Vito's, Reenvisioned

If you miss the back-booth deals and 50s nostalgia of the stalwart Italian joint on Madison known as Vito's, you're in luck--someone has swooped in to save the classic bar and grill that was shut down more than a year ago.

Greg Lundgren, who owns The Hideout, has purchased the space. Why?

"I think we just got tired of waiting for someone else to transform the space (it has been closed for over 18 months) and then after thinking about it, recognized how very possible it was for someone to do it all wrong," says Greg. "As a resident and business owner on First Hill, part of it was knowing the neighborhood and knowing that it could be a great addition or a great burden to the area. My business partner (Jeff Scott) and I have been patiently looking for a new venture, and when we started really thinking about what we wanted, all arrows pointed to Vito's. We wanted a place that strengthened the city core, but didn't want to imbed ourselves in the main thoroughfares of nightlife culture like Belltown or the Pike/Pine corridor; we wanted a place that we could offer performance and live entertainment, but channeling Palm Springs lounges more than Seattle rock clubs."

We gon party like it's yo birthday
Vito's opened in 1953, right at the dawn of 1950s cocktail culture and mid-century modern. The martini glasses on the windows are nearly sixty years old, says Greg. "They have been petitioning for sophisticated cocktails long before we were born and the club is so rich with history and legend that it has become an institution. Everyday we hear a new story, a new rumor, and unearth a little more of this history. The private banquet room alone has enough connections to illegal gambling and organized crime to write a book about."

Greg says most of the work they're doing is restoration and refurbishment. "It has been neglected and allowed to fall into disrepair. But while the furnishings are all being reupholstered and the floors redone, and the bar reworked and the kitchen updated (the list goes on), it is important to us that the older patrons of Vito's past return and recognize and identify with the place. The nude mural in the men's room is in fine shape; the burgundy seating is ripped and torn but will be replaced exactly as it was." Greg says the only real major change they're introducing is a grand piano. "The old dance floor (introduced in the mid 1990s) has been removed and we are using that space as a performance area - for jazz, piano men, lounge singers, R and B acts, and a few more experimental ideas. It is about recognizing what Vito's is and was always meant to be - and hip hop and club promoted nights were never conducive to that environment."

The new Vito's is scheduled to re-open in late summer. "We are retaining the same, east coast family style Italian menu," says Greg. "We will have a great wine catalog and be offering some of the best made drinks in town. It is a long term vision, and with a little bit of luck, it will be the lounge that we grow old in."

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