What not to “mis” at the new Bar Amis

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Go try its variety of homestyle Italian specialities.

Left, Bar Amis bartender, Seamus Banning, and head bartender, Anwar Morgan, serve up some refreshing water ice and cocktails at the restaurant’s grand opening celebration on Wednesday, July 12.

\The name Lo Spiedo, a restaurant that opened in the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 2014, is officially a name of the past following the successful re-launch under its new name: Bar Amis. Realigning its culinary offerings to reflect a variety of homestyle Italian specialities, the Vetri family eatery welcomed old and new patrons alike to its 4503 S. Broad St. location on Wednesday, July 12 to officially commemorate this rebranding with a food and drink-focused grand opening celebration.

“Lo Spiedo was a great restaurant, but the Amis name is so well-known,” Bar Amis general manager Martin Cugine said. “I think Bar Amis is going to be a great venture because of the whole idea behind ‘Amis.’ Everyone likes the Roman trattoria-style cuisine, but more than that, it brings with it a fun, vibrant and exciting neighborhood environment that has great appeal to everyone.”

While diners and bar-goers in attendance at the celebration had the option to seek the air conditioning inside the newly redesigned Bar Amis, named after a colloquialism from the Bergamo region of Northern Italy meaning “something or someone you love,” executive chef, Brad Spence, 40, was busy preparing and serving a few, special and freshly prepared celebratory plates outside on the hot summer evening.

“Back in the day, I started working with Marc Vetri, who I’m now a partner with,” Spence, a Haddonfield, N.J., native who is now living in South Philly, said. “I created the menu for [Bar Amis], the original Amis restaurant on South 13th Street, the one up in Connecticut and for the two more we plan to open outside of Philly.”

Left, Bar Amis General Manager, Martin Cugine, and executive chef, Brad Spencer, prepare to serve nachos at the restaurant’s grand opening celebration on Wednesday, July 12.

In coming up with his listed outdoor menu for the night of the celebration, Spence added to it the Amis Burger which was designed specifically for Bar Amis, and which is essentially a 4-ounce burger, with meat purchased from George L. Wells Meat Company Inc., and with added lettuce, tomato and onion. Customers are also given the option to pair the burger with two types of cheeses: a housemade cheese wiz or American.

Amis Burger with lettuce, tomato and onion

Another classic favorite he established, the Amis Nachos plate, incorporated fried corn tortillas served with a housemade nacho cheese sauce, Cannellini beans, avocado, sour cream, salsa verde, jalapenos and radishes. Spence explained that his inspiration for this nacho dish came simply from sampling a variety of different nachos overtime because “everybody loves nachos.”

“We wanted to make sure that everything we put on the nachos we make ourselves, from the cheese to the chips,” Spence said. “We try to use really good, seasonal ingredients, and source locally when we can.”

In utilizing the best ingredients at hand, he also rounded out the outdoor eating offerings with a meatball dish, “Sal’s Old School Meatballs,” of which the origin can be traced back to the Italian roots of Sal Ventri, Marc Vetri’s father. Again using meat purchased from Wells, Spence said to make these meatballs he must first soak bread in milk, add the hard Italian cheese, pecorino, then add parmesan, parsley and garlic. Lastly, each meatball is braised in tomato sauce.

“They’re really good,” Spence said. “Marc was born and raised in South Philly, and the meatballs are truly a family recipe.”

As for dessert at the opening party, Spence offered a vanilla sundae, consisting of ice cream, toasted pecans and cherry syrup, which was also made and prepared on site at Bar Amis in a gelato machine. Mango water ice infused with tequila was also available for purchase at the event.

Although the water ice is not on Bar Amis’ everyday menu, other dessert options which are include mom mom’s rice pudding, tiramisu and the Amis sundae with amerena and spiced pecans. Additionally the full menu offers a variety of snacks, sandwiches, salads and pasta, larger plates and sides. To view the full Bar Amis menu, click here.

“Our goal is to really be a part of the [South Philly] community, especially when most of my purveyors are from South Philly,” Spence said. “I think there’s all different foods going on in South Philly now and we’re just another group that’s doing food, and I’m excited to see everyone come to love Bar Amis.”

“We take food and service very seriously, but very little else,” added Cugine, who lives at 11th and Jackson streets. “It’s this kind of exciting environment coupled with the awesome food, with pastas, desserts and breads made fresh every day, that will have people coming back once, twice or three times a week.”