marseille marcelloOn a sunny square just off the Old Port, Marcello Pane e Vino is a bar-restaurant specialising in Italian wines and classic antipasti: snacking / sharing dishes that are the Italian answer to tapas.

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It's the brainchild of two enthusiasts. Laurent Ceccarini, whose family hails from Tuscany, is the restaurateur, with two other eateries in this part of town.

Supervising the cellar: Marcel ("Marcello") Ballestracci, who comes from Corsica and has been importing wines into France from Italy for ten years.

They've created a flexible, open format that offers food throughout the day, regional dishes beyond the usual pizza e pasta and an all-Italian wine list that must be one of the best this side of the Alps.

Under the previous ownership, the restaurant was called 29 place aux Huiles (the address of the place) and was a favourite spot of ours because of the location, the food and an outstanding wine cellar. Marcello opened here in summer 2018 and we're happy to report that on all three fronts nothing much has changed.

marseille marcello antipastiObviously the location is the same! Marcello sits on the corner of two attractive pedestrianised squares. In one direction, the cours d'Estienne d'Orves, a large, bustling piazza lined with cafes, bars and restaurants.

In the other direction, a glimpse of the Old Port, a block away. A large, leafy outdoor terrace occupies both sides of the corner and seats around 100 diners.

Inside, the rather minimalist ground floor is designed for quick stand-up snacking at the counter and there are more tables overlooking the square for more leisurely dining on the first floor.

The food is Italian, naturalmente, with classic dishes served as small tasting plates. The menu charges according to the season, but you might find vitello tonnato, grilled octopus, crispy deep fried polenta and aubergine alla Parmigiana as well as Italian cheeses and charcuterie. The odd provençal dish might put in an appearance too.

There's also a good value two or three course set lunch at midday for those who want a traditional meal, and a brunch on Sundays.

Marcello is open seven days a week – a big bonus in this city where we’ve often found restaurants closed on Sundays and / or Mondays. It also offers service continu, i.e. you can order antipasti outside the rigid meal times that govern many French kitchens.

marseille marcello ownersDid we mention the wines? Marcello doesn't compete with the wine cellar of 29 place aux Huiles, which had some 2000 of them.

Instead, and probably more wisely, it offers just 50 – but they are all carefully chosen by Marcel and available by the glass as well as the bottle. Pictured: Marcel, left, enthuses about his wines with Laurent, right.

The selection is tempting, especially for anyone getting a bit bored with the ubiquitous rosés de Provence and Côtes de Rhône you find around here.

A sweet, very light, slightly sparkling Muscat slipped down nicely as an unusual apéritif (or you can opt for the usual Prosecco). The aromatic Terracruda Vettina Pergola, a fruity red wine from the little-known region of Marche on the north-eastern coast of Italy, was excellent too.

Service is casual and friendly at Marcello Pane e Vino (the odd name is inspired by a 1950s movie). And it gets extra brownie points for the fully disabled-access WC.

Visited October 2018.

Where: 29 place aux Huiles, 13001 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 91 33 26 44. Website for Marcello Pane e Vino

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