BariBar

Owner Ryan Morris recently rebranded Aldo, naming it BariBar. The restaurant has maintained some of its local flair, while also adding new dishes such as cevapi.

When Ryan Morris grew bored of being stuck at home during the pandemic, he decided to jazz things up at his downtown Los Altos restaurant – figuratively and literally.

Saturday dinners now feature live jazz led by bassist Andrew Currier, also known by the stage name Endika.

Morris purchased Aldo Los Altos in summer 2020, and last year he was ready to put his own spin on the Main Street eatery. Drawing from his love of travel and his nostalgia for visits to extended family in Montenegro, Serbia and other Balkan nations, Morris gave Aldo an Adriatic-inspired makeover – complete with an interior mural he painted.

Rebranding 

While the restaurant was closed for renovations in late summer 2021, the new name emerged: BariBar Bistro. Morris said it came from the name of a ferry that crosses the Adriatic Sea between Bari, Italy, and Bar, Montenegro. As the team began updating the interior with new paint and new chairs, the vision became clear to the restaurateur.

“This all happened in real time,” Morris said. “It wasn’t a big, grand plan – it was very authentic for us – and then we came back as what feels like a whole new place.”

BariBar conjures up the casual cafes of Europe that Morris would visit with his partner, Mila, on trips back to Europe to see her extended family in Belgrade or just to enjoy the Adriatic sunshine. Morris said BariBar is “like those coastal little bistros and cafes in Europe,” where “it’s a gorgeous locale. The food’s great, but some people are barefoot in there, and there’s kids and it’s just kind of extremely casual.”

For Morris, the laid-back atmosphere of a beachside cafe in Croatia or Macedonia reflects the “warm” atmosphere of his upbringing in Los Altos.

An added plus – as a tribute to the Adriatic, BariBar is not only “authentic to us,” Morris said, but also allowed the team to pay homage to the more traditional Italian cuisine of the Aldo era.

Food with local flair

Morris said the food transition has been the most interesting part of the rebrand, as he tried to imitate the cuisine of the Adriatic while maintaining some California – and Los Altos – flair.

Former Aldo chef Amado Sanchez is still in the kitchen, but the new menu boasts a combination of Slavic-inspired dishes and more standard menu items. Morris points to sarma, meat and lentils wrapped in pickled cabbage leaves, and the vegan peka, an adaptation of a Croatian lamb stew, as standouts on the new menu of Eastern European comfort food.

Morris said a clear local favorite emerged, especially over the holidays – family-style, takeout versions of classic pasta dishes like carbonara.

“They’re exactly what you remember from the Aldo time,” he said.

During the holidays, Morris noticed customers gifted platters to one another for occasions ranging from welcoming a student home from college to providing a meal for a family stuck in quarantine.

“They last multiple days, even if there are teenagers involved,” he said of the platters, which serve six.

Preserving the spirit of Aldo, Morris said, was less about one specific menu item or a “gimmick.” To him, the core of Aldo was its family-friendly atmosphere.

“It was the one place in here where kids could just come in and there was a proper kids menu,” he said.

Despite the changes, Morris said the community has been supportive.

“As a Los Altos native, I’m just so appreciative to be back in my hometown,” he said, “and to have support from people in this time when it’s easier to stay at home.”

BariBar is located at 388 Main St. Hours are 5-11 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. For updates on live music, visit @baribar_bistro on Instagram.  For more information, visit baribarbistro.com.

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