Not so long ago I wrote on a series of new restaurant spaces that have been springing up on Amherst Street, Connecticut Street, Elmwood, etc. (see post), in order to offer restaurateurs the ability to create their own diggs while controlling their own destinies. Vera Pizzeria (see post) is the perfect example of this type of creative control over the destiny of a business, where the owners set out to make a fresh mark on a building, a street and a city.
Owners of Vera Pizzeria, Cameron and Jessica Rector and Bryan Lester, have made a commitment to this dynamic Lexington/Elmwood neighborhood by building out one of the most simple and tasteful interiors to date. Upon walking inside, one’s eyes are immediately drawn to a rustic-looking mural on the west wall that was designed to imitate one of the old Buffalo painted billboards found on numerous buildings downtown. Artist Kimberly Halavin worked wonders with the distressed colors, while nailing a look of authenticity. A section of gray drywall partially covers the mural, adding just enough contrast to ensure that no one questions its authenticity. Often times, creating a look of simplicity and authenticity can be the most challenging part of interior design.
As for real authenticity, the building offered just enough of the original design characteristics to work with (brick work, wood floors) in order to successfully pull off the concept. The perfect positioning of the bar draws the eye to the back wall where an exposed wood-framed opening showcases the kitchen. A rectangular mirror on the far wall adds balance to the aforementioned cutout, as if mimicking a second opening.
Overhead drop pendant lighting affixed with Edison bulbs adds to the raw appeal, leaving the culinary creations (see interview) as the focal point of the eatery. Mixologist Jon Karel will be creating mixes from scratch with a focus on whiskey and gin concoctions. “This is a bar that is inspired by pre-prohibition,” Jon told me. “We’re even going for the 200-year-old culinary classic bartender apparel look, with drinks based on the classics.” He then showed me an example of a drink that will be featured called ‘The Duchess’, made with gin, Aperol, sweet vermouth, burnt orange oil and rosemary. Maybe the drink menu should be called ‘The Spirits of Buffalo’?
As with many multitasking bartenders back in the day, Jon is also being assigned to the live music department since he happens to be a musician himself. So don’t be surprised to walk in and find a duet sitting in the corner one evening. He respectively noted that even though there is a TV in the ‘house’, it will only be turned on for Sabres games and Italian film viewings. The background music will be different as well, piping the sounds of avant-garde jazz, tango and Calypso.
The lively atmosphere will be non-stop considering that Vera will be open for food six days a week and open seven days for the bar crowd. On Sundays, creative bar snacks will be offered. Between the unique atmosphere and the Neapolitan/urban Italian fare, Vera is sure to make a real impression on customers who are starting to get a taste of living in a city burgeoning with colorful restaurant options.
220 Lexington Avenue
Buffalo NY 14222
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