Neighborhood restaurant Vareli is ringing in the new year with an old name and a more familiar menu.
The restaurant, located on Broadway between 111th and 112th streets, changed its name from Vareli to Domain in September. But on Jan. 2, it officially switched back.
As the restaurant’s managers look to bring back an eatery with a more laid-back, affordable atmosphere, they are drawing upon the strengths and weaknesses of Domain as guidelines for the newly resurrected Vareli.
The initial switch to Domain in September, according to manager Rich Bill, was the result of changes in the restaurant’s business partnership with the owner of Westside Market, George Zoitas, who opened Vareli in 2010 with executive chef Amitzur Mor. When Zoitas stepped away from Vareli, “we wanted to change the concept … and the name,” Bill said.
So Vareli became Domain—an upscale eatery with a Michelin-starred chef and prices to go along with that prestige. However, responses from patrons were less than positive.
“To make such a drastic change to the Michelin-starred cuisine of our old chef, we really, to be quite frank, got a lot of resentment and a lot of cries of ‘bring back our restaurant,’” General Manager John Roesch said.
Roesch noted that Domain’s elevated cuisine and prices weren’t ideal in a college neighborhood.
“A big negative about Domain was it was really … pigeonholed in a three-dollar-sign kind of category and it was over the heads of students,” he said.
In response, the new Vareli—which will be run once again under a partnership with Zoitas—will include some old traditions. “Happy hour is once again a huge part of our business,” Roesch said, adding that he hopes live entertainment and a late happy hour from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. will draw people in.
In addition, Vareli will incorporate some of the popular aspects of Domain, such as a raw bar and dollar oysters during happy hour.
According to Roesch, Vareli’s new executive chef, Chris Abbamondi, is “taking the cuisine back to a more Mediterranean influence,” which is described by Bill as “global comfort food—a little something for everyone.”
Along with bringing back bar food, spreads, and lamb burgers to the menu, the new Vareli, according to Bill, will offer a selection that “will be about twice as large” as it was before the initial name change. “We do plan to go back to the price point where we originally were,” he added.
For Roesch, all of the efforts of the new Vareli—and the renewed partnership with Zoitas and Ian Joskowitz—are a way to make the restaurant appeal to a wider audience in comparison to Domain.
“One of the secrets to Vareli’s success was that it touched on all different demographics,” Roesch said.
“I think we have a pretty good handle on what works and what doesn’t,” he added. “I think we’ve found the right formula.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified the location of Vareli. Spectator regrets the error.