SOUTHINGTON — For Cava manager Tony Papahristou, planning the restaurant’s annual Christmas decoration display begins in February.
Decorations are ordered in September and setup begins in October. When the project reaches completion in November, the result is a display across several rooms featuring tens of thousands of lights, ornaments and crystals.
“Nothing comes ready, every single ornament is individually put on,” Papahristou said. “It’s hours of labor and work, patience.”
Cava, 1615 West St., recently finished its Christmas display for the ninth straight year. Papahristou said customers come from throughout the state to dine and view the display.
The company spends up to $15,000 on the display each year, Papahristou said. Some pieces are recycled and others are new.
“Incorporating the old and bringing in the new is the hardest part,” he said.
Last summer, Papahristou visited the Palace of Versailles in France, which served as an inspiration for a section of this year’s display.
“It’s very important that when they open the doors, their faces are ‘wow’ed’ before they even walk into the dining areas,” he said.
Other themes include a carousel and fireplace room and an Alice in Wonderland-based bar room.
A secret garden dining room was also created and modeled after a planned rooftop dining area, which will be completed in the summer, Papahristou said.
“Every year you have guests that come...as a tradition,” Papahristou said “They’re expecting it to be better than the year before.”
Dining reservations have been booked for almost every Friday and Saturday in December. Displays remain up until early February.
“There’s really not another place in Connecticut that goes to this extreme,” Papahristou said. “Everybody who wants the holiday restaurant, they all end up here.”
Bartender Ryan Lavoie has been involved with setup for the last eight years.
“Every year I’ve seen it grow,” Lavoie said. “Every year he (Papahristou) tops it...he’s got passion...I feel like he’s put our name on the map.”