Bar Vetti’s fare still delights in its new space

I hate moving. I can’t imagine that anybody would really like the sorting, culling, boxing, shifting, trucking and heavy lifting that comes with a move. Now, imagine moving during a pandemic, with masks and serious social distancing in a play, and you’ll have some idea what it must have been like for bar Vetti last month.

When bar Vetti opened in the landmark 800 Building in October 2017, it almost immediately became a victim of its own success: With room for 50 diners in its tiny room, it had no place to grow.

So, a move seemed almost inevitable, and then executive chef and partner Andrew McCabe announced last January that bar Vetti was heading for a new space in the AC Hotel by Marriott Louisville Downtown in NuLu, which would nearly double the restaurant’s space from 1,700 to 3,300 square feet.

The arrival of the pandemic a couple of months later couldn’t have helped. Nevertheless, bar Vetti hit its late-spring target, opening in NuLu on June 10.

Our order came out within three minutes after we pulled up to the curb in front of bar Vetti’s new quarters in the AC Nulu Hotel.

I love bar Vetti and couldn’t wait to try it again. I certainly didn’t expect its casual Italian style to change, but one excuse is as good as another, right? It’s open only for curbside pickup right now (Wednesdays through Saturdays from 4 to 9 p.m.). That suits me while this pandemic continues, so I quickly found my way to its online ordering page. (Please note that bar Vetti has briefly suspended carryout and online ordering while it prepares to open the dining room with a new menu. Watch for online ordering to return the week of July 6.)

The online menu is simple and easy to use, and it still features many of bar Vetti’s familiar dishes from its bill of fare in the old quarters: a variety of Italian dishes with plenty of pasta and pizza. It’s likely to change a bit as it settles into the new place, but I don’t expect a major shift.

At the top of the page you click boxes to let them know how many sets of disposable utensils you wish, if any, and, in a creative twist, describe your car so they can easily find you at the curb.

Then, click your way through the details, which include brief descriptions and icon-size photos of about 20 dishes, starting with a tall glass of cold brew iced coffee ($3) and moving on through a half-dozen soups, salads and breadsticks to three sandwiches, four pasta entrées, seven pizzas and, for dessert, cinnamon sticks ($7).

bar Vetti’s cacio e pepe, a classic Roman dish, blankets al dente rigatoni with earthy Pecorino cheese and deliciously floral and spicy coarse-ground black pepper.

Some of the highlights include a smashed meatball burger ($13) featuring a pair of Indiana 3D Valley Farm beef meatballs on a potato bun with red sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan and pickled peppers. In a convenient touch, once you have chosen an item from the menu, you’re offered a variety of ways to tweak the dish: No cheese, no pickled peppers, extra pickled peppers (50 cents), extra meatball ($3) and extra cheese. Worried about allergies to wheat, nuts, shellfish or dairy? Check the blocks, and they’ve got you covered.

The justly popular eggplant Parm sandwich, a meatless option ($10) loads crispy fried eggplant, red sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan and pickled peppers on a potato bun.

The online system offered us a 2 p.m. Saturday pickup time. We rolled up at 1:47, parked out front, called in and our food came out right on top of the hour. I would have liked it if our server had worn a mask, but, then, I guess we couldn’t have enjoyed her friendly smile as she dropped our pizza box and brown bag on the back seat.

Citrus-marinated red beets with chopped pistachios, black pepper, ricotta and olive oil makes a tempting starter at bar Vetti. | Photos by Robin Garr.

We raced home, tore open the bag — kudos for neat packaging that kept everything in good shape — and got the dishes plated and ready to eat within 20 minutes of picking it up. That wasn’t fast enough to keep everything hot, but on a sizzling summer afternoon that wasn’t a big deal.

Beets and ricotta ($9) made an exceptional starter. Cool cubes of red beet, cooked just to tenderness, had been soaked in a zippy, citrus marinade, dusted with crushed pistachios and kicked up with mint leaves and several grinds of good black pepper. Creamy house-made buttermilk ricotta and fruity, green olive oil, packed separately, turned it into a luxurious delight.

Cacio e pepe ($15), a classic Roman pasta dish, was made very well. A generous portion, enough for leftovers, was built on short, fat rigatoni cooked perfectly al dente. The pasta was coated with a rich, creamy sauce of earthy Pecorino cheese melted with tangy, buttermilk whey, then dusted with coarse grains of good black pepper that burst on the palate with floral, bright, sharp and spicy flavor blasts that play in concert with the cheese.

Like cacio e pepe, the traditional Neapolitan margherita pizza ($12) is a simple dish that requires care to make it perfect. bar Vetti’s rendition hits the mark, with a thin but chewy crust showing good wheat flavor that reminds me of Italian artisanal bread. Like the original, named after Italy’s late-19th century queen, it bears the red, white and green colors of the Italian flag with light, subtle, but appealing tomato sauce under a thin blanket of melted mozzarella and grated Parmesan, scattered with small leaves of fresh basil.

Our hearty Italian meal came to $38.16, and I added a $10 pandemic tip.

bar Vetti
AC Hotel
727 E. Market St.

About the Author

Storyteller and seeker. Writer, editor, recovering metro journalist; playwright, poet, once a classical DJ. Hard-core food-and-drink geek, serious home cook. Seminary grad, part-time Episcopal preacher. Did I say eclectic? Deeply rooted Louisville native who’s lived in NYC, LA and the Bay Area; political junkie and unapologetic leftie. Covering the Louisville dining scene in print media since the 1980s, and doing it online since 1994.


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