"W elcome to my house!" says Michele Zacco. Technically, it's not his house: It's Fremont's new Azzurri Vino Bar. But if your Sicilian friend invited you over to watch a soccer match, it'd be a lot like this. The pregame show with goofball Drew Carey wearing Sounders-colors plaid is less compelling than the open door leading to the back deck. Is it possible to have a beer outside? "Prego!"
Azzurri has only been open a few weeks, and the deck isn't furnished yet, but carrying chairs out is no problem. A gas grill is going, loaded up with bell peppers; the bell peppers' cardboard box sits on the deck, full of empty beer and prosecco bottles covered with a sprinkling of espresso grounds. "Sorry you have to sit with the garbage!" says Zacco cheerfully, nudging it a few inches with his foot. His Italian accent works like a spell: He's not really sorry, he doesn't care, and neither do you. It's nice out, the garbage doesn't smell, you've got a Peroni; this is la vita bella.
Azzurri is a neighborhood place, and so far, pretty much every expense has been spared. (Zacco's old house was Pontevecchio Italian Bistro, also in Fremont; he closed it earlier this year.) AZZURRIVINOBAR.COM is hand-painted in wavering blue letters on one wall, and a repurposed Nantucket Nectars refrigerator hums in the corner. Decor includes Italian soccer jerseys and scarves, a black-and-white poster of a naked woman executing an impressive bicycle kick, another poster depicting a sexually charged scene in a bike shop ("A Clemént non si resiste!"), and a painting of the Ponte Vecchio. A slightly deflated toy soccer ball sits in a corner. In terms of the vino, there are only two kinds: If you would like a flute of prosecco or a tumbler of Nero d'Avola, you're in luck. The manner in which Zacco offers it—there is no wine list—makes you feel like you're in luck anyway. It is the definition of charm.
The food menu is brief and, to be perfectly honest, the food is less than stellar. A roster of panini ($6) is named after various European soccer teams; tribute is paid to AC Milan with grilled peppers, provolone, and remarkably tough chicken breast. Maybe it's a Sicilian thing: The Palermo, with mozzarella, tomato, and basil, is fine. A gorgonzola e noci salad (also $6) has wilty baby greens, untoasted walnut pieces, and what appears to be bottled blue-cheese dressing. Zacco isn't much for housekeeping, either; you can feel free to wipe off your own table, and the floor could use a broom.
But you don't care—you'd like another Peroni. They might be out, but Zacco's brother has a special stash. Zacco goes and looks. "PERONI!" he sings triumphantly from behind the bar, and all is right with the world.
Azzurri Vino Bar, 223 N 36th St, 547-1050