In what was once a desolate industrial district, comes the next happening neighborhood to be discovered—Sherman Creek of Upper Manhattan. On a city block populated with garages, parking lots, and auto repair shops, rises the oasis that is VACCA Grill & Lounge, a new dining destination, the like of which has not been seen since the development of the meatpacking district.
From the moment you enter the vast loft-like space with seating for 70, you begin to experience the artistic vision of Dario Oleaga.
VACCA is the fresh and innovative creation of entrepreneur and acclaimed fine artist Dario Oleaga, whose work has been featured in many solo and group exhibitions including the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Havana Bienal at Wilfredo Lam Contemporary Art Museum in Havana, Cuba, as well as in his native country, the Dominican Republic. Motivated by the desire to develop his community, he built Umbrella, on 202nd Street, and went on to develop several other popular venues, including Ambar Room, Serie 56, and Guadalupe, Tette, Opus, Coral.
With VACCA, he provides a platform for other talented Dominican artists—his colleagues from the Altos de Chavon School of Design (an art school in the Dominican Republic affiliated with the Parsons School of Design). Working with Architect Ruperto Arvelo, ARVELO architecture+design, pllc, Oleaga turned a 5,800 square-foot mechanic’s garage into a performance piece, so that dining at VACCA Grill & Lounge is an experience that stimulates every sense—the sight and sound of the art and music, the smell and taste of the food and drink, the touch of the textiles decorating the walls and tables.
Immediately as you enter, behind the original garage door, an entire wall is lined with bottles of the finest sparkling French wine—think Armand de Brignac, Veuve Clicquot, Perrier-Jouet, Don Perignon, Ace of Spades, Cristal and Krug. As you enter the main dining room and your eyes are immediately drawn to the massive LED-chandelier, with multi-color lights that throb to the same beat as the music emanating from the state-of-the-art sound system, an effect that is created and controlled by computer systems designed by a lighting engineer.
The dining room and lounge feature works by Chiqui Mendoza, Diego Balarezo, Cangai and Carlos Martinez.
On one wall of the front dining room and lounge, there is a sculptural mural made up of 94 translucent backlit horns that change colors in an undulating display, and a 3-D mural of butterflies composed of paper and posters by Rider Ureña, a member of the faculty of the Art Department at Columbia University. Throughout the lounge and front dining room, there are stunning examples of tattoo-style art on brick walls by Aneudy Hernandez, with bold black outlines, partially filled in with ink colors, based on representations of Chinese Imperial dynasties from textiles.
The cocktail bar—located at the very center of everything—is covered in blackened steel. You’ve arrived once you have a Lovely Limonada (Bulleit bourbon, lemon and sugar), Johnny’s Mojito (Johnny Walker Black, lime and mint), or a glass of Champagne in your hand. Behind the bar is an elevated dining room with Lucite chairs, steel-colored tabletops, a 360-degree perspective on the art, as well as perfect views for live performances.
General Manager and Sommelier Lina Tio, who brings the hospitality of her native Santiago, Dominican Republic to VACCA, runs the front of the house. She not only ensures that the staff has the tools to make every guest feels well taken care of, but also oversees the Champagne selections and the global wine lists that includes rose, whites, reds and sparkling wines by the bottle.
For an even more VIP experience, guests can reserve the private dining room, reached through a hallway covered with spray-painted graffiti art images that portray iconic comic book women.
Inside this very special dining room, there is more of Oleaga’s original work: a refurbished industrial door decorated with colored prints of Champagne labels that are echoed in the Champagne wall near the entrance, and a reclaimed tree refurbished as a communal table, perfect for groups.
On the ceiling, Oleaga has created waves of shimmering fish scales of diverse textures and colors. There is also a hand-stenciled mural by Diogenes Jesus Hernandez of the French poet Baudelaire’s poem that captures the feeling of VACCA, the feeling of being drunk on life, intoxicated with beauty.
The unisex bathroom, comprised of individual rooms, illustrated with Oleaga’s collages of graffiti, street art and photography, is finished with shimmering metallic glass brick and a striking mosaic boat communal sink projected out from the wall to the middle of the room by Ezequiel Taveraz.
VACCA is located at 416 W. 203rd Street, (212) 544-0070, and is open from 5PM to 4AM, seven days a week. Separate back room for private parties and events. For more information, please contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.