Photo by Merle Exit
By Merle Exit

The wine cellar looked like an indoor pool. It was easy to imagine some bottles of the fine imported Italian vintages floating down Cross Bay Boulevard and into Jamaica Bay as the staff from Vetro restaurant waited on the rooftop for assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy last year.

The scenario is typical of the devastation that forced many restaurants and other businesses in Howard Beach to close their doors after the superstorm slammed into Queens Oct. 29.

Vetro, owned by Frank Russo Jr., is at 164-49 Cross Bay Blvd., on the corner of Jamaica Bay and Hawtree Creek, an unfortunate locale. If the name Russo sounds familiar, you just need to walk north a few blocks to Russo’s on the Bay, another family-owned venue that suffered as well.

Months passed with little support other than from the community, but Russo was determined to reopen Vetro, his latest award-winning venue that captures the art of fine dining, romance and a rooftop on which to sip a drink, mingle or dance under the stars.

It took 38 days and more than $5 million to reopen the restaurant “with no thanks to the insurance company,” Russo said.

Here is the breakdown of the family-owned business. As soon as they were able, there was a complete, $3.2 million, top-to-bottom renovation of Vetro and Russo’s on the Bay. Vetro’s wine cellar went through a $170,000 renovation and sommelier P.J. Connolly was busy selecting wines once again to replace those lost to the storm.

Total renovations for Russo’s on the Bay and Vetro, combined with the immense amount of business lost, equated to $5.2 million. The full restoration of Vetro was only completed about a month ago. Take a tour of Vetro’s four floors and you would never realize that damage was done to the premises with little change evident to the original decor.

A dine around commenced in the Blue Lounge for drinks this week, then it was down to the wine cellar for traditional Italian antipasti paired with three of the wines chosen by General Manager Connelly.

We continued up to the waterfront terrace and into the main dining room for some tastings along with the main course. Dessert, hosted by Executive Pastry Chef Marco Valencia, allowed for a brief tour of the Murano Room and into the bridal suite, which abuts the rooftop lounge.

There is also a Frank Russo III, his young son, who appears to be more associated with Russo’s on the Bay at this point and will most likely be the next generation of Russo family restaurateurs

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