SOUTHINGTON — By transporting you to the gardens of Alice in Wonderland, Cava Restaurant hopes to provide a fun, beautiful summer on its rooftop while the pandemic lingers.
“I chose the theme in January, not realizing our world would become like we're living in wonderland right now,” Cava general manager Tony Papahristou said.
As you go from the staircase to the rooftop dining area, patrons are greeted by an array of greenery shaped into the Cheshire Cat, the caterpillar, and Alice. Papahristou said to look for hidden details, like clocks and the White Rabbit.
On the opposite side of the display, a giant greenery-sculpted hand holds a teapot pouring water into a steaming cup.
In the lounge, low-hanging pink trees create pockets of shade. The fireplace room has been turned into the Mad Hatter’s tea party, with stacked teacups along the mantel.
The bar has turned into the Red Queen’s bar, complete with a replica of her giant head in the center. The entire display has 17 sculptures, which Papahristou designed and then ordered through a specialized company.
Papahristou said the restaurant is following state guidelines for outdoor dining, including keeping tables at least six feet apart and requiring customers to wear masks except when at their table. The restaurant is also not putting out bread baskets.
The rooftop has a retractable awning and radiant floor heating, allowing dining during any kind of weather.
For summer, Cava introduced two new drinks, a popsicle cocktail and honeydew mojito.
To make up for lost space on the rooftop due to coronavirus safety measures, the owners decided to set up a large tent in the parking lot. The rooftop seats about 75 at this time, normal capacity is closer to 170.
Papahristou said they tried to make the tent feel like a fine dining experience, including decorations and a piano. It seats about 85.
Early this year Cava acquired a portion of the land directly behind the restaurant for new parking. Right now people can park on the sectioned-off grass. It will be paved in the next few weeks. Papahristou said it should add about 200 additional parking spots.
When the state closed most businesses and restaurants to limit the spread of the coronavirus, Cava decided to close temporarily and not offer takeout. The rooftop opened May 20. While closed, the inside of the restaurant was also repainted and upgraded, with new artwork, mirrors and other aesthetic changes.
Economic Development Director Lou Perillo said Cava’s creative decorating is one of the reasons it has become a destination spot.
“They’re very talented, very creative and they have spent a considerable amount of money in doing so,” Perillo said.
Reservations are required, by calling 860-628-2282. Hours are Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday until 10 p.m., Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.