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Vlora, new Meditteranean in Copley

Has anyone heard anything about this place? It's coming to the underground lair below that GNC and the Finagle in Copley Square. A banner advertises www.vloraboston.com, but the site doesn't say much.

ZagatBuzz says: "Vlora, named for chef-owner Aldo Velaj’s hometown, will open in May with a Mediterranean repertoire emphasizing the foods of southern Italy, Greece and Velaj’s native Albania; his wife, co-owner Cindy Tsai, will oversee the front of the house. The Back Bay setting (545 Boylston St., Boston) will also feature a water wall and a late-night lounge."

Anyone know the chef? Albanian could be interesting! So could a water wall...

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  1. I'll answer my own question. The Herald writes this:

    "Mediterranean fare may seem ubiquitous these days, but Vlora promises to put a new twist on the old favorite. Owner Aldo Velaj, after all, is a native of Albania, which borders Greece and sits on the Adriatic Sea, just across from the heel of the Italian boot. As you might expect, they share many of the same culinary traditions.

    Expect to find standard Greek and Italian fare, with an occasional tribute to his homeland, such as a simple “Vlora-style” salad of cabbage served with olive oil and lemon.

    “We won’t try to impress people with overly fancy dishes or price points,” said Velaj, who studied in Italy and ran several restaurants in Europe before moving to the States in 2003. “We’ll serve what real people eat in the northern Mediterranean.”

    Vlora, named for Velaj’s hometown, is slated to open in early May at 545 Boylston St., Back Bay."

    1. This week's Improper Bostonian has a blurb in the The Word column about Vlora. I bet he knows the Albanian owner of Trattoria Toscana.

      10 Replies
      1. re: Taralli

        I tried checking it out with a friend last night but all I caught was a bunch of rubble inside. Ok, I maybe exaggerating a lil' but I was a bit disappointed that it hadn't opened yet.
        I live close to it so I'll be checking it out soon since the improper article definitely peeked my interest. I remember reading that the chef wants to focus on simplicity; by this I mean a splash of olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper while letting the fresh ingredients do the talking - much like Sicilian food.
        The grilled octopus on the article looked promising, but then again it was shot by a professional.
        Can't wait!

        1. re: gypseemoth

          Just called and they're looking to open around August 15.

          1. re: Velda Mae

            Huh. I'd be surprised--when I walked by the other day it didn't look close to being ready, though they were supposed to open 2 mos. ago.

            1. re: tatamagouche

              I walk past it just about every day and I highly doubt it will be ready on 8/15. Or 9/15 for that matter.

              That space is creepy if you ask me.

              Anyone been around long enough to remember the name of it when it was an "upscale" Chinese place in the 1980's?

              1. re: C. Hamster

                Umm...one of those earlier incarnations was related to what's now Bernard's in Chestnut Hill. Was the Boylston Street one also called Bernard's? Or Mr. Leung's or something like that?

                1. re: Allstonian

                  Yes, it was Mr. Leung's in the late 80's/early 90's. Weird spot, to be sure.

                2. re: C. Hamster

                  It was Friends most recently (a standby when I worked down the block, at least for the Korean food), and Q-Vin (also Korean/Japanese, with a seafood focus, I recall) before that.

                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    And Ken's By George before that in the early 80s when Ken's Deli was upstairs (ground and second).

                    1. re: Small Plates

                      Now y'all are scaring me!! I have worked around here long enough to remember all of those but Yenching.

                      I walked by last night and they have made a lot of progress. Floor seems to be installed, etc. Aug 15 might be pushing it though.

                  2. re: C. Hamster

                    Was it Yenching Palace (it's been awhile..I may have goofed the spelling of Yenching)? I miss that place!

          2. Tables and chairs went in the other day, but not exactly a beehive of activity there.

            3 Replies
            1. re: C. Hamster

              Went past there today. Absolutely nothing happening. No construction, no signs, no obvious furnishings, nothing. That site must be cursed.

              1. re: BBHound

                There ARE tables and chairs set up. I just saw them. Unless they moved them since 11:30.

                But no signage or any semblance of activity. In fact, I can't remember the last time I saw anyone working there.

                1. re: C. Hamster

                  Inside word (from workers) is restaurant should open next week, before end of August. Renovations and new furnishings are beautiful -- no longer creepy. No water wall, yet, though.

            2. Was walking by there today and noticed the sign saying they're now open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They've also updated their website with their various menus.
              Nothing too unique, but it's nice to have a sit-down breakfast option in the neighborhood.

              1. The atmosphere is unique and fantastic, kind of like a nightclub in Albania, which is to say on the cheesy/glam side, but very fun. The weekend night I was there, there were big groups (8-12 people) of Albanian and maybe Greek ex-pats or -Americans all over the place, having a hell of a time, and a huge party in the private dining room. The young people were dressed to impress. I have to admit the tight mini-dresses and white patent-leather go-go boots made a deep impression on me.

                The food was mostly very good to excellent: a terrific Alabanian tava (vegetable casserole), saganaki, spanakopita, flat iron steak (a bone-in cut that I wish was used more often here), and grilled sardines. Fantastic sides, notably the creamed corn (more like fresh corn with a lot of mashed-corn milk), and cold, lightly-pickled cabbage. Pasta dish and the grilled barbounia were just so-so. Some fine Greek desserts. Interesting wine list with some good affordable options, mainly Greek and Italian, and beer (no liquor, despite the big bar).

