Feb. 9, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
Manhattan’s loss will soon be Astoria’s gain.
The owners of two Manhattan-based restaurants that closed during the pandemic are opening a Spanish eatery in Astoria next month.
The restaurant, to be called Sala, will offer traditional dishes such as tapas, pinchos and raciones—and will open at The World Artisan Market, a repurposed warehouse building located at 34-39 31st St. Sala is one of several restaurants that will be moving into the building.
Sala, which means “living room” in Spanish, will be the second establishment to open in the building, following on from Sotto La Luna that opened in December.
The new restaurant is owned by Michael Jannetta and Robert Lombardi who operated two eateries in the Flatiron district of Manhattan until the pandemic forced them to shutter. They had operated Sala One Nine and Rye House for well over a decade.
Jannetta, 55, said they decided to open in Astoria after they heard from the developers at the World Artisan Market.
“We decided to go for it,” Jannetta said. “Astoria has a lot of history; it has a fabric of food and culture that we want to be part of. All the good things are coming to Astoria.”
The pair have taken two of the seven available restaurant spaces at the market. They will be located next door to Sotto La Luna.
Jannetta, who is originally from Pittsburg and currently lives in the Hudson Valley, said they initially signed a lease for one of the spaces but later decided to occupy the adjoining space. The pair have demolished the dividing wall to create one 4,000 square foot space.
He said that building out the space has caused some delays in opening. They aim to open on March 1 but the timeline is dependent on permits and paperwork coming through on time.
The restaurant, Jannetta said, will have a modern Mediterranean feel with a blue, green and an off-white color scheme. It will also have some industrial features to reflect the history of Queens, he said.
There will be two bars inside the restaurant – one on either side of the premises – with a large seating area in the middle, Jannetta said. One of the bar areas will be used primarily for private functions while the entire space has seating for more than 100 patrons.
Jannetta said there will be a stage to host live music events and dancing, while a large projector screen is being installed that will be used to show sports games.
There will also be an outdoor area at the front of the restaurant that will be constructed in the spring. It will seat around 40 patrons, Jannetta said.
Jannetta has spent most of his career operating Spanish restaurants, although he is not of Spanish heritage.
His interest in Spanish cuisine began when he spent a college semester studying near Madrid in the 1980s. Jannetta said he instantly fell in love with Spain’s food and culture. Since then, he has made frequent trips to the country, often spending long summers there.
Jannetta said that he and Lombardi are now ready and excited to bring their Spanish offerings to Astoria.
“It’s a big reset,” Jannetta said. “We’re going to take the best of what we did as our core and then build on it with some new things added as well.”
The menu at Sala has not been finalized but will likely consist of a wide variety of tapas.
Some of the main dishes will include grilled Mediterranean Sea bass, organic chicken and steak.
There will also be “raciones,” which are large dishes designed to be shared by groups, and an abundant array of pinchos, meaning “pieces of bread.”
Jannetta said that a renowned Spanish chef named Bárbara Amorós will design the menu in the coming weeks. Jannetta met Amorós while traveling in Spain.
Meanwhile, the wine list will consist exclusively of Spanish labels. Cocktails will also be on the menu along with beers such as 1906 Reserva Especial and Alhambra Especial.
Jannetta also said there will be a small deli area inside the restaurant where customers can purchase readymade items.
Opening hours will be from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.
Jannetta said they will likely open for brunch on weekends in coming months.