The owners of Pazza on Porter, a two-year-old Italian restaurant in East Boston, are about to open a speakeasy-inspired cocktail bar in the adjoining space at 103 Porter St. When Raffaele Scalzi (also cofounder of the Boston Pizza Festival and co-owner of Casa Mia in Marblehead) and Mivan Spencer (also owner of Café Dello Sport in Boston’s North End) noticed that the space next door was vacant and available, they decided it made good sense to transform it into a bar and to call it (fittingly) Next Door.
“Then we came up with the idea of making it a speakeasy with a hidden entrance,” says Scalzi. Like with any speakeasy, there will be a secretive, exclusive-feeling element to Next Door. Customers will be required to find a nine-foot-tall secret door — which Scalzi describes as “beautiful” — behind which a host will be stationed. There will be a little sliding window in the middle of the door — think the doorman scene in The Wizard of Oz — through which customers will communicate their reservation to the host, who will then lead them through the intimate space to their seats.
While Pazza on Porter’s menu is more focused on Italian food like carbonara, Bolognese, gnocchi, and Parmigiana, Next Door’s menu will be built around its raw bar (think seafood towers, oysters, salmon crudo, caviar), small plates (yellow fin tacos served on crispy wonton taco shells, steak tartare, smoked salmon served on blinis), and charcuterie and cheese boards. Scalzi says the menu — developed in conjunction with Pazza on Porter’s executive chef Stephen Ennamorati — is meant to be complementary to the cocktails, not the other way around.
Speaking of cocktails, Scalzi says Next Door’s menu will feature 16 to 20 different drinks, ranging from classics like an Old Fashioned to drinks with more refreshing and beachy vibes (the team is currently developing a cocktail with watermelon juice and bubbles, for example.) Josue Castillo, a friend of Scalzi from San Diego who recently relocated to Boston, will run the bar program at Next Door.
The space, which was designed by Boston-based Hacin + Associates, will accommodate 30. Scalzi says he and Spencer “didn’t want to go the traditional speakeasy route” with regard to interiors — Next Door is not going to look like a dark, seedy underground bar from Prohibition times. Instead, there will be splashes of gold and blue, plus an ornate chandelier hanging in the center of the space. “A little more sophisticated and upscale than Boston has seen in a speakeasy,” says Scalzi.
Scalzi says he and Spencer love that they’re able to bring the speakeasy experience to East Boston, and they’re excited to get underway.