Just in Time Restaurant Makeover
In 2004, Wayne Gretzky, the celebrated Canadian hockey star, chose Il Posto, a Yorkville restaurant I had designed about two years earlier, to honor some of his closest friends and fellow players with a cocktail reception..
Less than a week before the cocktail reception was to take place, Franco Agostino, the restaurant’s owner, called to ask if I could update the dining room – without closing the restaurant even once during that time. I said that it was. And rushed over to start work.
First off, I called my longtime friend and colleague, Rick Murfin of Vast Interiors, and asked him to come by and take measurements for the mirrors I wanted to cover the interior columns of the restaurant. Then, with the mirrors taken care of, I arranged for Keely Masson from Eventscape to meet me at 2:30 PM – the beginning of the dead hours in the restaurant trade – to see if she could fit the ceiling with fabric panels to hide the hodgepodge of exposed wires and pipes that plagued the otherwise good looks of the room. Keely arrived right ontime and, to my astonishment, brought samples of fire-resistant green jersey in the exact shade I needed. On the spot I ordered the panels – though they cost over twenty-five thousand dollars – and scheduled the midnight to mid-morning installation to take place in four days.
Cutting things close! But, a good example of just in time delivery!
My next task was to round-up the other trades that were needed to get the restaurant ready. Joe Pupitella, the neon specialist, agreed to install additional lights behind the mirrored wainscoting Rick had installed in the dining room two years earlier. Elte Carpet’s Joseph Hajirian arranged to have an installer come by in two days to replace the worn carpeting on the washroom stairs with his best synthetic sisal. One of Franco’s cousins, a commercial painter, agreed to send over a crew that very night to begin the top to bottom repainting of the bar and dining room. Pleased that I was on top of things, I used the two hours remaining to shop for a new console for the front entrance.
Over the next five days Il Posto hummed with renovation activity – always between 11:30 PM and 10:30 the next morning. The kitchen staff obligingly kept a junior chef on duty throughout the night to make sandwiches and espresso for the hard working painters. Every morning the chef prepared breakfast for the tired but grateful crew when they finished their all night shift.
On the morning of the reception, I showed up at Il Posto berfore 9:00 AM and set about to hang the artwork I had refreshed with new picture frames and get the room ready.
As a final touch, I had Michael Pelegrino, the master florist from Teatro Verde, create a grouping of three almost otherworldly arrangements he had composed from luscious plum and auburn coloured blossoms on the new console I had purchased from Putti on Yonge Street.
There are times when an interior designer has to be flexible and give more than one hundred per cent in order to satisfy his clients’ needs. Almost always, the rewards are worth it. They certainly were this time. Not only did I get to share Wayne Gretzky’s joy the evening of the party, but I had the opportunity to meet Penelope Cruz, who, by chance, was brought over to Il Posto by the concierge of the Four Seasons Hotel across the street to have dinner as well.