Restaurants

Intimate cocktail bar Farmacia opens in the North End

The nine-seat, European-inspired space in North Square opened Friday.

Phillip Rolfe opened his nine-seat bar this weekend with a lineup of refined cocktails showcasing the flavors of Italy. Courtesy/Farmacia

This weekend, a new intimate, apothecary-themed cocktail experience opened in the North End.

Farmacia, which will operate Wednesdays through Saturdays from 5 p.m. to midnight, is currently only booking prepaid ticketed reservations. For $55 per person, guests get a 75-minute time slot, three cocktails, some little bar snacks, and “some surprise fun stuff,” said creator and bar director Phillip Rolfe.

While the little nine-seat bar has seen many owners over the years, it was once a bootleg apothecary, said Rolfe, hence the name: “pharmacy” in Italian. 

“I kinda lucked out—I’ve been staring at this space for a long time,” said Rolfe.

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A certified sommelier, Rolfe brings his extensive food and drink experience to the venture, crafting cocktails from housemade ingredients right in front of his guests for a highly personalized experience. 

After working in wine for much of his career, Rolfe cut his teeth in the cocktail world at Wink & Nod and Parla. At Farmacia, he cold-presses his own juices, infuses his own liquors, and otherwise meticulously sources every ingredient on his menu solo. 

“This is a hyper-personalized project,” said Rolfe, who essentially runs the bar as a one-man show.

That’s what he says is so unique about Farmacia—guests get a “vertically integrated experience,” chatting with the guy who not only made their cocktail, but who made the entire menu, every sourcing decision, and even every design decision in the space.

Guests get to learn the “why” of each libation they drink.

When he has the time and space, said Rolfe, he’ll accept some a la carte customers, but he’s mostly filling up on the ticketed $50 experience. He hopes the prepaid tickets will remove some of the monetary stress from decision-making at the bar. 

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“I’ve been in so many situations where people seem like they’re agonizing over a $2 difference between cocktails and I really want to take that financial pressure out of the situation,” said Rolfe.

The drink decisions still might not be the easiest, as Rolfe has an extremely curated lineup of tantalizing cocktails in store. His first menu (he’ll change out menus every few months) is based on Italian summer flavors, with highlights like a melon and basil tequila drink, a bright pink negroni with pineapple juice, and an impressively original espresso martini. 

One of the creations at Farmacia. Courtesy/Farmacia

Rather than a strict tasting menu, said Rolfe, “the idea [that the menu] is laid out in such a way that you can pick three as you go down and they should end up in the right order in terms of lightest to heaviest.”

“I’m attached to using fresh, more herbaceous driven stuff,” said Rolfe of his current menu of 11 aromatic, delicately flavored cocktails. The intimate size of his space means he’s happy to chat with a guest about their cocktail preferences—and if a guest doesn’t see something they like on the menu, Rolfe can take it off script.

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Some of his bar snacks will include roasted nuts, pickles, dips, and gelato. 

Farmacia is its own bar inside Ciao Roma, part of All Day Hospitality Group.

Reservations are already booking weeks out, said Rolfe. He plans to draw crowds of mostly locals, as opposed to the neighborhood’s tourist-heavy patronage. 

“That gives me a little more leeway to play around with some stuff,” said Rolfe.

Farmacia’s small scale will allow Rolfe to stay true to himself while running a genuine neighborhood watering hole. If he’s on vacation, he’s closed.

“I don’t work Sunday through Tuesday, I’m just closed. If I’m sick, I’m closed,” said Rolfe. “It’s very European.”

“It’s an authentic experience in the North End,” he said, “and I feel like that’s what people are looking for.”

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