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Originally published February 22, 2011 at 7:01 PM | Page modified February 23, 2011 at 3:18 PM

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Happy Hour: Vito's keeps the old-school vibe alive

Vito's, on Seattle's First Hill, rises again thanks to new owners who are keeping the old-school vibe going with red-leather booths, dry cocktails and a piano.

Seattle Times staff reporter

HAPPY HOUR |

The new Vito's lounge is all about channeling the old Vito's — the grand piano, dim lighting and the cannelloni. Located on First Hill, at Ninth and Madison, Vito's is the reincarnation of a Seattle institution. It looks like a Vegas lounge off the Strip, the kind of place your party visits in Rat Pack get-up on Halloween night.

A grand piano perched up front, red-leather booths to the side and little lighting overhead. It's purposely designed to look like a worn, smoky bar.

Vitos's is the handiwork of Greg Lundgren and Jeff Scott, owners of the excellent cocktail bar The Hideout, two blocks up. So you knew these boys would do the cocktails right.

Drinks went old-school — three-ingredient cocktails that are dry and bitter. Menu makes little room for the vodka-and-fruit concoctions that are more in line with the mainstream palate.

The new owners are bent on resurrecting the ghosts of Vito's past. Opened in 1953, Vito's has gone through at least four ownership changes in recent times, and slowly deteriorated until it was put out of its misery nearly two years ago.

The new partners revived the bar last September, keeping the name in honor of the late, charismatic Vito Santoro, who presided over this lounge until 1993. They even brought back the popular cannelloni.

Under "Uncle Vito," the joint was a place for power brokers and two-martini lunches. It was a favorite haunt of the late Sen. Warren Magnuson. The Seattle University faculty, doctors and the growing Italian-American community in Rainier Valley frequented Vito's.

"Here deals were struck, city issues negotiated, bets placed and settled," according to a Seattle Times story.

History aside, Vito's is good for a couple rounds of cocktails or for a cheap date. Cocktails are reasonably priced ($8), and even cheaper at night when there's free live jazz and R&B. Come Tuesday night when all wine bottles are half-off.

Bar food is so-so, with the best being the beef carpaccio and the salumi plate. That meatball sub, juicy and cheesy-gooey, tastes even better at night after you've had a few.

Vito's feels cliquish on some nights. The gray-hair set sits in the booths to relive the glory days. The cocktail geeks gather around the 30-seat, horseshoe-shaped bar, getting their rye and bitter drinks on.

Vito's, 927 Ninth Ave.; happy hour 4-7 p.m. daily with half-price food menu and $3 drafts, wine and well drinks. Second happy hour is 10 p.m.-midnight on Sundays-Thursdays with $2-off cocktails. All bottles of wine are half-price all day on Tuesdays. Free live music daily. (206-397-4053 or www.vitosseattle.com)

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com

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