Summer Of Celebration At Vetro Restaurant & Lounge

Vetro, the new contemporary Italian restaurant & lounge overlooking Jamaica Bay in Howard Beach, is redrawing the map for upscale dining in New York City. Vetro has quickly caused a buzz among serious foodies.

Founder of Russo’s On The Bay creates new destination for fine waterfront dining and entertainment

(  Vetro, the new contemporary Italian restaurant & lounge overlooking Jamaica Bay in Howard Beach, is redrawing the map for upscale dining in New York City.  Since its opening in October, this new venture from the owners of the legendary local caterer Russo’s On The Bay has quickly caused a buzz among serious foodies with executive chef Michael DeGeorgio’s innovative interpretation of Italian cuisine.  Now, with its waterfront outdoor patio and rooftop lounge open for the summer, Vetro is more than ever a culinary destination for all seasons – and for all food-lovers.

Vetro is the brainchild of Frank Russo Jr., who since 1987 has built Russo’s On The Bay into one of the leading catering centers in the New York metropolitan region.  Famed for his expertise in creating elegant once-in-a-lifetime experiences for weddings and other events, Russo wanted to bring his company’s distinctive spirit to a restaurant that would turn everyday dining into a special occasion.

Working with chef DeGeorgio and designer Bob Goldberg of Interior Design Force, Russo has realized this vision in a remarkable way.  To make the most of Vetro’s waterfront location, Goldberg’s décor intentionally blurs the visual distinctions between interior and exterior, land and water, in a series of richly understated spaces that are all clear light and air, with open vistas to the bay.  This atmosphere is further enhanced by updated design details in Venetian glass that pay subtle homage to another famed seaside setting: there are glass tiles, chandeliers, a glass waterfall and specially-commissioned hand-blown glass artworks, all adding distinction to the décor, and all underscoring Vetro’s sense of modern luxury (“Vetro” is the Italian word for a pane of glass).

Though perfectly framed by the décor, it is of course Vetro’s food that is the real heart of the experience.  For Vetro, chef DeGeorgio, a Culinary Institute of America graduate and 22-year veteran of New York’s restaurant scene, has developed a menu that he describes as focused on “creative and classic Italian cuisine.”  In practice, this means an emphasis on the freshest seasonal ingredients and a fundamental respect for home-cooking traditions, leavened by some innovative variations, along with taste combinations that, while familiar in Italy, are less common on this side of the Atlantic.  

For instance, while DeGeorgio can turn out a strikingly simple jumbo shrimp oreganate or purely classic roasted bone-in chicken Scarpariello, he also offers grilled yellow fin tuna with figs, honey and gorgonzola, and tops a flame-grilled veal chop with a signature pistachio sauce.

Beyond the original offerings on Vetro’s main menu, diners interested in expanding their gastronomic horizons can take advantage of DeGeorgio’s special regional menus, which provide three- or five-course tastings focused on signature cooking from various parts of Italy.  The most recent menu, for instance, served up dishes in the style of Abruzzo, an east coast region whose extremes (which range from some of the highest mountains in Italy to some of its most remote white sand beaches) are reflected in diverse cuisine, as well as a penchant for heavily-spiced food:  thus, Vetro’s Abruzzo salute includes everything from a cold salad of calamari and octopus; spaghetti served with meatless meatballs made from mountain sheep cheeses and egg; and a fiery Abbacchio al Diavolo, leg of lamb slow-roasted with olives and hot peppers.  Vetro’s regional menus rotate every two weeks; the summer calendar includes menus from Molise, Sicily and Puglia.

Vetro’s extensive wine cellars echo DeGeorgio’s wide-ranging culinary outlook.  The restaurant’s wine list includes more than 345 selections from nearly every Italian wine-producing region, along with well-curated offerings from elsewhere in Europe, the Americas, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.  Significantly, nearly half the bottles are priced below $50.  “There are some exceptional values here, including many wines that are sold for much more at other restaurants,” notes PJ Connolly, general manager and sommelier.  But I want people to feel free to try different wines, and discover new tastes they might not have known before.”  In keeping with this approach, Vetro also offers more than two dozen wines by the glass.

Vetro’s original cuisine, wine values and welcoming atmosphere have quickly attracted attention in food circles.  Despite being open for only eight months, Vetro has already shot to the top of OpenTable’s Diners’ Choice™ ratings, taking its place alongside – or above – such long-established leaders as Le Bernadin, Daniel and PerSe.  Currently, it heads the list of all tri-state region restaurants for “Best Food” and “Best Italian Food,” and ranks number two for “Best Overall” (second only to the internationally-acclaimed Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills).  That a new restaurant in Howard Beach could attract such ratings from OpenTable users is especially gratifying for the Vetro team, given the generally Manhattan-centric nature of most dining ratings in the region.

While the food alone could justify a special trip to Howard Beach, Russo and his team are also working hard to make Vetro a stand-out destination for entertainment and special events.  Over Memorial Day Weekend, Vetro opened its waterfront outdoor patio, offering 65 seats for outdoor dining (plus 13 boat slips for arrivals by sea), special Sunday brunch, afternoon grill menus and live music.  Also open for the season is the rooftop lounge, featuring stunning views of the bay and its own menu for al fresco dining, plus a calendar of live performances and other events (including Cigar Night Mondays, with specials on fine brandies and single malt Scotches).  

Vetro’s Blue Lounge provides yet another option for entertainment, with daily drink specials Monday – Friday, from 4 to 7 p.m., weekly late-evening retro music, bottle service and a special menu on “Social Gathering Thursdays” (10 p.m. to 1 a.m.), and live musical performances every Friday – Sunday night.  For private parties, dinners and special events, Vetro can accommodate groups of up to 70 in its exclusive Wine Cellar, or 100 in the Murano Room, with all guests treated to distinctive service and uncompromising attention to detail that have made Russo’s On The Bay a trusted partner for memorable events.

“With Vetro, we have tried to create something new, a level of fine dining and entertainment that’s a gem in Howard Beach, and that sets a standard for the entire region” says Russo.  “But at heart, we’re still doing what we’ve always believed in at Russo’s On The Bay:  we are dedicated to giving people a memorable experience that they can treasure for the rest of their lives.  At Vetro, we want to make every day a special occasion.”

For more information on Vetro Restaurant and Lounge – or to schedule a visit – please contact:  Fran Harrow at 917-828-6382.