The white tablecloths are gone. After 13 years as Via Matta, 79 Park Square is now Doretta Taverna & Raw Bar, still under Michael Schlow's ownership (and covered with colorful art by his wife, Adrienne Schlow, who used tools like syringes and turkey basters to create some of the pieces.) The restaurant is Greek, paying homage to Adrienne's family.
"Hopefully it feels stylish but really comfortable and not fancy at all," said Schlow, emphasizing flexibility. "We want you to be able to decide what you want to do. If you want to come in and have a glass of wine and a couple things from the raw bar and go home, you can do that. But if you want to go full on and have entrees in a big way, you can do that too." (Have a big group? You may want to try the whole roasted lamb shoulder, cooked for 15 hours, served on the bone. "You just sort of pull it apart, and it’s really gorgeous," said Schlow.)
The Doretta idea was born a couple years ago, but Schlow wasn't initially sure that it would take over the Via Matta space. "But as we crawled out of the recession and Via Matta sort of didn't crawl out of it very well, I realized I needed to do something," he said. "We still had a few years left on the lease, and our landlord was great. He really worked with us. We wanted to stay here at the Heritage on the Garden; we love the building." Bistro du Midi is also part of the Heritage building, along with a number of high-end clothing shops.
Doretta features a newly expanded patio, which seats around 70, and the dining room opens up right onto it via a few French doors. "Even when you're sitting inside, you'll still feel the outside very much so," said Schlow. A bar takes up the center of the dining room, and the back wall of the restaurant is covered with a striking 60-foot mural.
"It's something new," he said of the design. "I've always been attracted to things that are unique and a little different, and so even when I think about what we did with Radius or Via Matta, they're products of our imagination and extensions of our personality. This one is particularly personal because of my family, so I'm very excited."
As for the food, expect Schlow's interpretation of straight-up Greek (although he has avoided using any Greek words on the menu in order to keep it accessible). "I think it's time for just plain old Greek," he said, adding that there are a lot of "Mediterranean" restaurants but not too many that just focus on Greece. "Greek food is beautiful, tasty. When I travel, if there's a good Greek restaurant, I always go to it. Beautiful whole fish with some lemon and olive oil — as I get older, it's especially the way I want to eat."
For Schlow, it's all about family. "I hope people come in here and know that they're being invited into our home; we really just want you to have a family meal, even if you're with business associates or you're on your first date. And listen, if you don't want to share, we won't make you share. We'll give you your own plate, and you can have your own steak or chicken or whatever. But the idea of breaking bread together and celebrating the day, celebrating a meal together, celebrating each other — that's sort of what the Greek spirit is all about."
Doretta is open from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily.