UPPER WEST SIDE — An upscale neighborhood standby is turning into a more casual, contemporary Mediterranean restaurant.
As of Wednesday, Vai Restaurant at 429 Amsterdam Ave., is now Spuntino Bar. Owner and chef Vincent Chirico, who has worked at Daniel and Jean-Georges and has run Vai for 10 years, told DNAinfo New York that Vai was more of a formal dinner spot, and that he wants Spuntino Bar to serve a wider range of the neighborhood residents.
“What I want this restaurant to be is a place where you can go and not feel committed to spend 80 bucks per person,” Chirico said. “You can do that if you want to, but you can also come in, have a couple of bites of really great food with a great glass of wine and get out of here."
The vegetable-heavy shared plates menu is still in development, but it includes burrata with caramelized peach and Thai basil, and a Hamachi crudo.
“My food philosophy is very simple: it’s preparing ingredients that people are familiar with,” Chirico said. “And not making these complicated descriptions on menus and then letting the food speak for itself.”
The location helps Chirico springboard off the former restaurant’s reputation, but the owner said the close-knit feel of the community is what he appreciates.
“People here are invested in the businesses because it’s a residential neighborhood,” Chirico explained. “It’s not where people work, it’s where they live and there’s a difference in the way they approach, appreciate, and support the businesses nearby.”
Spuntino Bar is open seven days a week for dinner starting at 5 p.m. and will offer lunch starting at 11 a.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.