- LANCE HAMMOND / THE STRANGER
- Reason #4.
The return of the late, great Vito's is slated for September. From co-owner Greg Lundgren—who's obviously biased, but also at least 80 percent correct—here are the top 10 reasons you should be excited:
1 - Vito's opened in 1953 and is, by all accounts, a Seattle institution. There are more stories about drugs, gambling, organized crime, violence, sex and canneloni than one could possibly imagine. It was a favorite hangout of Governor Al Rosellini and strip club owner patriarch Frank Colacurcio. Boxer Joe Frasier loved the food, Snoop Dog and Dan Aykroyd have shared a booth there, and hundreds upon hundreds of stories are told with names withheld. In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, it was the place to go for Seattle's top businessmen, priests, politicians, lawyers, criminals and gamblers...
Nine more after the jump.
2 - Business partners Jeff Scott and Greg Lundgren recently purchased the business and signed an 18 year lease for the Vito's location. Together they own the Hideout, just a few blocks up the street and are giving Vito's a total restoration. From new upholstered booths, to a refurbished bar and kitchen, the old Vito's had unfortunately been in a state of disrepair for years. The two partners have fixed, replaced or tweaked the space to subtle but great (and much needed) improvements- understanding that the magic and allure to Vito's is its history and vintage in 1950s cocktail culture.
3 - The grand piano. A great many people in Seattle considered Vito's a dive bar, a dingy, dirty, rundown place, and it is true that the twenty first century has not been kind to Vito's. But in reality, Vito's was a vibrant and classic restaurant and lounge, serving some of the best cocktails, food and entertainment in town. For decades Vito's had a grand piano in the corner and attracted some of the city's most talented singers and piano players. The dance floor has been removed, a dressing room built, and a grand piano purchased. We are lining up some incredible lounge acts, including Martin Ross (formerly of the cloud room), Sarah Rudinoff and Nick Garrison, Sara Edwards and Erin Jorgensen, Korby Sears, Ivory Smith and a range of Seattle performers from the Seattle Opera to local rock bands. We plan on making the grand piano the coolest instrument in town.
4 - The Men's Room Mural. It seems to be what everyone wants to know. Is the nude portrait in the men's room still in tact? Why yes it is, yes it is... And just to balance the show, we have a new addition to the women's room, which is... Italian and classic.
5 - The menu. In keeping with the history and style of Vito's past, we have an incredible new executive chef joining us from a long tenure at ________ (he has to tell the owner first of his departure- give us a week), who is going to just knock it out of the park. Besides being an executive chef in Seattle for the past ten years, he is Italian and from the east coast - a perfect match for our east coast italian, family style menu. [Please put guesses/rumors/etc. in comments!]
6 - The bar. Justin Gerardy (former manager of the Hideout) will be taking the helm of a new and beautiful mahogany bar. Vito's was one of the first and few bars in Seattle to promote post world war two cocktail culture (those martini glasses on the front windows are from 1953) and they did it right. Make no mistake, we will maintain an incredible (and incredibly affordable) happy hour, but our bartending staff is a dream team of some of the best mixers and personalities anywhere. The Birdbath Martini, however, has been removed from the menu.
7 - A new work of art. We have commissioned local artist Warren Dykeman to create a 35 foot long mural along the west wall of the lounge, which is graphically rich, warm and in the spirit of mid-century graphic design and New York school art.
8 - We are active in partnering with the Sorrento Hotel, Town Hall, The Frye Art Museum, Saint James Catherdral, Skyline and the Hideout, to help stitch together the fabric of the First Hill community - creating a culturally rich destination in the city's oldest neighborhood.
9 - The Cougar Room. It used to be the place where important people met to discuss discreet business, where card games ran every Wednesday night and whatever happened behind this floor to ceiling red carpeted, was none of your business. Now our private banquet room serving drinks and/or dinner for 20, it is the coolest, strangest, most photogenic dining room in town. Any more and I'd be a spoiler.
10 - All of this happens this September! Our restoration is beyond midway and the place is looking fantastic. It is the place where we plan on growing old in, and with any luck, you will too. After two years of silence, Vito's will re-open with an old/new vision that we are confident Vito's would whole heartedly endorse. There is nothing like it in town, and we are excited to bring dining, food and entertainment to a old/new place. Three generations of Seattlittes have histories here, and this fall we welcome them all back. As an ideal, we hope to serve the grandparents, the parents and their children (though this is a 21+ establishment), creating a nightlife for a great diversity of clientele.