Tony Papahristou, manager of Cava Restaurant, stands in the Willy Wonka themed room on Wednesday.This is the restaurant’s 13th year decorating for the holidays.

Cava restaurant opens ‘biggest year ever’ of holiday displays

Cava restaurant opens ‘biggest year ever’ of holiday displays

reporter photo

SOUTHINGTON — Cava Restaurant has transformed into its highly anticipated Winter Spectacular for the 13th year. 

Cava, 1615 West St., has become known for elaborate decorative scenes and this holiday season is no different. Each dining room is inspired by different movie themes – The Little Mermaid, James Bond, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and The Polar Express. One room was inspired by a trip to Dubai.

“This is probably our biggest year yet,” said Cava manager Tony Papahristou.

Every room is filled with lights, ornaments and Christmas trees. While the restaurant was closed at the beginning of the pandemic, Papahristrou spent time sketching and designing each detail in every room. Decorating began in October. 

“This year we have a record breaking over 200,000 lights and 65 Christmas trees,” the manager said. 

The Polar Express room is in the temporary building constructed at the end of the summer. Papahristrou is waiting on the 10-foot train he designed to complete the area. Christmas trees, moving reindeer and polar bears are placed between tables.  

“We kind of made it into a winter forest,”  he said. “I designed it where the train is going through the woods and the animals are following it. That’s the scene I was trying to replicate.”

Cava is also introducing a smore’s hot chocolate to go along with the Polar Express room. Soon, the restaurant will release a new menu of cocktails and drinks for the season. 

The Willy Wonka room is filled with jars of candy and gingerbread houses, with gumball ornaments hanging from the ceiling. The Little Mermaid room is lit with blue light and the ceiling is designed to look like the tentacles of jellyfish.

The Dubai inspired room came to Papahristrou while vacationing there. The room is completely “over the top” gold with a hand beaded Swarovski chandelier dropping down from the ceiling. The James Bond room is completely black and silver with two spinning upside down trees on the ceiling. 

Papahristou said doing the Winter Spectacular was a risk with the possibility of another lockdown due to the surge in COVID cases in Connecticut, but he didn’t want to give up on a tradition many anticipate. 

Longtime customer Gary Dobrindt, who owns a factory in Southington, has gone to Cava five days a week for the past eight years. He has been able to see the growth of the Winter Spectacular over time. 

“They’re all great, he surprises us every year with something new all the time,” Dobrindt said.  

Gov. Ned Lamont recently announced new restrictions on all restaurants, ending dine-in at 9:30 p.m.  

“It changed and it’s going to change us even more because we lose a whole seating,” he said. “We used to be able to turn tables three times, we are only going to be able to turn them twice.”

Papahristrou said he is looking forward to customers’ reactions when they see the decorations. The restaurant’s holiday decorations will stay up until February or March. 

fwilliams@record-journal.com203-317-2373Twitter: @faith_williams2

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