Vito’s takes you back, which turns out to be exactly where you want to go.

Photo: Vito’s

HOURS: Daily 4-7pm
PRICES: $3 well drinks, beers, and select wines. Half-off the lounge menu (regular prices $5-$12).

Last spring, Jeff Scott and Greg Lundgren bought Vito’s, a First Hill restaurant and bar that had opened nearly 60 years prior and was certainly showing its age. But rather than give it the My Fair Lady-treatment, Scott and Lundgren embraced the sexy-seedy Italian lounge—leaving the lights low and the candles lit, maintaining the assertively outdated deep-red-and-black color scheme, and introducing a list of specialty cocktails that looks a lot like that at The Hideout, their perfect little art-themed bar up the road. No need to think too hard on these drinks or invoke adjectives like “craft” and “preprohibition.” They are expert and tasty, and brought to you promptly and politely. So pick the one that sounds best, my weary friend, then fahgetaboutit.

Happy hour at Vito’s happens every day from 4 to 7pm and includes, among its enticements, half price on the lounge menu. That menu tops out at about $12 in any case, so HH offers quite the dinner deal. I won’t lie to you and pretend this food will change your life, but ask yourself: Does it need to? Here you are, lounging in a loungy booth, relaxing with a mellow mixture of rye whiskey, punt e mes (vermouth), and Maraschino, and maybe some bean-and-anchovy dip or gooey garlic bread or a simple Roman bean ragu.

Maybe you’re biding time until someone shows up to put that piano to work. Maybe you’re here to forget the eight hours of coding you did today, or the poor production assistant you had to can due to budget cuts. Maybe you’re trying to soften the sharp edges around a recent breakup or maybe today is that day in winter (happens every year) when you’re ready to admit the rain has won. It doesn’t really matter. Because Vito’s is going to work its way under your skin until you’re convinced you’ve traveled back to a time—maybe not a simpler time, but certainly a different time—when a cocktail was just a cocktail and no one troubled themselves about the farm where the cannellinis were grown and whether or not it used pesticides.

And sometimes, at the end of a hard day in Techietown, that’s exactly the time you need.

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