                I enjoyed this place tremendously: it really felt like dining in another part of the world, and nothing like the Back Bay. A unique experience. I think I'll bring a huge group myself next time.

                2 Replies
                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  I went to Vlora last night and was treated to exceptional service and hospitality. The restaurant was winding down, and they'd sent home their bartender, but that didn't stop a server from bee-lining across the room to great us. We had a great glass of Pinot Bianco, but didn't order because we had just eaten dinner elsewhere. Not taking "no" for an answer, the server sent over olive oil with amazingly fragrant olives and confit lemon. The bread was crusty and warm and complimented the tart olive oil and lemon without making us feel like we were about to burst (amazing, since we'd just eaten a full meal).
                  When the chef walked out of the kitchen on his way out, he saw us, stopped, asked how we were enjoying ourselves and promptly grabbed a bottle of Mersault for us to try! I'd go out every night if people gave me free Mersault!!
                  As if that wasn't enough, he sent out a dessert of marscapone and almonds for us to try too.
                  These are kind, hospitable people with a real predisposition to serve. I hope they do well...they've got an uphill battle with the signage issue for sure.

                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    I'm also hearing nice things about it in the neighborhood. It is on our list for this weekend. Will we enjoy eating at the bar here? We tested out the bar at L'Voile for the first time this week and really enjoyed it. We sat at a table on our first four visits.

                    Two nice places in the Back Bay! Stunning! I wouldn't worry about the sign when word gets out. This neighborhood is hungry for hospitality, consistency and delisiousness! Once the word spreads it will look like a neighborhood party!

                    Every time we go to L'Voile we see folks we recognize from the Back Bay at half the tables.

                  2. We did a meal of appetizers at Vlora New Year's Eve (early). Tried four.

                    1) The calamari was fine but nothing out of the ordinary (we wished we'd gotten the octopus). 2) The saganaki was great (came with lightly grilled cukes and tomatoes) as was the 3) "trio of pies" (three kinds of filo dough triangles like, e.g. spanakopita, with a delicious garlicky yogurt sauce).

                    But the standout for us was 4) the Italian rice balls -- "Arancini" -- made with mushroom risotto: incredibly creamy inside and beautifully fried outside. Impressively presented, not at all greasy, and fun. It would be quite filling as an app for one!

                    Service was very accommodating, ready to suggest/describe options but not at all pushy, and upbeat.

                    1. Looks like Vlora's owner narrowly missed getting shot, again:


                      9 Replies
                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        so is this place really worth the risk of a visit? should i pack my heater? i've wanted to try their octopus since i read the first post here.

                        1. re: ScubaSteve

                          Yes, it's worth it. The fork-tender octopus is wonderful, exactly as advertised.

                          Also, when you order your entree, make sure to try the cabbage Vlora-style; it's delicious.

                          1. re: mwk

                            Agree on that cabbage: the "creamed corn" (fresh corn off the cob with a lot of mashed corn milk in it) is also lovely.

                        2. re: MC Slim JB

                          Interesting - today's Globe had this:

                          The article mentions that the bust took place shortly after 5am - that was quite a night!

                          (The article also perpetuates WBZ's erroneous statement that the restaurant is a year old. Maybe restaurants are like racehorces and all turn 1 year old on New Year's? Because reports on this board say that they opened about September 2. Are they're counting the entire length of time of the renovation as well? I gather that took approximately forever.)

                          1. re: Allstonian

                            I can't imagine patronizing that place after the NYE incident. The owner's behavior was outragious and shouldn't be tolerated.

                            1. re: C. Hamster

                              I say right on! Rock n roooolllllllllll!

                              1. re: C. Hamster

                                I'm with you. That behavior is completely outrageous. I think we're all willing to cut places a little slack on NYE, and you certainly can't say that most hounds don't have a sense of humor or don't enjoy a little theater once in a while. That just goes beyond acceptibility. Suspension or not, I'm thinking that business will be hurt for long after they reopen.
                                There are many other places with integrity that deserve our support.

                                1. re: bear

                                  Someone emailed about this event, & I'm wondering if they're even open:

                                  1/22, 7:00 At Vlora, 545 Boylston Street. "Sven's Meier's Pre-Summer Party." Albanian appetizers, cash bar: wine and beer only.

                          2. This restaurant is actually a little gem. The food is fresh and the atmosphere is reminiscent of luminosity that one finds in Mediterranean culture with the brilliant white and cream colors and the picturesque mural on one wall of the Italian Coast. The food may not be extravagant, but it's quite good and the wine selection is up to par. The service is professional and very friendly. The prices are fair for the cuisine -- it's actually quite a deal! The ideal time to experience the atmosphere is either weekend evening for the bar, or lunch in the dining room. The brilliance of the sun rays really light up the pure color tones of the room, reminding me of the Greek Isles. See my experience and photos at http://divinebella.blogspot.com/2008/....

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: divinebella

                              Just FYI, the name is a town in Albania. A number of "Greek" places in the US are actually owned and run by Albanians.