After a record-speed renovation, Bar Amis opens tomorrow at the Navy Yard in what was until last Friday Lo Spiedo. Marc Vetri’s restaurant group closed the grill-focused Lo Spiedo to make way for a casual offshoot of Amis, its stylish Washington Square West Roman trattoria, with chef Brad Spence running the show at both Amis and Bar Amis.
“The atmosphere at Amis is casual, fun, energetic — I always thought it would make for a cool bar,” Spence says. “People sit at the bar at Amis and order little bites. It’s already a unique part of the Amis experience and I wanted to try to do that on its own, in a larger format.”
Like at Amis, the menu at Bar Amis is a mix of small plates and entrees. But the latter definitely has more of a bar feel: The “Sal’s old school meatballs,” served as antipasti at Amis, are on a sandwich at the new spin-off. There’s also a burger, salads, pastas, and bigger plates, like the fried pork chop with San Marzano tomatoes and stracciatella. The classic cacio e pepe comes both in a pasta version and as French fries. A third of the menu is given over to the “snacks” section: bruschettas, veggie plates like fried cauliflower, chicken wings with Calabrian chili sauce, nachos with cannellini beans and avocado, spicy steamed mussels.
To drink, there’s a full bar, along with a low-proof ginger beer, made in-house, that’s only one percent ABV, and nonalcoholic cucumber melon and cherry vanilla spritzers. Unlike Amis, Bar Amis is open for lunch.
“It’s heavy stuff and light stuff,” Spence says of the menu. “You can get a couple of snacks and a beer — or a frosé, we have a frozen drink machine. Or you can come in and have a full-on dinner. I love the food at Amis; that kind of Roman-style food is by nature approachable. You don’t have to dumb it down.”
Over the weekend, the space was stripped down a bit to “make it more rustic,” Spence says. Wood was ripped off the walls to expose the brick and an espresso machine and coffee cups have been moved upstairs.
Downstairs, high-top tables emphasize the casual vibe — “so if you feel like coming in and just having a couple of things, you won’t feel uncomfortable sitting at a dinner table,” Spence says. As for the food, no last-minute adjustments needed: “The food we know,” he says. “We’ve been practicing it, we’ve been cooking as a team. We’ve been eating.”
Take a look at what Spence, chef de cuisine Jared Frazer, and the rest of the crew have been cooking up: