After ten years of overseeing the remarkable bar at Copa d’Oro in Santa Monica, which closed earlier this year, Vincenzo Marianella was ready to hit the road. After driving over 30,000 miles around North America in a motorcycle, Marianella has settled into the new Fia Lounge, a cocktail-focused bar nestled within the confines of Santa Monica’s new powerhouse restaurant. Marianella has had gigs here and there since Copa’s closure, designing drinks at Downtown’s Rossoblu, but the full powers of his cocktail genius are at work here at Fia.
The cool and collected Vincenzo, who stands well over six feet tall, talks with a deliberate pace about the 25 drink menu at Fia Lounge. “Is it balanced?” he asks after I take a sip of the Wild Horses cocktail, mixed with Gra’it grappa, lemon juice, passionfruit, and a spiced beer syrup. The drink rides the line between refreshing and sour, spicy and complex without a hint of a boozy finish. “Most people want refreshing drinks,” he says, with around 60% of imbibers looking for something acidic and iced while the remaining 40% opt for something stirred and spirit forward.
LA’s cocktail scene has come a long way since Marianella helmed the bar at Providence years ago. The City of Angels is now among the top places to drink the country, he thinks, standing toe-to-toe with New York City in many instances. Still, every neighborhood needs a classy cocktail spot, and Fia Lounge, which opened this week, hopes to becomes the go-to nightlife hangout for inland Santa Monica. Farther west, the more clubby Canary offers bottle service and an Instagram swing (seriously), while to the east the more sports bar-oriented Brentwood bar scene feels a world away.
At Fia Lounge, Marianella’s big drink menu splits into five main sections. Spritzes, something which the genteel Italian barman loves to tout, pairs nicely with chef Brendan Collins’ upscaled bar fare. The Sorrento Spritz takes Chinato vermouth and Nonino aperitivo with a splash of sparkling wine and some dashes of orange bitters that doesn’t feel out of place next to the lounge’s fireplace. For a spirituous glass, the Smoke of Scotland takes Laphroaig cask strength, St. Germain, and extra dry Amaro Averna for something Nick Offerman would likely appreciate.
Marianella seems convinced that all good things comes back in fashion with an 80s cocktail set that tries to revitalize and remake drinks like the Cosmo and Apple Martini, except with grapefruit vodka, sake, and fresh juices in the well. Finally, a “Because You Can” section seems tailored to monied showoffs who will happily put down $120 for a Grand Marnier Cuvee du Centenaire French 75 finished with Krug champagne.
Back to that bar food menu, it’s all approachable and easy, from a double cheeseburger, grilled truffled corn, and a gyro with slow-cooked beef. Fia Lounge opens at 5 p.m. daily, with hours until midnight.
Fia Lounge. 2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica.