If you’ve ever ordered a drink at Bar Napoli in Clayton before, there’s a good chance the nimble bartender Han Tran will already know what you’re having.
That’s why this man is so popular within St. Louis, Tran makes an effort to memorize what his loyal customers like to drink and make them feel comfortable. If you’re having a bad day, he’ll try his best to turn it around. If you’re having a great day, Tran will make it his mission to make it even better.
The legend of the famous bartender started when Cafe Napoli owner Tony Pietoso took notice of Tran’s unique bartending style while he was working at another restaurant. According to Tran, Pietoso offered him a job at the soon to be built Bar Napoli. Eventually, when business slowed down at Tran’s old job, he decided to take up Pietoso’s offer.
Bar Napoli was officially opened for business in 2003, and ever since then Tran has been a local celebrity with his quick wit, deft hands, and masterfully crafted liquid confidence boosters.
Clayton Times: You’ve been called the most famous person in all of Clayton — why do you think that is? Why are you so likable?
Tran: Well, anyone can be a bartender but to put a smile on someone else’s face is more important. That’s important to me and for my clients. First of all, you need to make your customers feel comfortable. The first impression is pretty important. You need to greet them well, be sincere, joke and make them smile. If somebody has had a bad day, make them smile a little bit, and if somebody is already having a good day, make them smile more. It’s not just about making a drink. I’m a clown so I like to make jokes and make everyone smile.
Clayton Times: What’s your favorite drink to make?
Tran: It’s not about me. I find out what other people like first. If someone asks, ‘What’s a good drink?’ (You ask them) if they want wine, beer, whiskey, vodka. (For instance) if they say they like vodka, I’ll work with that. This is their day, they’re important, it’s not all about me — something that I like, you might not like. I’ve got to find out what you like and work from there.
Clayton Times: Who is the most important person you’ve served so far at Bar Napoli?
Tran: To me, a famous person I don’t care — everyone I run into is cool. But I will say the most important person is the nicest person. That would be my idol and it’s come to Scott Schnuck, the owner of Schnucks. He’s an amazing guy, the family is local, they’re a successful family and he’s very respectful no matter what but I like who is he is — he’s very sincere, down to earth, and very friendly. I got to know him (and his son) Jason Schnuck, and we’ve become really good friends.
Clayton Times: Where do you see the City of Clayton going? Do you think more people are coming here?
Tran: There’s a lot of people coming here but Clayton is missing out on a lot of things. We have a lot of people who run Clayton and they have been around too long. They don’t know how it is. Clayton is more business-oriented. If you’re in Clayton, you want to eat? There’s a lot of good restaurants. If you want to go to a bar, a lot of fun places. But if you want to take your family here, what can you do? We need to create more boutiques, retail stores and maybe something fun. So when you bring your family in, everybody can have a little fun. We’re missing out on all that.
We have potential but I’m telling you, Clayton needs a shake-up. We need new leadership who are open-minded, maybe younger leadership so they can see the vision of the future. Otherwise, Clayton is going to be boring. We’re missing out. When you drive in and out of the City of St. Louis, you can see the difference. Why doesn’t Clayton have any of that?
Clayton Times: How do you think Clayton has changed since you first started working here?
Tran: To me, Clayton is old school. A lot of people start here that have businesses worldwide but like I said, we still need to improve our city. All people are doing is visiting, there’s nothing else. I want the local community to enjoy and have stuff to do and have fun.
Clayton Times: Finally, what’s the craziest night that you’ve worked at Bar Napoli that you can share in print?
Tran: That’s a lot of craziness. We used to do speed dating and one time a guy was sitting at one of the tall-top tables and he was drinking so much, he was drunk. Then a lady came to his table to talk and he fell off the damn chair. So we all run to him to make sure he’s okay and try to help, and he says, ‘Oh, don’t worry. This isn’t the first time.’ The lady was shocked and her jaw was dropping and she said, ‘I think I’ll go to a different table,’ and it made me laugh so hard.