On one wide wall of the audacious new Glenwood South Mediterranean restaurant Vidrio, 397 pieces of handblown glass hang in a dense collage, suspended like colorful rain drops that have been forever frozen.
Glowing orange and neon green, fiery red and calming blue: the array suggests a remixed rainbow or dive into a coral reef. It is a grand sight.
In truth, though, it is just one of many such spectacles at the 13,500 square-foot Vidrio, which will open for dinner after more than eight years of planning and speculation on January 23. Elsewhere, enormous rope chandeliers hang from the high ceilings to the beautiful wooden floors. An army of wooden dowels point from the top of the bar, a mesmerizing pointillist interpretation of a roof overhead.
Dozens of golden tap handles for wine glisten in the afternoon sun. A broad open kitchen exposes an army of high-end machinery, from a massive wood-fired grill to a curving stone hearth, while a “stage” gives guests a perch-like vantage on the dining room below from beneath an enormous video screen. There are tile mosaic floors and a fountain, an upstairs bar with wraparound windows that open onto Glenwood Avenue, and metal sculptures that seem to crawl across the walls.
“We were looking to create an environment that’s very vibrant,” explains Amber Moshakos, who helped dream up and design the restaurant through her family’s long-running, Raleigh-based restaurant group, LM Restaurants.
“Vibrant is the filter word we kept coming back to,” continues Katherine Goldfaden, LM Restaurant’s brand director. “Is the menu going to be vibrant? Will it match the vibrancy of the bar with our cocktails and our fifty wines by the glass?”
Vidrio, or Spanish for “glass,” sits at 500 Glenwood Avenue, on the levels beneath the Carolina Ale House. The sports bar is the growth chain of the Moshakos family, which now owns and operates the popular restaurant in seven states across the Southeast.
Because the restaurant group knows how to establish and execute a new Carolina Ale House with relative ease, they made sure the upstairs location was running on its own before turning their attention to this downstairs dream, where every detail seems to have been a point of extended debate. Just a few weeks ago, for instance, they rebuilt the entire bar because the height was wrong. The host stand near the front door will soon be swapped for another because this one, explains general manager Ron Didner, just isn’t quite right.
After all, Vidrio is the first phase of a three-part series of ambitious restaurants for the Moshakos family, one of which includes building a dining room in the shape of a ship’s hull in Florida. For its part, Vidrio involved architects on two continents and loads of materials shipped in from several countries to reflect its Mediterranean inspirations. The food will showcase that terrain, too, from preparations of entire fish and large cuts of meat to plates of vegetables meant to be shared. And there will be a bar menu for the early afternoon and late evening, the domain of flatbreads from that big hearth.
“It’s important to know that we don’t mean this to be authentically Mediterranean,” says Moshakos. “Taverna Agora is our authentic Greek restaurant. But this is inspired by the countries of the Mediterranean, applied to local ingredients.”
In scale and scope, Vidrio recalls its similarly ostentatious neighbor Solas, as no expense or indulgence seems to have been spared. But the room is somehow comfortable, divided into zones that feel functional and cozy. Downstairs, for instance, you can be part of the crowd; upstairs, tucked into a corner of the long mezzanine, you can be away from and above it—with a good sightline, no doubt, on that stunning glass wall.