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Let’s face it, it’s hard to find a calm spot in Palermo’s city center. Some evenings, one simply wants to exchange the honking of cars for the uncorking of wine bottles, hidden away from the splendid excess the city has to offer. Such an escape exists at Bottega Monteleone, located on a small, quaint pedestrian walkway, which bears the same name as the wine bar. In this tiny bottega, you’ll be treated to an abundance of wines and Sicilian specialties, as well as the hospitality of the bar’s owners, Katharina and Angelo.

The Bottega pays homage to the different geographical origins of the owners. Its appearance is unmistakably Palermitan but its history is reminiscent of an old factory (in this case actually a garage) turned into a chic bar – typical of the former East Germany, where Katharina grew up and studied. It’s one of those Palermitan stories where fate plays its tricks on you. Angelo, a native of Palermo, explains: “I was living here nearby and it was one of those boozy evenings. I decided to go for a stroll and get some fresh air and I saw the place was for sale. It was an abandoned garage in this quiet narrow street and I thought I should buy it.”

After some careful, sober consideration, Angelo decided to go ahead and begin extensive renovations, and the Bottega finally came to life in 2018. According to the initial plan, the place was supposed to be more of a deli than an enoteca, but it seems that destiny – or the customers – decided otherwise. Katharina says: “Customers were coming to buy some spreads or salami and wine; we were talking with them and creating real relationships. But there was no space to sit so we had to figure out something and that’s how we started to put barrels and chairs outside. From then on, the on-site service was launched!”

Katharina arrived in Palermo in 2015 and fell in love – but not just with the city. She and Angelo had also started a relationship just around the time the Bottega was opening.  They were a perfect match, their different backgrounds and experiences – one in environmental science, the other in cultural science, both with diverse experiences in gastronomy – complementing each other well. You can feel their personal influence in the Bottega and see it in their very diverse clientele: both Palermitans and international visitors meet here and share the same interest for wine and culinary delicacies.

Customers here are treated with great care and both Angelo and Katharina are always keen to share their knowledge, guiding the customer in choosing their wines. The pair carefully selects each of the products they carry, and likes to work with suppliers who show as much of a passion for the products as they do. Over time, they have even built strong and friendly relationships with some of their producers. “We know all of our wine producers and go to the places and talk with them. It’s not only about the product as much as the common values.”

The majority of the wines they carry at the Bottega are natural; all are from small Sicilian wineries and producers with the primary goal to promote their know-how and terroir. Same goes for the antipasti. On the day we visited, Katharina and Angelo had just come back from a meeting with a cheese producer on the outskirts of Palermo, spending the day seeing how they make their offerings. Their menu is thus designed for impressive food and wine pairings, offering various types of panini – Italian-style sandwiches, usually grilled – plates of cheese, olives and various vegetables preserved in olive oil, and an assortment of bruschette. Our favorite is the one with fresh ricotta, anchovies and lemon zest.    

The Covid-19 pandemic could have rocked the boat, but it seems that Angelo and Katharina have more than one trick up their sleeves. Throughout the pandemic, they turned their focus toward developing the delicatessen side of the business. They started to expand their already wide range of products and offered further Sicilian cheeses (including ricotta, fresh caciotta and pecorino secondo sale), preserved vegetables and fish or anchovies in oil, tartinades and salami – everything one needs for a successful aperitivo. The pivot worked out. In the last few years, they’ve even expanded their staff. The team is a mixed of locals and family members. As of now, it includes: Noemi, Margherita Fabio and Giuseppe, Angelo’s nephew.

Katharina and Angelo’s meticulous care extends to every detail of their business, and their mission is not just to run a wine bar. They want to contribute to the industry; to elevate its ethical and professional standards. Along their journey, it seems they have not only succeeded in raising the bar when it comes to production and service, but also in bringing more life to the street. Monteleone used to be less frequented, with only one bar, Fabrica 102. Now, it has become a pleasant little alley filled with several pubs and cafés. The Bottega’s logo, a subtle representation of a boat, is a reference to Noah’s Ark. Here, everyone is welcome aboard – and there are a lot of wines and Sicilian delicacies ready to see you through the flood.

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Ségolène BulotFrancesco Cipriano

Published on April 24, 2023

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