I went to the New York City bar recently named the best in the world, and saw firsthand why it deserves that title

Hollis Johnson/InsiderThe counter at Dante.
  • The World’s 50 Best Bars recently named the iconic New York City cafe Dante as the world’s best bar.
  • Dante has been open for 104 years, serving food and cocktails in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighbourhood in lower Manhattan.
  • Besides Christmas Day, Dante is open every day of the year from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., and is known for its Negroni-heavy cocktail menu and stylish decor.
  • Insider got an up-close look at the famous bar and sat down with Linden Pride, who owns the bar alongside his wife Natalie Hudson, to learn about how the bar has earned its glowing reputation.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

While many restaurants and cafes have signs that boast the “world’s best coffee,” or “the best sandwich in the country,” did you know there’s literally a “best bar in the world?”

That accolade belongs to the iconic New York City cafe Dante, which was given the title by The World’s 50 Best Bars on October 3. Dante has been open for 104 years, serving Italian food and cocktails in lower Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighbourhood.

Insider got an up-close look at the famous bar and sat down with Linden Pride, who has owned the bar along with his wife Natalie Hudson since 2015, to learn about how the bar has earned its glowing reputation.

Dante, an Italian cafe, is located on Macdougal Street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderYou won’t find empty tables like this during peak hours.

Dante is situated in the heart of Greenwich Village, a neighbourhood in lower Manhattan popular among artists and musicians for its hip, bohemian vibe.

Dante features outdoor seating and has been open for 104 years.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderThe all-day restaurant and cafe becomes a lively bar at night.

Dante opened its doors to a largely Italian crowd in 1915. Originally known as “CaffĂ© Dante,” Australian natives Linden Pride and Natalie Hudson bought the bar in 2015.

Dante is known for its hospitality and Negroni-heavy cocktail menu.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderThe bar at Dante has stylish white tiles.

“There is a whole list of Negronis to make your way through, but that’s OK because Dante is an all-day restaurant-bar,” The World’s 50 Best Bars explained. “The measure of a bar is the experience of its customers – in hospitality, drinks and food Dante has the fundamentals down to a fine art.”

As you walk into the cafe, the white-tiled bar is a welcome reprieve from other poorly-lit Village haunts.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderWhen it comes to decor, no detail goes unnoticed at Dante.

When you think of a traditional “bar,” you might picture a dark establishment, where dim lights could be used to obscure an uninventive menu or a floor in desperate need of a wash. Dante, however, is refreshingly bright. Evidence of the attention to detail is everywhere, from the elegant garnishes that top the cocktails to the French bistro-style mirrors (tilted ever-so-slightly inwards) that adorn the wall.

The bar is split into two rooms and comfortably seats 65 people at a time.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderThe cafe has ample seating.

In addition to the outdoor seating, Dante has indoor seating at the bar, the counter, booths, and tables.

Linden Pride, who has been an owner of Dante alongside his wife Natalie Hudson since 2015, told Insider how excited he was about receiving the No. 1 spot on The World’s 50 Best Bar list.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderLinden Pride became an owner of Dante in 2015.

“It’s a very emotive acknowledgment for the hard work that everybody here at Dante has put in over the last five years,” Pride said. “It’s also incredible to see us surrounded by some of the bars that we’ve always looked up to and pursued in terms of inspiration over the years.”

Pride said the award was humbling.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderGlasswear, fresh fruit, and chalkboard menus are on display behind the bar.

“There are so many incredible bars on that list that we hold in such high esteem and for us to not only be associated with those bars, but to share the limelight with them, is very humbling and incredible.”

He explained that more than anything, the award was a recognition of the hard work that goes in everyday to make Dante so special.

“For that, I’m really grateful,” he said.

Pride said that when he and his wife took over the bar in 2015, some were sceptical.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderEven the place settings have been carefully considered.

“When we first took it over, people didn’t support initially,” Pride explained. “There were a lot of people that were up in arms that Australians had taken over this classic New York cafe.”

Pride told me how challenging it was to win over the community and to reassure them that he wasn’t going to run Dante into the ground or totally change the experience.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderDante’s Bloody Mary comes garnished with fresh horseradish.

