Last night I visited Via, the new Italian joint in the Icehouse in the space formerly occupied by Brasserie Rouge. Via opened officially on August 22, but last night was a grand opening cocktail party with passed assaggini — small bites — and a whole bunch of hungry looky-loos.

The food is good, but the event itself was a bit frustrating for many of the guests. I was able to intercept the servers often enough to feel satisfied, but it seems that many people couldn’t get enough to eat, or to drink for that matter. The bar was swamped and the staff seemed genuinely surprised that the hundred-odd guests were getting impatient when they couldn’t get a cocktail after crowding into the bar area for long, dry stretches of time.

Of course, I think it’s bad form to complain too much about slow service when it’s all free, but many did. And with reason, to be honest. But I (being the clever and food-motivated creature that I am) parked my butt close to the kitchen for a good 30 minutes, ensuring that I could swipe a bite of the latest tray of homemade pizza, creamy breaded cheeses, and little bites of poached tuna as they passed by. Yum.

Aside from the vibe of general crankiness last night, I thought the atmosphere was inviting. The space has been given a rustic-Italian makeover, with knotty pine tabletops, wood plank flooring, and an odd stacked-firewood installation along the rear wall that sort of clashes with the clear plexiglass and sleek round mirrors that finish it off.

It’s definetly going to require a second visit under normal circumstances to really get a feel for the place, but if you’re looking for a nice homey spot in Lodo for true Italian-style munchies, I’d say it’s well worth stopping by.

Just make sure it’s not too crowded at the bar, or you may have to go thirsty.