Astoria, Pizza, Restaurants, Vegetarian and Vegan
May 27, 2014

Welcome Via Vai to 23rd Avenue This Summer

Over the weekend I had the pleasure to meet with the owners of Via Vai, a new Italian restaurant opening up on 23rd Avenue in what used to be an old (…)

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Over the weekend I had the pleasure to meet with the owners of Via Vai, a new Italian restaurant opening up on 23rd Avenue in what used to be an old Bodega (except they had a big sign displayed for Budweiser and my household would call it the “Budega”). The space had been empty for a while, and we sure are glad to see Via Vai move in there. They’ll be bringing authentic and honest Italian food in a relaxed and sophisticated space.

The owners, Antonio Morichini and his wife Cynthia, both have roots in Italy—Antonio grew up in Rome and Cynthia’s family is from the north in Emilia-Romagna region. Antonio received his formal culinary training in Italy, too, and worked at a number of Michelin-starred restaurants in Rome and in Chiavari, as well as being an executive chef in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Cynthia grew up here in Astoria not far from Via Vai, and both she and Antonio are thrilled to be able to open a restaurant together in a part of the world that they love and feel at home.

The dining area is about 16 by 30 feet, with a bar in front on the left, and seating on the right. Behind the bar is a Faema espresso machine and four taps, three of which will pour beer (local beer, mostly), and one tap will pour Falanghina wine, a bright, crisp white wine made from an ancient grape. Further back on the left is a Italian-made Pavesi pizza oven that has a rotating cooking surface inside. The bar itself accommodates about a half dozen stools and is covered in hand-set rustic slate stone. The whole place feels very cozy and comfortable.

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The Faema espresso machine. Photo credit: Via Vai

On the right are leather banquettes against the wall (originally found at Build It Green and beautifully refurbished), paired with tables made from 100-year old wood tops and refurbished bottoms. The chairs at first glance look pretty standard but you’ll notice that some of them are painted bright colors to add some visual interest. In the back is a longer table with a beautiful ornate table base, which goes well with the lighting fixture above, made of finely crafted wrought iron. Look for an old poster about the MTA’s N line gracing their wall, as well as additional art.

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Looking toward the back. Photo credit: Via Vai.

The plan is to open with dinner first, then lunch and brunch to follow. They’ll be open 6 days a week (closed on Mondays), and will take credit cards from the start. They are hoping for a mid-June opening.

As for the food, they won’t focus solely on any one region of Italy but will feature dishes from all over the country. That said, the pizzas will be Roman-style, which means they will be very thin and very light. Look for 12-inch individual pizzas that feature ingredients such as fior-di-latte, gorgonzola, mozzarella, figs, prosciutto, and artichokes, among others. I have to admit that their Capricciosa pizza sounds really interesting and delicious, made with tomato sauce, mozzarella, marinated artichokes, prosciutto, olives, and sliced hard boiled eggs. Their pizza dough will be made in a more traditional way, allowed to rise up to 48 hours, which both deepens the flavors and make it easier to digest.

They also plan to make most of their pastas in-house, too. There will be both vegetarian and meaty pastas, and also a gluten free dish, Cappesante, which is a homemade chickpea gnocchi, served with scallops, cherry tomatoes, and arugula. They also plan to make their pestos and sauce in-house, too, for dishes like homemade whole wheat fettuccini with string beans, diced potatoes, along with the aforementioned house-made pesto.

To round out the menu there are antipasti, salads, panini, and mains (from what I can tell, all are meat-centric), as well as desserts made in-house. As mentioned earlier, wine and beer will be available, too. Look for daily specials as well.

We are very much looking forward to trying out the food at Via Vai, and will definitely keep you up to date on its opening and the deliciousness within. Welcome to the neighborhood, Via Vai!

Via Vai, 31-09 23 Avenue, Astoria, New York 11105, viavai-ny.com, Facebook

About Meg Cotner

Meg Cotner was trained as a harpsichordist and now works as a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to Queens," and is a skilled and avid home cook, baker, and preserver.

2 Comments

ThinkAstoria

This is right near 2 other very well-known Italian restaurants- Ornella and Trattoria L’Incontro. It seems to be somewhat similar to Ornella, except less Neapolitan.

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