“We ultimately, I think, got to a point where a lot of the naysayers ended up supporting us,” he said. “That was a huge achievement that laid the foundation of the type of environment we have here, which is open, welcoming, and ‘everyday.'”

Besides Christmas Day, Dante is open 14 hours a day, every day of the year, from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderDante uses paper straws and coasters.

As the music switched from something Norah Jones-esque to a Bob Marley tune, Pride told me that what sets Dante apart from the rest of the pack is its consistency.

“We’re open every day,” he told me. “And it’s more than great drinks – it’s great hospitality. It’s people coming in and feeling like they’re a part of a community.”

The cocktail program at Dante leans into the bitter Italian aperitif Campari.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderThe bar at Dante has a sleek feel.

Campari, the bitter Italian liqueur that serves as the backbone of many of the bar’s famed Negronis, is a staple at Dante.

The staff noticed an uptick in customers after Dante was named the world’s best bar.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderBartenders at Dante dress the part.

As he was making a cocktail, a bartender told me what the No. 1 spot on The World’s Best 50 Bars lists meant to him.

“It means we’re a lot busier!” he said, laughing. “It’s fun. Every night you have to come in with your A-game, ’cause there’s not going to be any slow nights anymore.”

The staff at Dante prides themselves on pursuing excellence in every aspect of the cafe.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderA drink is made.

Pride told me the focus at Dante is to be the best at everything they do. He explained that it’s not just about fantastic cocktails – though the cocktails are certainly that – but rather it’s about aiming to offer the best possible example of everything on the restaurant’s menu.

Whether it be coffee, nonalcoholic cocktails, food, desserts, or brunch cocktails, Dante aims to be the best of the best.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderIce is the first component in this Bloody Mary.

So far, it would appear, the bar has succeeded.

“We try to offer everything at a very high standard,” Pride said. “By doing that I think we offer something for everybody, whether you’re drinking or you’re coming in for breakfast.”

The ambience hasn’t changed much since Dante opened in 1915.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderA bartender shaves fresh horseradish over a Bloody Mary at Dante.

“It was important to us that we were custodians of something, rather than creating another hot, cool bar or whatever,” Pride said. “We’re much more interested in the history and the social, cultural aspects of being the custodians of something that was so iconic.”

Pride said he has no plans to change Dante’s award-winning formula.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderA bartender tops off two Mimosas.

At its essence, Pride explained, Dante is a small neighbourhood bar that’s been a mainstay in the Village community. Pride said he and his wife have no plans on changing that.

“The main priority we have in the way that we look after people is retaining that sense of community,” he told me.

Pride’s favourite cocktail on the menu is the Garibaldi, made with freshly-squeezed orange juice and Campari.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderPride enjoyed a Negroni Bianco with us.

“It really depends on the time of the day, but I love the Garibaldi,” he said. “I mean, it’s without question our signature drink. There’s something so beautiful about the simplicity of Campari and fresh orange juice. If I don’t know what I want, I’m going with a Garibaldi.”

After our chat, Pride stepped into the adjoining room, and I tried out a few cocktails.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderA bartender peels lemon to garnish a Negroni Bianco.

The cocktail menu at Dante is actually four separate menus: Cocktails, The Negroni Sessions, Aperitivi, and Martini Hour.

First up was the Negroni Bianco.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderThe finished product is stunning.

The Negroni Bianco ($US10 between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.) combines Brooklyn Gin, quinquina aperitif, alessio bianco, and lemon bitters. The result is gorgeous.

The balanced bitterness of the drink is bracing and welcome.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderMe, tasting a Negroni Bianco.

The bitter taste, while not overpowering, wakes up your palate. The Negroni Bianco, like much of Dante’s cocktail menu, is spirit-forward and packed with flavour.

Next up was the Garibaldi.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderThe Garibaldi at Dante comes with a giant orange slice.

The Garibaldi at Dante ($US13) is served in its own small dish and is garnished with a full orange slice.

The Garibaldi at Dante tasted clean and delicious.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderThe Garibaldi is a must-try.

