With the launch of Good Night Sonny, Robert Ceraso and Jason Mendenhall, the chef/bartender team behind Alphabet City’s cocktail bar/live music venue The Wayland, are finally realizing their dream of opening a classic New York City tavern in the heart of the East Village. After a gut renovation of the former Simone martini bar location on First Avenue and Saint Marks, they’re having a soft opening this week with drinks and some food; they’ll be officially open for business daily from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. starting this Monday.
The cocktail menu is driven by seasonal ingredients purchased largely at the Union Square Greenmarket, a practice that’s pushed them to experiment with some unusual ingredients; there’s a gin and green bean cocktail, for example, and then of course there are the classics, which they tinker with to make it their own; their “disco old-fashioned” replaces puckery sweet maraschinos with brandy cherries and muddled orange with fresh orange rind. And then there’s the “Sonny orchard margarita” with fresh-pressed green apple juice and homemade roasted jalapeno jam.
The drinking-friendly food menu, served until 3:45 a.m. every night, includes seven varieties of oysters (guaranteed to be fresh, as the supplier just happens to be Ceraso’s seafood-farming high school friend), roast beef and roast pork sandwiches, and Ceraso’s creative take on a lobster roll.
Ceraso named his place after his grandfather, who for many years was a bartender in Little Italy and kept late hours all his life, even long after he stopped tending bar. “Good night, Sonny” is what his grandmother, Rose, would say to her husband each night before she went to bed. “It’s an ode to our elders and the women in our lives who put up with the hours we work,” Ceraso said.
Everything about Good Night Sonny embodies the vibe of a classic neighborhood spot, from the ceramic tile floor to the mahogany bar, and everywhere you look there are personal details, each with its own story. The antique beams are from an 1805 barn where original Wayland employee Peter Canny, a partner in the new place, threw raging parties as a college student on the property of his childhood home.
There’s a painting of Elvis in a dapper red sweater that once graced the walls of the now defunct Yaffa Café. Overlooking one of the tables is Canny’s great aunt, who lived to be 100, straddling a motorcycle.
“I feel that the warmth and the welcoming energy evokes eating and drinking, and that’s what we’re here for,” Mendenhall said. The bar will share staff with The Weyland, whose employees are “like family,” per bartender and musician Angela Laino. She’s responsible for the Wayland’s live music program and is also part owner of the new bar.
Good Night Sonny, 134 First Avenue (East Village). Open 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. seven days a week. See soft opening menu below: