Nestled discreetly behind a pastrami shop in Barcelona’s El Born neighbourhood, Paradiso has claimed the title of the world’s finest bar, according to the World’s 50 Best Bars ranking. A groundbreaking achievement, this honour marks the first time an establishment beyond the traditional powerhouses of New York and London has secured the top position. At the helm of this triumph are husband and wife co-owners, Giacomo Giannotti and Margarita Sader.
The duo were recently in the city for a bar takeover at ZLB23, a Kyoto Speakeasy at The Leela Palace.
Their story began around eight years ago. “Having a bar like Paradiso was our dream,” Giacomo reflects. With a cumulative experience of over 15 years in hospitality, the couple set out to transform their dream into reality.
For Giacomo, the name of the bar carries profound significance, drawing from his roots in Gelateria Paradiso, his family’s cherished ice cream shop in Tuscany, Italy. “It was our family shop where I spent a lot of my time with my brothers and parents,” he fondly recollects. It was within these walls that his aptitude for guest engagement, the art of harmonizing flavours, and the pursuit of excellence through top-tier raw ingredients were honed.
The recognition of being crowned the world’s preeminent bar does not signal the culmination of the couple’s efforts. “It’s about having an extremely skilled team and providing the best service to our customers. And it’s not just a one-time thing — it is a promise we make every day. When we win an award, we do celebrate, of course. But the very next day, we’re right back at the bar, doing what we’ve always done,” Margarita says.
Their philosophy is straightforward: “Work diligently and maintain a positive outlook.” Giacomo and Margarita are firm believers that there is no secret sauce to their success, just unwavering commitment and a healthy dose of perseverance.
As Margarita puts it, “You can have an amazing cocktail, but if the place is dirty, the music is awful, the sofa is uncomfortable, and the waiter is not even looking at you, then it doesn’t matter if you have the best cocktail in front of you. It’s a complex experience. Even the smallest elements matter greatly.”
When the couple initiated their venture eight years ago, the concept of a speakeasy bar was a rarity in Barcelona. “Being one of the first people to bring the concept of a speakeasy bar to Barcelona has also played a major role in Paradiso making its mark in the industry today, and has also been great for our marketing since we opened,” Giacomo says.
Paradiso’s allure is underscored by its speakeasy premise: patrons access the bar through a refrigerator door. “On the outside, what you see is a traditional bakery, pastrami shop. Once you enter through an old fridge door, there’s an immediate ‘wow’ effect because what you then see is Paradiso,” he says.
This year, the theme of their menu is the evolution of humankind, inspired by pivotal inventions and moments in history, Margarita notes. Recently, they led a bar takeover at ZLB23, a Kyoto Speakeasy at The Leela Palace, Bengaluru, showcasing signature cocktails from the evolution menu. A refreshing Tesla cocktail, a nod to electricity, and The Copper, inspired by the metal age, were on offer. “Our Evolution Negroni, a twist on Negroni Boulevardier, celebrates the wheel’s invention. We garnish it with a caramel wheel,” says Giacomo.
Menu changes are an annual ritual. In their early days, amidst Barcelona’s budding cocktail culture, they adopted a measured approach to fathom client preferences. “Our challenge was to have our team find new ideas and ingredients for something novel. We want clients to sense all five faculties and evoke emotions,” Margarita emphasises.
Their preceding Universe-themed menu harnessed natural phenomena as inspiration. Their Tornado cocktail stood out, visually mimicking the effects of a tornado upon service. “It’s a prime example of a refreshingly delicious cocktail, with thoughtful presentation, concept, and narrative,” Margarita states.
While presentation bears weight, Margarita underscores that flavour and narrative often supersede aesthetics. She concludes, “The entire story must make sense.”