Restaurant Development & Design

FALL 2014

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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4 8 • R E S T A U R A N T D E V E L O P M E N T + D E S I G N • F A L L 2 0 1 4 sort of screen for a dramatic, large-format graphic of an American fag that appears to be billowing in the sky above. Celano notes that it's not just the fag imagery that was attractive. This particular graphic was selected because of the hand that holds the fag. "You can see it's not just the fag, but it's being held, engaged with a person so there's a human connection. It's also overscaled and makes a large statement," he says of the image. "But by positioning it on the ceiling and behind the beams, it's somewhat screened. It's understated until your eyes are drawn up to the ceiling and you realize it's a bigger statement than what you initially thought." The restaurant's main dining room, which seats 65, features mixed seating styles. Curved, dark leather banquettes fank two walls, and an eight-top com- munal or group table in the center is sur- rounded by freestanding smaller tables with custom-designed wooden chairs painted white. "José likes to create different experi- ences within the same space by using dif- ferent sizes, shapes and heights of tables and using decorative/structural elements within an open space," Pittarelli says. "This was especially important for this space with the hotel guests. We wanted to provide a place where they would enjoy dining multiple times throughout their stay without losing interest." An additional straight, red leather banquette is inset along a wall adjacent to the restaurant's exposition kitchen. It's used for larger groups or smaller parties as needed, and, like the millwork painted cabinet fronts above the bar, its back evokes a residential look and feel. "It's actually a bed headboard," Celano explains. "That was the inspira- tion. We wanted to create an element of exploration as you go through the restaurant and notice different things. These details aren't so obvious at frst glance, but when you look again you see, 'Oh, it's a headboard or a kitchen cabinet or bicycle handlebars!' It adds to the experience and provides the layers on which the concept is built." The vintage bicycle handlebars are an especially popular design element. Mounted on the wall in the same way antlers might be, above the headboard- backed banquette, they're an example of the type of playful, abstract vision behind both the design and the cuisine at America Eats Tavern. "We chose these sorts of tangible objects, the elements that evoked the American food culture and juxtaposed them with the sort of whimsical, architectural early American design details," Celano notes. "It's fun, but it's also sophisticated in approach — just like José's food." A Pinch of Surrealism That approach is amplifed further in the design of America Eats Tavern's private dining room. The room seats up to 18 guests and provides a view into the inner workings of the kitchen through a large residential-style window along one wall. The room's back wall displays its pièce de résistance, an oversized replica of American artist Robert C. Jackson's paint- ing "Sugar Overload," the original of which hangs in Andrés' home kitchen. Another play on scale, it provides bold and playful imagery in a room that's otherwise almost entirely white. "The painting is a kind of abstract, surreal interpretation of American cul- ture, which was the inspiration for the overall design of the restaurant, so it was a perfect ft," Celano notes. Other elements within the private dining room suggest a pinch of surrealism as well. Custom-made chairs, inspired by colonial designs but tweaked to look almost upside down, surround the large, white, lacquered table. A collection of painted frames — white and empty of artwork — is arranged against the wall opposite the kitchen as well as on the ceil- ing. Says Celano, "It's very surreal in the sense that the picture frames are whatever you want them to be. It's taking inspira- tion from early colonial detailing and then using it in a way that wasn't necessarily intended, so it becomes part of the archi- tecture and encourages conversation." + Project Team • ThinkFoodGroup: José Andrés, Rob Wilder, Amanda Pittarelli • Celano Design Studio: Vincent Celano, principal; Frank Festa, project manager; Kevin Pereira, junior project manager; Christina Podlucky and Marissa Rebuth, interior designers; Jeffrey Nathan, lighting designer • Architect of Record: Howell Belanger Castelli Architects, PC • MEP Engineer: Capitol Engineering Group • General Contractor: Forrester Construction Snapshot • Ownership: ThinkFoodGroup (José Andrés, Rob Wilder) • Location: Ritz-Carlton hotel, Tysons Corner, Va. • Project type: Conversion • Opened: June 2014 • No. of seats: 138 • Build-out: Approximately seven months from design to completion • Key elements: Lounge and bar with raw bar; main dining room; exposi- tion kitchen; private dining room with separate window into kitchen Wooden beams across the ceiling of the bar area provide a screen for a dramatic, large-format graphic of an American fag that appears to be billowing in the sky above. Photo by Ken Wyner

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