2106 Frankfort Avenue Louisville, KY 40206
A thunderstorm capped off a 100 degree summer day about the same time our party of three arrived at Varanese. Through the dark skies and torrential rain, the single strip of red neon light circling the restaurant guided our 2000 Ford Focus hatchback into Varanese’s small parking lot.
Oozing romance like a bee hive oozes honey, Varanese enveloped us with its sophisticated charm created by a live jazz quartet and fresh red roses atop each table. Here with our friend Andrea, there was no doubt each of us experienced a fleeting thought about the appropriateness of our party of ladies–looking out at a sea of seated couples.
We were greeted by the manager and several other eager staff before the hostess led us to our table. Busily conversing between ourselves, we barely noticed the young woman in a white Tuxedo shirt and black pants retrieving the cloth napkins from our glasses and placing them in our laps in order to fill our water glasses. Another similarly dressed server immediately brought us a plate of Bruschetta to tide us over.
Prepared to split several starters, we weighed out the choices the fairly extensive appetizer menu offered us. Along with the typical fried calamari and house made potato chips, there were also some unique options that included: avocado stuffed crab and beef, rice and mandarin oranges wrapped in grape leaves. Not much discussion was needed. A sampler of almost everything, the appetizer platter jumped out at us. Two more appetizers later, and a filling meal was had by all. Onto the drinks!
To our initial dismay, none of the specialty cocktails were included in the happy hour. However, our server went above and beyond by telling us what she would do if she were working within the happy hour restraints. Maybe we couldn’t get the French Fusion with Grey Goose La Poire and white grape juice amongst other fun little additions, but we could do the Abosolut pear and grape juice with a splash of soda. $3 on the rocks could be transformed into a martini for an extra $1.50. Rocks it is.
A breakdown of our 4-star rating: We were very impressed by both the food and drink quality of Varenese’s Sunday night happy hour. We rarely come across an upscale establishment that provides equal opportunities for their happy hour patrons. The only thing that separates Varanse from our ideal happy hour is that it prevents the whim factor by only offering specials two nights a week.