Bar Guide: Via Vecchia craftsmanship of cocktails inspired by Italian liqueurs
Located in the former site of Vignola & Cinque Terre, Via Vecchia (in Italian for “old street”) is the kind of place where no detail has been overlooked. The atmosphere grabs your attention before you even enter, with ivy-covered brick walls and a cozy patio, but the decor once inside is breathtaking.
A stunning curved bar is the centerpiece of the room, making it clear that this is a cocktail restaurant. In addition to the exquisite main dining area with a variety of seating options (my favorite being a plush emerald green corner stand), there is also a less formal bar at the back of the restaurant which I predict will be. a wonderful gathering place for groups once it is safe to mingle freely.
My drinking companion and I had requested seats at the bar, and I was momentarily disappointed that the bar stools, which had a wide, padded bottom (which I have in common with them), did not have no file. They were so comfortable, however, that I forgot about it as soon as I sat down. Bonus points for the fact that they had purse hooks under the bar.
Via Vecchia’s cocktail menu lists a dozen original cocktails, divided into “fresh / salty”, “bitter” and “almost classic” categories. My friend went with the “almost classic” Sicilian Negroni ($ 13): gin, Antica Torino, Amaro dell’Etna, Campari, and salted grapefruit oleo. The spectacular charred grapefruit garnish alone made it a great choice.
True to my character, I went with a “bitter” choice, The Smoking Mirror ($ 13): Mezcal, Zirbenz, Pasubio, passion fruit, and vanilla mousse. Phenomenal. As you might have guessed, Via Vecchia is the kind of place where you might have to ask a lot of questions about some of the ingredients, but I find it appealing – I don’t want to order something from a bar cocktails which I could easily make at home.
They also sell five sparkling wines by the glass, six white, one rosé and eight red. Glass prices range from $ 9 to $ 26, most between $ 10 and $ 15; the vast majority of wines are (not surprisingly) Italian. They also have four draft beer options and three bottled / canned options. Cocktails, however, are definitely the stars of the menu.
One of the most unique and fun elements of Via Vecchia is its aperitif program, the Italian version of a happy hour. Offered Tuesday through Friday from 4 pm to 6 pm, it has its own special menu, which got my approval as soon as I saw it was called “Spritz & Giggles”. It offers $ 8 Negronis, $ 8 Aperol spritzes, a handful of other $ 8 cocktails, $ 6 house wines, and four options for small plates ranging from $ 6 to $ 8. Whether it’s aperitif time or not, customers are always welcome to have a drink and a snack.
Other highlights of our tour included the complimentary appetizer platter of salami, cheese, olives, pickled vegetables, honeycomb, and baba ghanoush, as well as the music playing at the perfect volume for the conversation.
Owner Joshua Miranda (who also owns Blyth & Burrows) was present during our visit, as was Beverage Manager Mark Hibbard, the genius of Dove Shanks Bitters.
Miranda, who opened Via Vecchia at the end of June 2020, chose an Italian theme not only because her father was Italian, but also because “the space was just screaming Italian”. Hibbard has no particular connection to Italy, but is passionate about finding ways to incorporate “extremely interesting” Italian appetizers and amaros into cocktails in an accessible way for people who did not know them before.
Retired diplomat Angie Bryan writes about Maine cocktail bars while making as many puns as her editor allows.