Don’t be fooled by the old sign still hanging over 736 South 8th Street. Vesuvio is long gone; replaced by a much sexier, and more interesting relative: Little Bar. Over the years, owner and manager Mike D’Addesi has given the building several modifications. Originally an Italian fine dining restaurant, Vesuvio was converted into a successful sports bar when the economy went through a recession. This allowed the extra space on the second floor free to host some underground DJ dance parties before a slap on the wrist from the Liquor Control Board. Now a name change has given the four-story space a whole new role: speakeasy-style jazz-bar.
Ten years ago, D’Addesi stripped the floor to its original tile and unveiled the beautiful tin ceiling. In order to create a more dramatic allure, the walls were painted red, the windows blacked out and a room that once sat diners now contains room for 70 eager fans. But D’Adessi is eager to convert the space into more than just a jazz club and hopes Little Bar will be a hip spot to support the arts. Weekly events include more than just jazz performances: guests can enjoy murder-mystery dinners, stand-up comedy and open jazz jam sessions. Plans are in the works to feature local artists and host gallery nights with live music.
The renovation plans extend past the first floor; A’dessi has received zoning permits to open five apartments on the top three floors, including his own penthouse. The second floor, which used to house 150 seats back in the Vesuvio days, is currently under construction to create two apartments. Some relics will remain, like the original bar top to be used as the kitchen countertop, the classic wall mirrors and the original wainscoting.
Little Bar has big plans and part of the speakeasy allure is the vibe. Guests will be unlucky searching for a phone number or website. But despite that, I doubt Little Bar will remain a secret for very long. —Suzy Grimberg