Old-fashioned Italian restaurant Il Vagabondo — known for having an indoor bocce court— is downsizing. The 50-year-old Upper East Side eatery is housed in three brownstones, but will soon be going down to just two, says Tom Goodman, a spokesman for the restaurant and son-in-law of restaurant owner Ernie Vogliano. Vogliano has sold the third building, and in the summer, the restaurant will close temporarily to reconfigure. The bocce court will still be "the centerpiece of the restaurant," Goodman says.
Despite previous rumors, the restaurant does plan on reopening, with a 50th anniversary celebration to come, Goodman says. The sold building housed a prep area, storage, a dining room, and the restaurant office, and Il Vagabondo must close so that they can reincorporate those things into the existing space, according to Goodman. Though the restaurant will shed a building, it will ultimately only lose about 12 seats. The bocce court will eventually be open for both seating and bocce, and a private dining room will be added upstairs to expand capacity.
Il Vagabondo is one of New York's classic old-fashioned Italian-American restaurants, founded initially in 1910 as an East Side Italian social club. It turned into a restaurant in the 1960s, and a shout-out from Emeril LaGasse made it a destination for chicken parm. It hasn't been without its problems, though. In 2010, Vogliano was convicted of a multi-million dollar tax evasion scheme and ultimately had to pay the government more than $900,000 as part of a plea agreement. Goodman says the issue was resolved years ago and has nothing to do with the downsizing. He declined to comment on why Vogliano decided to sell.