Bocce, gnocchi and prosecco at the new Vendetta
By Fritz Hahn
May 16, 2013
Vendetta, a new Italian restaurant from H Street impresario Joe Englert and the team behind H Street Country Club, will open to the public on Tuesday. Here’s what you need to know about the new spot, which fills the former Red Palace building at 1212 H St. NE.
• Vendetta was part of Englert’s original plans for H Street bars and restaurants, which he told me about back in 2006. It was supposed to open across the street from the Rock and Roll Hotel, “but that fell through,” explains Ricardo Vergera, a partner in Vendetta, and plans were shelved. When the Red Palace closed, its building seemed like a natural fit for the restaurant, Vergera says.
• It doesn’t feel like the Red Palace. Where that nightspot was clearly cobbled together from two adjacent buildings, once known as the Palace of Wonders and the Red and the Black, Vendetta is a more wide open space. Several walls were removed, including the first floor wall behind what was the Palace of Wonders bar, and another staircase was opened to improve crowd flow.
• There are two indoor bocce courts. There’s one full-sized (25-foot) court on each floor, covered with a surface of gravel and crushed oyster shells. There are plans for charity tournaments and eventual league nights, but otherwise, the courts will be open on a first-come, first-served basis.
• Twenty wines by the glass will be offered, with 17 from Italy. (These will sell for $5 at the daily happy hour.) The draft options include Peroni and Montelvini Prosecco.
• James Figueroa-Perez, formerly the chef at the Sofitel Hotel in Miami, is behind the menu of “traditional, not-high end Italian dishes.” This isn’t ‘inspired-by’ Italian food or something like that,” he says. “This is what average Italians eat.” His menu is based around a mix-and-match concept: Pick one of seven pastas, including house-made gnocchi and pappardelle, and then one of nine sauces, such as walnut-kale pesto, pancetta carbonara, or a pork jowl ragu. Figueroa-Perez stresses that these with be “hearty, not small plates,” with each combo costing $16.
• Three or four flavors of sorbet will be made in-house. Selections for the opening include lemon-mint and blood orange and cocoa.
• Not on the menu, but available: Bar snacks, including spiced almonds, house-marinated olives and pickled veggies. Plates are $5 each.
• The upstairs bar features two-and-a-half Vespas. Two hang from the ceiling (their engines were removed to lessen the weight), and the front half of a third is mounted behind the bar.
• Downstairs, the bar has a darker and clubbier feel, with much more wood and taxidermied animals on display. The window booth looks like a great place to sit and watch H Street go by on a weekend night.
• Other decorations: Vintage Italian posters, including ads for the 1936 world trap-shooting championship and 1960s clothing (downstairs) and shelves of mid-century Italian cameras (upstairs).
• The cathedral lights and stained glass came from churches in upstate New York; the floors, bars and tables are made of reclaimed wood from local farms.