When a snappy newcomer replaces a neighborhood stalwart, it’s rarely warmed up to right off the bat. But this cocktail den from the Wayland’s Robert Ceraso—taking over the former home of red-curtained, 15-year-old Simone Martini Bar— manages to do just that, drawing in a packed house with experimental drinks, raw-bar offerings and warmly personal trimmings (exposed-brick walls speckled with family photos, a reclaimed-wood bar sourced from a partner’s ancestral home in Connecticut). Even the name invokes familial history, recalling the way Ceraso’s grandmother used to bid his grandpa Sonny goodnight as she headed up to bed during his late shifts at the family bar downstairs.
ORDER THIS: The Wayland barkeep Peter Canny offers seasonal cocktails shot with custom add-ins like fresh-pressed juices and house-infused spirits. An autumnal gin-fortified Queensbridge Swizzle ($12) crowns lemon, agave and pear brandy with crunchy market pear slices, while a brightly colored Red Rock Ripper ($12) offsets stiff bourbon with bell-pepper juice and crisp Campari. Beyond the menu’s set drinks, the patient staff obliges all requests, like a recent one for something “boozy, preferably with scotch.” This yielded an off-menu Dirty Bird ($12), capping Famous Grouse and vermouth with a heady splash of house-made coffee bitters.
GOOD FOR: Price-slashed specials that extend from happy hour to the wee hours. Early birds should head in weekdays from 4 to 7pm for 50- cent Long Island littleneck clams and dollar oysters (Wellfleet from Cape Cod, Black Duck Salts from Hog Island Bay), while the late-night crowd can close out with four-buck half-pints (Other Half Saison, Left Hand Pole Star Pilsner) and $6 bottled beers (Brooklyn Brewery Oktoberfest, Down East Cider).
THE CLINCHER: Food offerings include a zesty roast pork sandwich ($10) and heaping mounds of steak tartare ($16), but the stars of Ceraso’s menu are the seafood contenders, ranging from white boquerones on toasted pumpernickel ($7) to littlenecks steamed in white wine, garlic and serrano pepper ($14). For a fuller bite, a smoked-salmon roll ($14) snugs Acme fish with fennel frond and crème fraîche on a buttered roll. As you leave stuffed with food and soaked with booze, tomorrow’s impending hangover is just proof that your night was a good one.