By Chris Maza
LONGMEADOW – Ralph Santaniello and Michael Presnal want to welcome you to your new favorite neighborhood restaurant.
With a completely renovated space providing a comfortable and unique dining experience, a menu blending classic Italian dishes with a new world flair and a first-class drink list, the co-owners of Agawam’s The Federal and West Hartford’s Vinted Wine Bar believe they have the perfect combination to make Posto your go-to restaurant, whether it be for a romantic rendezvous or a family dinner.
“We always wanted to build a neighborhood restaurant – something that was casual and fun,” Santaniello said. “You could go on a date night with your wife but also come in with the kids after soccer practice or lacrosse practice. You could feel comfortable enough being dressed up on a Saturday night but also feel comfortable coming with kids with cleats on and things like that … I think that’s what we did ultimately.”
Posto, located in the Longmeadow Shops at the former Bertucci’s location, looks nothing like its predecessor, a credit to the hard work and vision of ownership. Wall to wall tiles scaling to high ceilings with industrial-chic exposed beams and ductwork are naturally lit by floor to ceiling windows. A large bar and seating area, as well as an outdoor patio with retractable doors creating an open-air feel not seen often in this area, offer a comfortable casual environment, Meanwhile, the dining room serves a more traditional dining experience.
“Originally we were just going to do a few things. We weren’t going to do the level of construction or build-out that we did. But once we started, it became clear that if we were going to do this, we really needed to do it the right way. We needed to sort of tear it down and build it over,” Santaniello explained. “It just became a bigger project, but all-in-all, I think it was the right decision. Ultimately we wanted to do something we could be proud of.”
Posto stands in contrast to a more formal dining experience of The Federal or the wine bar atmosphere at Vinted, but the standards for the food and service are just as high.
“The things that we carry out through all three restaurants are the quality in the food and the ingredients. The quality of the food and the service is the same, but it’s just different styles and different price points,” Santaniello said.
With a slogan of “Old school, new Italian,” Posto’s menu presents a combination of classic Italian-American favorites like spaghetti and meatballs and bucatini and traditional Italian dishes Santaniello said were“more indicative of what you would see if you went to Italy,” such as grilled tuna with eggplant caponata or the wood oven-roasted half chicken.
“Most people are surprised to know that in Italy not all the food comes with sauce and cheese on it,” Santaniello joked. “Italian food is usually two or three ingredients done really well with really fresh, local ingredients. That’s the staple of good Italian food and that’s what we’re doing here.”
Posto’s brick oven with a mix of gas and wood fire produces a line of classic and gluten-free pizza options
All of the menus are seasonal based on available local produce.
And what’s an Italian dinner without a great wine? Posto’s wine list might not be the most extensive in the area, but it’s broad in its offerings. It’s also organized from lightest body to fullest as opposed to by variety as is typical.
“Even though this is a neighborhood restaurant and a casual restaurant, I still wanted to bring a list with great value and some fun things,” Santaniello said. “I wanted this to be a great list. Italy has the most wines of any region in the world. I wanted to bring that to this list and kind of explore instead of offering the same old stuff.”
The WineEmotion system at the bar provides the additional perk of allowing patrons to try by the glass certain wines that normally only come by the bottle. The system is designed to dispense the wine while keeping oxygen from ruining the rest of the bottle, allowing it to keep for up to a month while also keeping it at the perfect temperature.
“I think it’s a great value. They’re not all high-end, but they’re all wines that you normally wouldn’t see on a list by the glass because they’re cost-prohibitive for a restaurant to do that,” Santaniello said. “People have loved it so far.”
Posto also features an extensive list of liquor including craft cocktails and a machine that makes what he Santaniello called the perfect ice cube for drinks on the rocks.
“We’re doing a lot of in-house stuff, house blends, things like that. We take it very seriously,” he said.
Posto is now open for dinner with a lunch menu and hours coming soon. The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., and Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Reservations for parties of five or more people are being accepted.
Posto is currently hiring for front of the house and back of the house positions. Those interested can contact the restaurant at 413-935-8500. Jobs are also being posted on social media at www.facebook.com/pg/postobythefederal/jobs.