A Sweet Finish
David Sokol -- Interior Design, 2/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
Firm: bromley caldari architects site: huntington, new york
If Augustus Gloop, the gluttonous young visitor to Roald Dahl's fictional chocolate factory, had grown up, improved his manners, and moved to the suburbs of New York, Sally's Cocofé would surely be his home away from home. Located in Huntington, Long Island, this casual, nearly always open restaurant is the adult version of the Wonka Candy Company. Conceived by local gastroenterologist Paul Bermanski and run by his daughter Sarah, Sally's Cocofé spins chocolate into everything from Thai noodles to teriyaki sauce as well as offering 13 different takes on hot cocoa.
The interior of the 1,800-square-foot café is as urbane as its menu, infusing the narrow storefront with low-key sophistication. Sarah Bermanski says she chose Bromley Caldari Architects with little hesitation. "The firm understood our unusual concept right away," she says of her Candy Store Meets Fine Dining establishment. The fact that the senior partner, Interior Design Hall of Fame member R. Scott Bromley, had designed Studio 54 "also really intrigued my father," she adds.
"We bonded almost instantly," Bromley says of the first client meeting and brainstorming session. All were smitten with the designer's suggestion of sculpting the interior's signature element overhead: a free-form ceiling coffer made of three levels of painted drywall with LEDs embedded between the layers. The tripartite construction makes direct reference to Cocofé Bicerin, the house specialty drink of chocolate, espresso, and whipped cream. "It really looks like layers worn away by flowing chocolate," Bromley says of the ceiling, which provides an overarching visual metaphor for the café.
The theme swirls throughout the space. The glass front door's stainless-steel handle is a long zigzag wrapped in leather, as if dripping with chocolate. Mocha-stained oak flooring surrounds a long puddle of latte-colored epoxy shaped like the coffer overhead. The walls are painted with wide swaths of bicerin colors, candy-wrapper style. As principal Jerry Caldari notes, the design motifs "offer a more subtle approach" to branding.
The Bermanskis plan to roll out additional branches around Long Island and internationally, so the flagship is designed for easy replication. Bromley cites the curvilinear ceiling as particularly forgiving of different building conditions and contracting skills. "You can draw something on the floor and project it," he says. "If you're doing 4 inches at a time, no one's going to tell what little variations resulted."
Caldari adds that the restaurant's evocation of chocolate is similarly foolproof. Although dotting the place with oversize faux candy bars and silvery foil accents would have identified Sally's Cocofé more literally as a haven for the Augustus Gloop in all of us, the architect says, "It's more interesting to present things unexpectedly." That's a treat not just for the palate but also for the eyes.
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