“We like to pioneer stuff as much as possible,” Louisville, Kentucky-based chef and restaurateur Ryan Rogers says. And the Eater Young Gun’s newest restaurant, Bar Vetti, will mark a few firsts when it opens tonight in a downtown Louisville “no man’s land” bounded by the central business district on one side and the Victorian mansions of Old Louisville on the other.
Bar Vetti is the only restaurant in the neighborhood, and it’s the only restaurant of its kind in Rogers’s HiCotton Restaurant Group. Rogers rose to local prominence with Feast BBQ, a fast-casual barbecue restaurant he opened in 2012 in New Albany, Indiana. He expanded it across the river to Louisville in 2014, opened Nashville hot chicken restaurant Royals Hot Chicken in 2015, and this week, he adds Italian Bar Vetti, the first full-service restaurant of the bunch. With Bar Vetti, Rogers says, “the level of expectation is so much higher.”
Rogers says Bar Vetti was designed to fill “whitespace” in Louisville’s restaurant landscape. “I always try to build restaurants that I want to go to, and I didn’t want to have to fly to New York or San Francisco to go eat fresh pasta at a restaurant,” Rogers says. Along with fresh pastas, the menu from Eater Young Gun semifinalist and Bar Vetti partner Andrew McCabe will include brick oven pizzas, Italian snacks (like fritto misto), shared plates — including salads and heavier options like chicken saltimbocca — and classic Italian cocktails.
To further stand out, Rogers is piloting a “hospitality included” restaurant format for his first full-service spot. Inspired by the model at New York restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, Rogers and McCabe will eliminate tipping at Bar Vetti. To have “multiple restaurants, good restaurants,” Rogers explains, “you have to have good employees and you have to keep them happy, and the way to do that is to make sure they’re being paid a fair wage.”
Rogers hopes the 45-seat restaurant inside the 800 Tower City Club Apartments will become a hub for the students at nearby Spalding University, as well as a reason for people in Louisville to come check out the revitalized neighborhood. “We saw an opportunity for not only building an Italian restaurant, but building a neighborhood third place that’s different from your work or home,” he says. “[It’s] a place where you can come hang out, share coffee with friends, or cocktails or great food.”
Bar Vetti opens for dinner tonight, and will solidify its place as a neighborhood go-to when it adds breakfast and lunch in the coming weeks.
• Bar Vetti [Official]