The simplicity of this cocktail was what stood out to me most – it’s literally just Campari and aerated, or “fluffy,” orange juice. The sweetness of the OJ, which is made from oranges juiced right in front of you, cuts the bitterness of the Campari perfectly. Plus, the cocktail looks stunning.

After I slugged down a few cocktails, I figured I’d try out a few of the bar’s featured dishes.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderMoments before I dug into the Baby Gem Salad.

I chose a salad and a pasta dish, as it was lunchtime, and I needed to soak up some of the booze before I returned to work.

First up was a salad with baby gem, avocado, pink grapefruit, radish, and Italian dressing ($US15).

Hollis Johnson/InsiderThe Baby Gem Salad at Dante is colourful.

In addition to being beautifully plated, this salad happens to be both gluten-free and vegan.

The grapefruit offered a delicious citrusy touch.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderThe salad was balanced and refreshing.

The salad, which talented photographer Hollis Johnson also thought was excellent, meshed the tart, citrusy flavours of the grapefruit with the earthy taste of the radish. The differences between the textures of the avocado, lettuce, and grapefruit also made for a balanced mouthfeel.

Next was one of Dante’s staples: pappardelle all’ragu ($US24).

Hollis Johnson/InsiderThe Pappardelle all’ragu at Dante comes topped with generous shavings of parmesan.

The pappardelle all’ragu features braised wild boar, pork, and parmigiano reggiano.

If you visit Dante, order this dish.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderThe elusive bite shot.

The thick pasta was cooked al dente, and held the sauce – which was hearty and complex -particularly well. The delicious, freshly-grated parmigiano reggiano added saltiness and texture. Had there been bones in this dish, the pork and wild boar would have surely fallen off them. Magical.

The pappardelle used to only be available during the winter, but Dante switched to offering the dish year-round due to popular demand.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderThe pasta was excellent.

“It’s amazing how much people love pasta in New York,” Pride said with a smile. “The nice thing about the food menu is that it’s really ingredient-focused, so it’s pretty simple.”

He told me that Dante tries not to make anything that’s too heavy. Instead, the cafe aims to serve light, clean food that’s both tasty and seasonal.

“We want to make something that people want to come and eat a few times a week,” he explained.

To first-time customers, Pride would say: “Keep an open mind.”

Hollis Johnson/InsiderMe and Pride shared a drink and a laugh.

“We’re only 65 seats,” he said, “and often it can fill up and people get disappointed.”

Pride said that along with awards come high expectations.

“People come in with an expectations like, ‘this better be the best experience I’m ever going to have in a bar – it’s the world’s best bar.’ But really all we try to do is look after people and have them enjoy their social occasion.”

Pride purchased Dante because he and his wife wanted somewhere they could feel at home.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderThe Negroni Bianco in all of its frosty glory.

“We’re migrants to America and to New York and we wanted to build a sense of community,” Pride said. “I think that by coming in and having the opportunity to take over a New York institution was something we were really excited about because it gave us a platform to continue the story of something that we aspired towards – the story of New York and migrants that came to New York.”

What Dante is really all about, Pride explained, is community.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderPride and I chat over some delicious cocktails.

“We have regulars that come in every day of the week,” he said. “We have Ellen, who comes in everyday at 10 a.m. for her coffee and biscotti. Christine, who lives upstairs, has been coming in every week since the ’70s, when she worked here as a waitress. She comes in every Friday morning for an espresso and a Garibaldi, since that’s her day off.”

Pride summed up Dante’s mantra in three simple words: Dante loves you.

Hollis Johnson/InsiderA lone customer sits at the counter at Dante.

“It’s funny, we used to use this stamp on all of our coasters and our to-go cups and to-go bags and it just says ‘Dante Loves You.’ I think that embodies so much about what we strive for here,” he said.

Pride told me that the most important aspect of Dante is looking after people. He acknowledges that, at times, NYC can be brazen, in-your-face, and difficult, and feels it his duty to offer the community a place where people want to look after you.

“So, yeah,” he said. “Through food, through drinks – Dante loves you.”

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