Edible Monterey Bay

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My Attic

Photos by Philip Geiger and courtesy of My Attic

A grandson reopens his grandfathers’ bar—and helps revive downtown Monterey

1_-_My_Attic_circa_1940From what Jason Coniglio’s heard, his grandfather spent a lot of time behind bars. Yet he rarely had a drink in his hand—mostly because he never drank with his patrons. In the early years after Prohibition ended, and people slipped out of the attics and basements and other secret sites of their indiscretion, Horace Coniglio and his brother Sam became the toast of the town when they opened My Attic, a public saloon that welcomed anyone who wanted to imbibe and engage in orderly conduct.

Located in the Casa Sanchez building on Alvarado Street in Monterey, the bar became a social hub for soldiers and their dates—and anyone else setting out to socialize. The bartender was known for singing and dancing as he mixed drinks, but no one ever got out of hand. It was a place of hospitality and honor, and people were not going to abuse the privilege.

Horace didn’t have a signature drink, except whatever the bartender was pouring at the moment. He knew his patrons by their face and their drink, and his goal was to give people what they wanted. His style of service kept him in business for 30 years. After what he considered a good run, he shut down the bar and went into real estate.

Grandson Jason Coniglio was born seven years later, but he knew his grandfather and got a sense of My Attic from the stories that brought it to life for a boy inspired by his enterprising elders. Determined to turn legend into his legacy, Jason vowed that if the Casa Sanchez building ever became available, he would restore My Attic to its essence in a new era. And so he has.

2_-_Jason_Coniglio_during_the_renovationOn Aug. 17, Coniglio and business partner John Cardinalli hung My Attic’s original sign up outside the old bar once again and reopened. The new My Attic preserves some of the soul of historic downtown Monterey, but with the aim of appealing to a very 21st Century crowd.

“In developing our plan for the bar,” says Jason, “we thought, ‘How would we cater to ourselves?’ Where do people go after a formal fundraiser, an art opening, a concert or the end of their shift? Their choices are limited by the offerings and the hour.”

“We believe there is a demand for professional people to have a place to go that is not a restaurant or a fast-foot joint,” Coniglio continues, “and we wanted to create that element downtown, just as my grandfather did. At My Attic, guests have someplace to go to continue the evening as they relax, have a drink, enjoy an appetizer made from locally sourced, fresh ingredients, and hang out together after hours.”

“By reopening my grandfather’s bar,” says Jason, “we are creating an entire experience that is old school, old fashioned and just really traditional and classy. We want people to have a taste of Monterey, to experience the heritage, culture and hospitality of the area, and to have a really good time.”

In that vein, bar bouncers present themselves as hosts in sports coats and slacks, “setting the bar” on behavior, by modeling decorum without diminishing the fun.

But while old school in some ways, the approach is updated.

Originally designed in ‘30s and ‘40s décor, the bar offers some of the same vibe, but carried off in contemporary colors. The front room, with its dark-stained, hand-milled oak bar, is adobe white, offset by dark wood. The back room, intended to be warm, welcoming, comfortable, even cozy, is done in olive tones with dark wood accents.

3_-_My_Attic_updated

Ultimately, Coniglio’s ambitions for My Attic are community-minded.

“We want to be the catalyst for other like-minded businesses as part of the revitalization of downtown Monterey. We feel it has lost its sense of identity, but with the introductions of restaurants such as 1833 and Caffe Trieste, and My Attic complementing these popular new establishments, we are [helping to create] a downtown area with a fresh, fun, progressive identity while also honoring the history and heritage and international identity of Monterey.

Just like his grandfather, Jason doesn’t have a signature drink, but he does have a couple of favorites:

Classic Manhattan Neat

2 oz Makers Mark Bourbon Whisky

1 oz Dry Vermouth

Add a splash of cherry juice and a splash of bitter

Served in a rocks glass or a martini glass with a maraschino cherry.

 

The Classic or Classic Blue

1.5 oz Johnny Walker Blue served neat, with a lemon twist, in a rocks glass.

About the author

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A fifth-generation Northern Californian, Lisa Crawford Watson has enjoyed a diverse career in business, education and writing. She lives with her family on the Monterey Peninsula, where her grandmother once lived and wrote. An adjunct writing instructor for CSU Monterey Bay and Monterey Peninsula College, Lisa is also a free-lance writer, who specializes in the genres of art & architecture, health & lifestyle, food & wine. She has published various books and thousands of feature articles and columns in local and national newspapers and magazines.