March 16, 2011

How It All Began

It has now been two weeks of putting all doubt out of our heads and forging blindly into dumpsters and garage sales, grabbing every scrap of possible material we can get our hands on. Not that this is anything new; We have been doing this for years. The difference now is that we have a motivation other than sheer delight! My living room has been steadily and rapidly filled with tetanus-ridden piles of wood, one-hundred-year-old beams, precariously stacked towers of chairs, and a bunch of old doors which are chipping off chunks of paint. It’s a deathtrap in here right now, with barely any room to move, but it will all be gone soon! Why? Because we’re throwing it in the back of a sixteen foot truck and driving it across the country, where we’re going to sand, strip, cut, poly, re-glue, fix-up, tear-down, and build-up a restaurant. Yes!

Our Route
From Right to Left:

1. Brooklyn, NY
2. Knoxville, TN
3. Selma, AL
4. Memphis, TN
5. Oklahoma City, OK
6. Albuquerque, NM
7. Los Angeles, CA
8. Pacific Grove, CA

So this is our story, the brief version. Amelie and I met two years ago working at a faux finishing company in Manhattan, and it wasn’t long before we knew we were bound to do some great things together. We quit that job, got another job, and then quit that one too – let’s say we must have known something better was coming!

How did we get so lucky? My father has finally given in to his subtle yet persistent lifelong itch to open his own restaurant, ever since he relocated from Rome over thirty years ago where he once had his own restaurant there. That doesn’t make me Italian, but it does mean that my father can cook a mean pasta. We are happy that we are not necessarily starting from scratch, but that we are picking up where a great restaurant once left off.

We haven’t seen the site yet, other than two pictures and a floor plan, which is frustrating to say the least. But even with the little information we have about the site, we have big plans and a hundred ideas.

Here's the biggest challenge we foresee:

1. The space may be too large!

I think a little bit of genius in the design department is in order. The size of the space gives us a great level of creative freedom, but we will have to work extra hard to make a 2,500 sq foot space, into a cozy and inviting restaurant!

So here's the plan. We want to do this the fun way. What's the fun way you ask? Completely from scratch, with recycled, salvaged and found material only! We want this restaurant to be at least 90% reclaimed materials. Not only that, we want our materials to have a story. We love the romance of knowing where things came from. The tables will be made from oak we salvaged from a one hundred and fifty year old church in Brooklyn, and the paintings were painted in the forties by a friend’s Grandmother in Syracuse, New York. To me, that’s a great start already. 

I can't wait!


  1. the restaurant is gonna look so nice. can't wait to see what you're gonna do with all this space and the prie-dieux!

  2. I passed this very same Virginia restaurant about a year ago and made the same screeching u turn to photograph it. I didn't go inside though and missed those wonderful dummy heads.

    The only suggestion I have is to alter your route slightly to the South to hit Southern New Mexico and SW Texas ( e.g. Marathon, Texas) both of which seem to have more than their share of abandoned buildings. Good Luck!

    Martin Prochnik (

    Fairfax, Virginia

  3. Thanks Martin! We really wish we could go more South but we have to be in Monterey by the 31st and so we're on a really tight schedule. Next time for sure. We love road trips and while this is our first road trip together, it will certainly not be the last!

  4. Merci Juliette ! Ouaich pelo et tout t'as vu.

  5. Hi,
    Good luck with the trip. Collecting should be fun. I wonder whether upon reaching the end of the road, you'll look at one of your early find and wonder what you were thinking.
    You say: "We want this restaurant to be at least 90% reclaimed materials".
    That would be an amazing achievement; is the health inspector going to let you get away with it?
    I'll follow with interest.


  6. Hi Mederic! Thanks for your comment.

    More and more restaurants are built with reclaimed materials today, be it for environmental, financial or esthetical reasons. Reclaimed does not mean rotten, unsafe or dirty. We carefully select material and furniture for their quality. Old wood for example is stronger than new wood.

    We're going to post in a few days about how we're going to carefully clean, strip, sand, coat and seal everything we've found. We've both worked in restaurants and we are very much aware of health regulations. Not only will the restaurant be eco-friendly, it will also get an A from the health inspector.

  7. Hi Amelie,

    I did not intend to sound pedantic. I am sure you've thought of most of the hurdles to come (you were always bright after all). It is a remarkable challenge, and one that really needs to be taken on.

    As for the restaurant itself, I don't imagine crafty and creative use of beautiful furniture is going to do it any harm.

    Quod cibus est aliis, aliis est venenum.

  8. I went to school with Hal Hiner who you encountered in Joshua Tree. Anyway, he posted your blog, I read it, and since I'm on the West Coast-- well, please let me know when the restaurant is finished and open for business?! Do you have a timeline?

  9. Sure! We're thinking this will take us a couple months, so probably June. The food is going to be real traditional Italian food, affordable,simple, home cooked, wholesome pasta dishes. The owner is getting a chef from Rome to help build up the menu and train the cooks so that the food is super authentic!

    We're still deciding on a name and so keep checking this blog for updates, etc.

    Come for the opening party! Bring Hal!

  10. I'd love to go to the opening party. I live in Portland, OR, where we also think strongly about recycling and sustainability to save the environment. My daughter lives in San Francisco so as soon as you set a date, I'll see if I might be able to make it. If not the opening party, I'll definitely venture down sometime in the summer. I love what you are doing!! Thanks, Linda

  11. Fabulous! I just found you from a friend and am hooked already. I'm a salvaged wood fanatic and have been drooling over your creations!

    I didn't see an email anywhere in order to reach you. Would you mind if I featured your blog and what you're doing on my own blog? You really REALLY fit in to my way of decorating. :)

    Funky Junk Interiors

  12. I would be so honored! Of course you can! Tell your friend thank you very much for the recommendation. And I LOVE the dress form you just scored! It's a beauty. I'll add your blog to my list of favorites! Thanks Donna!

  13. Great idea! Wish to visit!
    Good luck.


Thank you dearly for your comments! They always make my day.