By Carla Occaso Hugo’s, the new restaurant in Montpelier in the space that formerly housed NECI on Main, opened Saturday, Feb. 12. The NECI space, once a working/teaching hub for the New England Culinary Institute, shut its doors in Spring 2021. Then a new owner, Thomas Christopher Greene — an author and founding president of the Vermont College of Fine Arts — leased it earlier this year and turned it into an American bistro. “We had 185 people in on our first day, Saturday. Another 200 for Valentine’s day,” wrote Greene in an email. If you have read his books, you will know the words come alive when he writes about food and cooking. His books include “Mirror Lake” (2003), “I’ll Never be Long Gone” (2006), “The Headmaster’s Wife” (2015), “If I Forget You” (2017) and “The Perfect Liar” (2020), among others.Unique among local restaurants is the raw bar, which Greene says people are loving. “This town loves oysters,” he said. Also popular is the Faroe Islands salmon, mushroom ravioli, potato croquettes, steak fries, and craft cocktails. Greene’s personal favorite is the scallop crudo and a vegetarian poutine. Even the ketchup is housemade. Hugo’s currently does not offer takeout, but staff is fully vaccinated. Additionally, according to Greene, “the renovation of the space is profound.” Menu items, in addition to those listed above, include classic iceberg wedge salad, kale caesar salad, sandwiches — such as pesto chicken and grilled cheese with bacon on sourdough — and some romantic dinners for two. Dinners for two include a 21-ounced rib-eye steak with garlic cream and potato mille-feuille, and whole rabbit porchetta with herb spaetzle and roast carrots. Located at 118 Main Street, the renovated spot has long attracted Montpelier residents — some may remember when it was the Lobster Pot. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. according to the website hugosbarandgrill.com.