On a crisp night in early November, the Brazilian jazz singer Silvia Machete performed a nearly three-hour set at Baretto, the new Midtown jazz club atop the Italian restaurant Fasano, which opened in March. At one point, she took a break to raise her dirty martini in a toast.
“I always love when there’s a toast,” Machete says. “I offer one for those in love. Somehow, everyone is in love at Baretto.”
Baretto is an easy place to love. After all, the New York City location was born of the popularity of the bar’s original location in Hotel Fasano in São Paulo, Brazil, which has become a cult live music destination. New York’s Baretto retains the original club’s sensibilities, offering jazz and bossa nova music every Friday and Saturday night.
And Machete is right: It’s an easy place to be in love, even if it’s just with New York. Baretto is sexy, unfussy, and brings a modern upscale sheen to the feeling of old New York, seamlessly weaving the classic with the modern. With sleek midcentury interiors designed by famed Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld, who fuses 1950s modernism with the tropics, the bar may have only opened less than a year ago, but it feels like it’s always been there. The space is a cavernous wonder that conjures memories, real or imagined, of an Old New York, one of swanky piano bars and dimly lit clubs. The tables are meticulously aligned and uniformly topped with soft, glowing bulbs, situated close enough to the stage so there is no bad seat in the house, but far enough away to still be able to whisper secrets.
“Somehow, everyone is in love at Baretto.”
In the last two years, developers have been trying to make Midtown a thing, and droves of young people are taking the train uptown in search of the promise of old New York – invading places like Bemelmans, Monkey Bar, and Rainbow Room for martinis. (It makes sense: If you’re going to pay $17 for a martini in Bushwick, you may as well pay $25 for a martini at a bar that makes you feel like you’re in Sex and the City.) At the same time, a slew of new swanky piano bars have opened, including The Nines, Silving Lining at the Moxy Lower East Side, and The Jazz Club at Aman New York, and are as filled with young people with TikTok accounts as they are an older generation with business expense accounts.
Baretto is located staunchly in Midtown, on 49th Street between Madison and Park Avenues, in a zone where the most obvious landmark is the Merrill Lynch building, which is probably why on a Saturday night, it was far from filled. When I visited, the crowd seemed to be a combination of international businesspeople, tourists, suburban commuters, and various chic Boomers. We were the youngest people by about 20 years, a fact which I consider to only be a positive thing. Baretto is still Midtown’s best-kept secret — and it’s one that’s worth sharing. It’s a bar that fulfills both the romance of a sleek date as much as it fulfills the “only in New York,” feeling you (and your parents) come to the city to feel. In short, we should all be going to Baretto.
While showstopper moments in dining are in — think seafood towers and caprese martinis — Baretto’s biggest panache is the music. The stage is close to the club allowing for a cozy, VIP intimacy. (The VIP feeling is one the staff takes seriously; the staff is considerate beyond expectation. The only thing that could make your night better is sitting in Chris’ section.) And the music — at least when Machete was performing — was less the improvisational jazz that comes to mind when thinking about classic New York jazz clubs and more of a cabaret show.
“It’s dark and it’s sexy,” says Machete. “It’s different because the public is close to the small stage; it’s intimate and I love that. It’s a great mix of curious music lovers and an international crowd. They come to be surprised in every way.”
The drinks are excellent and thoughtful, seamlessly blending the old and new by using very of the moment, savory flavors like olive oil and peanut butter washes on classic cocktails. A standout is the Extra Vergine, though the most expensive cocktail on the menu at $28, is a well-balanced, fatty olive oil martini with Antica Torina dry vermouth, and a sweet finish.
The biggest risk — and one that paid off — is the Peanut Gallery, a peanut butter-washed cachaca with caramel-colored liqueur, passionfruit, and lime that is like Brazil’s Carnival shaking hands with the Upper East Side. My favorite? The Cherry on Top, which mixes Grey Goose, Amaretto, maraschino liqueur, and sour cherry juice, a cool older cousin of the Dirty Shirley, like a spumoni cake in a drink: celebratory, ornamental, simple.
Rather than dinner, Baretto is best for post-dinner light snacking and dessert. Silver bowls of Pao De Queijo, or Brazilian cheese puffs, whizzed by my table, but I was a fan of the King Crab Croquettes, which came out salty, briney, and beautifully fried, along with the Tartana Di Tonno, or tuna tartare, which was such a generous portion it could stave off anemia. But the best bite belonged to the Italian Pastry Cream, the deceivingly simple shortbread that crumbled in my mouth. Like Baretto, it is unfussy, sweet, and very easy to love.
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