Biz Beat

Vito's to give downtown an Italian flavor

There has been one constant in the downtown dining scene since the revival of the city's core took hold years ago — change. That trend continues with an Italian restaurant moving into the space formerly occupied by Nosh at 918 13th St.

To nosh — as in eat, snack or nibble — will take on a distinctive Italian flavor when Vito's Ristorante opens in early September. Owners Serj Piro and Antoine Sargis are bringing their brand of Italian dining to Modesto from Turlock, where they've operated Vito's Ristorante & Pizzeria at3851 Crowell Road for about 18 months.

The owners wanted to expand to Modesto and thought the Nosh location would be the perfect spot for their second restaurant. While dining there, they had joked with the folks at Nosh about taking over the space. Eventually the talks turned serious, and the Vito's partners got their wish.

Piro and Sargis like the site between I and J streets (it also was home to Oceana Bar & Grill). It's just off the main thoroughfares yet close to offices and entertainment venues, including the Gallo Center for the Arts. It's handy, but with a bit of privacy.

They are redecorating the place to create a Tuscan theme, with wall murals and artwork featuring Tuscan scenes. They've repainted with warm, bright tones they hope will provide a welcoming atmosphere for everything from business deals to romantic meals.

The interior and large sidewalk patio will remain pretty much the same, as will the demonstration kitchen, where diners can watch the chefs work while they wait.

That's where chefs will cook up a large selection of Italian dishes, including chicken Parmigiana, meat or cheese ravioli, angel hair pomodoro, fettuccine chicken Alfredo, shrimp scampi and pasta marinara. Diners also can choose from veal, steaks and seafood specialties such as Vito's signature cioppino. Appetizers, soups and salads also are available.

Although the Modesto restaurant won't offer Vito's pizzas, the owners hope to soon add the brick ovens necessary to bake those pies. The full bar and an extensive wine list also will be featured. Vito's does catering, too.

Piro is convinced that if he can hold prices down, maintain a high level of service and offer top-quality cuisine, Vito's will have a long — steady — run downtown.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday. For more information, call 576-1156.

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Have an item for Business Beat? Send it to David W. Hill, Business Editor, The Modesto Bee,P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352;or Compiled by Jillian Hanks,Bee Newsroom Assistant