In a city as bustling as Portland, it’s not unusual to witness the entire life cycle of a business simply by walking past it every day. Congress Street can feel like a revolving door of restaurants coming and going with the seasons: There one day, brown paper on the windows the next.
What is surprising, though, is when a new bar pops up seemingly out of thin air, with little-to-no whispers or hype leading up to it’s opening. Such is the case with Lazzari, the brand spankingly newest cocktail bar/wood-fired pizza joint to join the lineup on West End’s stretch of Congress Street.
Lazzari inhabits the space that previously housed the legendary Mesa Verde, an establishment I never had the pleasure of experiencing myself, but tales of the pitchers of margaritas have painted a vivid picture in my mind. When Mesa Verde shut its doors in 2014, the space was bought by Tom Barr of Taco Escobarr and, presumably, work on Lazzari began.
More than two years later, Lazzari is finally open to the public. After a successful soft opening on May 30, its full menu of wood-fired pizza, Mediterranean bar snacks and cocktails is up for grabs, so head on over to 618 Congress St. and grab a spot at the bar.
With no discernible sign outside other than a single stand-up chalkboard, it’s easy to feel like you tripped over the entrance. Once you do make your way inside (or outside, as there is a small area of outdoor seating), buckle up because there is a lot to take in.
Part of the reason Lazzari took so long to come to fruition has to be the extensive renovations done on the space. A wall of exposed brick, a huge bar that nearly stretches the length of the restaurant and black industrial beams overhead are just a few of the things that make it feel brand new and extremely cool.
Once seated at the bar, I perused the extensive cocktail list and landed on the Charred Oak Cherry Sour ($10). The combination of cherry-infused bourbon and fresh-squeezed grapefruit and lime juices was as tasty as it was refreshing. There’s also a comprehensive wine selection and a great collection of beers on draft and in bottles, but it’s the spritzer/bellini section of the drink menu (with flavors like cucumber melon, carrot ginger and strawberry basil) that will feature heavily on my next visit.
Happy hour is from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and specials include $5 drafts and red and white wine spritzers.
Perhaps the greatest thing about Lazzari, though, are the hours of operation. Open 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day, they will serve food right up until closing every night, which sounds to me like the solution to a problem I didn’t even know I had. Looking so forward to drinking bellinis and eating pizza long into the night this summer.
WHERE: 618 Congress St., Portland
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Sunday
AMENITIES: Swanky interior, outdoor seating, proximity to the State Theatre, late-night hours, happy hour specials, cheap bar snacks, friendly staff, strong drinks, well-rounded drink selection
BOTTOM LINE: A restaurant over two years in the making, the finished product that is Lazzari was worth waiting for. The simple menu, extensive drink selection and convenient late-night hours will be sure to keep nighttime revelers happy all summer long.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes