By Diane DiPiero, Northern Ohio Live

When Carl Quagliata, owner of the newly renovated Giovanni’s Ristorante, opened his restaurant twenty-five years ago, the place was busy. “But for the last ten years, there wasn’t much growth. We weren’t drawing in younger people,” Quagliata says.

Quagliata, who also owns Tuscany, an Italian restau- rant at Eaton Place, was certain Giovanni’s decor was at the heart of the matter. “It looked like an old-fashioned restaurant,” he says. “It was time for a change.”

Located in an office building in Beachwood, the restaurant’s original interior was boxy – the entrance contained a small foyer, interrupted by a coatroom. Elements like a massive chandelier in the middle of the dining area accentuated the space’s low ceilings.

Designer Paula Jo Boykin, ASID, IIDA, of Cleveland’s Spectrum Design Services, and her design team, Kelli Gamertsfelder, ASID, and design-architect Curt Smock, envisioned a restaurant steeped in Italian tradition but in tempo with current trends, like ultra-comfortable seating, ambient lighting and options for formal and casual dining.

“It’s Tuscan 2001,” Boykin says.

This sophisticated look begins when patrons open the newly installed burnished-brown door that, with its ornate dings, calls to mind a venerable home on a narrow cobblestone street in Florence. Standing in the entrance, diners find themselves bathed in elegant tones of gold, basil and sage.

Poured concrete columns frame the two primary areas: the bar (which also has seating for dinner) on the left and the dining room on the right. Behind the maitre d’s desk, a massive brass cappuccino maker is surrounded by a wall of built-in niches holding wine from the restaurant’s collection. Luscious textures abound – from the velvet draperies at the entrance to the leatherette seats in the main dining area. Alabaster half-dome light fixtures on the ceiling and frosted wall sconces add to the warm golden glow. Rows of built-in wine racks line the walls above the long banquette in the main dining room, creating visual appeal and functionality.

“We added wood beams on the ceiling to give the room a different expanse,” Bov_ kin says. “It’s like you’re sitting in a great wine cellar.” The walls are covered in a seamless vinyl that oozes weathered hues of gold and ocher. “It offers tons of texture. Plus the vinyl is very practical in a restaurant setting.” Boykin adds.

Options for private dining were an important consideration in the renovation. A cozy nook between the bar and main dining room can be cordoned off with lush velvet draperies. An existing space at the far end of the restaurant has glass doors to separate it from the rest of the space while still offering an open atmosphere.

The room’s richly paneled walls are decorated with Picasso prints, mostly from his Cubist period. “He’s an Italian hero, so he fits in well in an Italian restaurant,” Boykin says.

In the more casual bar area, reproductions of European posters set a whimsical mood above commodious U-shaped booths. Animal-print stools outline the bar, which boasts a sleek and seductive black granite top and carved corbels with a grape motif.

Even a bar in an upscale restaurant must have a television. (How else would Indians, Browns or Cavs fans know how their team was faring?) But Boykin blended it in with the decor, framing it in one of the same gilded frames used for the Picasso prints in the private dining room.

Boykin also opened up the bar area and used elements such as green velvet upholstery to tie it in with the rest of the restaurant. “You can come in dressed casually and feel very comfortable sitting here,” she says. “And you can still feel part of what’s going on in the main dining room.”