Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
It sounds like the start of a bad joke: Guy walks into a bar, orders a drink, and sees his old scooter cut in half and hanging on the wall. But that’s exactly what happened to H Street NE resident Tony Zarrella.
Curious about the new Italian restaurant and bar, Vendetta, located just around the corner from his house on H Street NE, Zarrella stopped in for a peak. Zarrella’s former neighbor Blair Zervos is a co-owner of Vendetta. At the time, Zervos was putting the finishing touches on the restaurant, which includes two indoor bocce ball pits, some Italian posters and memorabilia, and three vintage Vespas, which hang above the second-floor bar.
As it turns out, the half-Vespa mounted to the wall—a pale green scooter, bracketed to the bar’s brick wall—was Zarrella’s old bike, which he almost immediately recognized.
“I could tell it was mine, just by the dings and scrapes,” Zarrella says. “Plus it’s painted in that weird color…it’s either booger or baby’s diaper green.” It wasn’t exactly the most dependable bike either, he said; there were “good days and bad.” When Zarrella pointed out his old bike, Zervos also remembered it from the days the two lived next door to each on H Street’s Linden Place.
So how does a guy get reunited with his bike two years after he sold it for parts?
The answer is Modern Classics, a 6,000-square-foot vintage Vespa heaven for scooter aficionados in Brentwood. In the weeks leading up to Vendetta’s May opening, Zervos called Wellesley Scott, Modern Classics’ shop owner, with an odd request to purchase two and a half bikes.
“We get all types of calls, so I actually wasn’t too surprised by it,” Scott says.
Scott originally bought Zarrella’s Vespa for the motor, which he used for a repair on another bike. So when it came time to decide on a scooter to chop in half, Scott chose Zarrella’s ride. The bike is a late-1970s vintage Vespa with chrome finishes and a headlamp that still works, thanks to some rewiring.
In addition to Zarrella’s bike, Vendetta purchased red and blue Vespas with bodies left fully intact. The motors were removed to decrease the weight; each bike weighs about 150 pounds. Then, holes were drilled in three places on the bikes so that steel rods could be fastened and hung from Vendetta’s roof beams.
Zarrella’s Vespa isn’t the only scooter with some history. The red Vespa was owned by a woman who originally bought it in Italy, transported and rode it in Bahrain, then sold it to Modern Classics, Scott says.
In total the three bikes plus the installation cost about $10,000. But Zervos is happy with how it turned out. “These things are the real deal. They add a vintage feel,” he says.
And, at least for Zarrella, he says he’s happy to see at least half of his bike live on in bar decor grandeur: “It’s better than collecting dust in someone’s garage.”
Photos courtesy James Silk, Vendetta