Bar Vetti is an upscale Italian restaurant coming to the 800 Tower City Apartments. | Courtesy of Bandy Carroll Hellige
Bar Vetti is an upscale Italian restaurant coming to the 800 Tower City Apartments. | Courtesy of Bandy Carroll Hellige

Restaurateur Ryan Rogers’ new project is a giant leap away from his popular fast-casual eateries, Feast BBQ and Royals Hot Chicken.

Roger and Royals Hot Chicken chef Andrew McCabe are opening an upscale Italian restaurant called Bar Vetti in 800 Tower City Apartments, which currently is undergoing an $11 million renovation. McCabe will be head chef and part owner in Bar Vetti.

“Bar Vetti will be a place our residents come to meet their friends after work to unwind, but the entire community can come for a great evening out as well, creating a truly cosmopolitan atmosphere,” Jonathan Holtzman, owner of 800 Tower City Apartments, said in an announcement about Bar Vetti.

Work on the project began about a year ago when Holtzman approached him about opening a restaurant there, Rogers told Insider Louisville. “It’s been kind of an ongoing dialogue.”

Both Rogers and McCabe have impressive résumés: While he can be media shy, Rogers keeps making news, first with Feast BBQ, then with its expansion, and then with the opening of Royals Hot Chicken. In addition to Royals Hot Chicken, McCabe also has worked at Louisville restaurants Rye, Proof on Main and Harvest, as well as Chicago restaurants Blackbird and L2O, a three Michelin star establishment.

An Italian concept was part of the long-term plan for Rogers’ restaurant company HiCotton Hospitality.

“It’s really something that has been on our road map for a long time,” Rogers said. The plan was to “get people comfortable with the food we are producing …before we dive into food that can be a little bit more challenging.”

Don’t expect traditional Italian food, Rogers said. Bar Vetti isn’t trying to take on Vincenzo’s or Volare Italian Ristorante.

“We are going to try to do something that is a little more progressive, something you see more in some of the newer Italian restaurants in California and New York,” he said, later adding that he and McCabe are headed to San Francisco and Los Angeles to research what other restaurants are doing.

Bar Vetti will operate like an Italian bar.

It won’t be like a bar in America, Rogers said, noting that people stop in for coffee, maybe lunch and before-dinner drinks at Italian bars. “In Italy, it is much more of a communal thing; it is like a Starbucks.”

The restaurant will be open six days a week, offering a quick breakfast with coffee and wood-fired breakfast flatbreads and lunch service. The true heart of the concept will be dinner, though.

For dinner, customers can order wood-fired pizzas, fresh house-made pastas, small plates or a seasonally selected entree. Rogers told IL that the menu, which already has gone through 20 iterations, will regularly be in flux, with the pastas, pizzas and small plates changing with the season. The bar will offer a bourbon and curated wine program, as well as a selection of Italian apéritifs and digestifs.

While prices aren’t set, small plates likely will run from $6 to $16, he said. Two people will be able to order a pizza and two small plates and feast for about $30 a piece, not including drinks.

“It’s going to be up to people to mix and match,” Rogers said.

The restaurant is named Bar Vetti as “a tribute to the rebirth of the 800 Tower,” according to the announcement. The House of Vettii is a famous home in Pompeii that was buried following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The house, which features marble statues, wall frescos and an ornate garden has since been excavated.

Bar Vetti will be located in an 1,800-square-foot space on the first floor of the 800 Tower. It will seat 50 people inside and 55 customers on the patio, and it will employ about 20 people.

Working with Village Green has been a great experience, Rogers said. The company has handled the marketing and public relations and brought on professional designers to lay out the restaurant. Minneapolis-based company Shea Design is handling the renovation. The company has designed James Beard Award-nominated restaurants.

“I think it’s going to be fantastic,” Rogers said. “We want it to be a really, really approachable space.”

Aspects include a tufted banquette, wood tabletops, and metal and leather chairs. He described it as “minimal design with really high quality finishes.”

Bar Vetti is slated to open this winter.

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Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]