if they break away from the discos, pizzerias and 'English pubs' that line the long seafront strip, they'll find a rather elegant old town graced by reminders of Italy's grand past.
In particular, there's an impressive Roman arch and an imposing 13th-century town hall, and it is just a stone's throw from the latter that you'll find La Cantinetta.
Tucked into a little square, just off one of the main shopping streets, the bar is a magnet for beer cognoscenti. I know it from being a judge at Italy's Birra dell'Anno (Beer of the Year) competition, which is held in the city every February. When we're off duty, it's to La Cantinetta that the judges head.
The bar is small but with a barn-like feel. Open rafters ensure a high ceiling and stairs run up to a balcony seating area that loops around the building.
Downstairs, tiled floors and brick pillars help build a straightforward, unpretentious atmosphere, slightly at odds with the small back section which displays expensive wines behind a glass case.
A buffet table takes up the centre of the room in the early evening. Otherwise, pizzas, panini and salads are served at most times. In Mediterranean fashion, the place bustles until the early hours, with the bar counter a hub of activity.
A dozen taps, strangely built into a thick stretch of industrial copper piping, dispense a fine cross-section of Italian craft beers, with breweries such as Baladin, Toccalmatto, del Forte and BiRen represented.
Some international beers may also be on draught, perhaps from Mikkeler or BrewDog, and these names figure also on the even more impressive printed bottled beer menu.
Selections there are arranged by broad beer styles (blonds, dark beers, IPAs), featuring, for instance, Belgian breweries such as Struise and St Bernadus, Scandinavian offerings from Nøgne Ø and Haandbryggeriet, and a whole load of British beers.
The real reason to come here, though, is to sample some great Italian craft beer, much of which finds its way into bottle. The menu tempts with numerous choices from the likes of Statale Nove, del Borgo, Collesi and Ducato.
They know how to present beer well in Italy. It comes from having to compete with the wine trade, and also the endearing national obsession to 'fare la bella figura' (to look your best). Consequently, the beer bottles, while not cheap, are very desirable.
As out of keeping as it may seem for a beach resort such as Rimini to have one of the country's best beer bars, there is also something rather appropriate about it, too.
The city was the birthplace of film director Federico Fellini, so what better spot could there be in which to grab a slice of Italy's new beer-inspired dolce vita?
Caffetteria La Cantinetta, Piazzetta Gregorio da Rimini 1, Rimini, Italy
Tel. +39 (0)541 54499
Opening Hours: 10am–4am in summer; 6pm–late in winter