Facility Design Project of the Month

Each month, FE&S spotlights a project worth talking about, with in-depth coverage from concept through completion including a kitchen equipment floor plan.


Facility Design Project of the Month, Sept. 2006: Caffe’ Capri Italian Bar & Grille in Boardman, Ohio

Moisture-absorbing and slip-resistant floor covering, drawers in undercounter refrigerators at the chef’s counter and on the hot line, and an efficient kitchen equipment layout are allowing this new restaurant’s owners to build on its long-term reputation for offering high-quality food and service in the Mahoning Valley in Ohio.

In November 2005, a long-time dream of the Quaranta family came true. They moved out of a restaurant they had occupied since 1996 in Boardman, Ohio, a suburb of Youngstown, and opened a new, $3.5 million restaurant located less than a mile away. The new restaurant, Caffe’ Capri Italian Bar & Grille, is more casual than its predecessor, yet features most of the same foods that have attracted customers for years. The slogan on the web site positions the restaurant as “Caffe’ Capri: The tradition continues where Tuscany meets Las Vegas.”

“This restaurant represents the first locally owned, non-franchised restaurant to be built in Boardman in a freestanding building in more than 10 years,” says Ron Quaranta Jr., owner and third generation Quaranta restaurateur. “The new building also marks the first time our family has built a restaurant from the ground up.”

The Quaranta family’s start in the restaurant business began in 1939 when Joseph Quaranta opened The Hub Gardens on Hillman Street in Youngstown. In 1956, when Joseph died, his son, Ron, took over the business with his two brothers and eventually opened the Cave Lounge in 1962 and Ronnie’s Tavern in 1968, both in Youngstown. The next venture was the Isle of Capri in Struthers in the 1970s. In 1985, the restaurant was moved to Boardman, when Ron’s son, Ron Jr., and his daughter, Lynn, joined the family business. The restaurant was closed due to the growing number of chain restaurants opening in the area. In 1996, the family moved into another space in Boardman under the name Caffe’ Capri Italian Bar & Grille. In 2002, Ron Jr.’s wife, Carolyn, joined the business, shortly after the family matriarch, Joanne “Mama Q” Quaranta, died. In March, the Quaranta family opened the first restaurant they had built from scratch.

“We selected a more casual theme because we wanted to appeal to a broader audience, ranging from ages 25 to 75,” Quaranta explains. The restaurant is situated near car dealerships and attracts customers from this area, as well as nearby Youngstown State University, local hospitals and General Motors’ Lordstown plant.

Though the menu and large portion sizes, which are priced less than those at large city restaurants, have stayed generally the same as they were in the first Caffe’ Capri, the décor in this new restaurant is strikingly more contemporary. The similarity to the first restaurant is its emphasis on a purple color palette, which was preferred by Quaranta’s mother, who, until her death in 2002, was intimately involved in the restaurant and prepared the restaurant’s secret, signature Mama Q’s sauce. Still a featured signature specialty, the sauce remains “secret” and is prepared by Quaranta’s wife, Carolyn.

Tall, arched and intricately carved solid doors with heavy handles greet customers, giving them the first hint that they are about to enter a unique environment. The stucco finish, arched openings and Tuscan colors balanced with canyon reds create an Italian feel influenced by a touch of Las Vegas glitz. The carpet, made with high-quality, printed nylon, consisting of a large wave pattern, is one of the most dramatic features of the interior. “We were worried that it might be too busy, so we dialed up the scale to a 6-0 repeat,” says the project’s interior designer, Andrea Smith, interior designer for S.S. Kemp, a Cleveland-based dealership. “But it works because it lands the space and pulls the entire design scheme together.” The detail on the front of the hostess stand and full-service bar comes from the waves of the carpet. The wood veneer, featuring various tones of golds, browns and purples, also carries the carpet’s waves.

“For the seating, we wanted customers to view the bar and dining room, but didn’t want people to feel separated,” Smith says. “One way this was accomplished was to install ‘Frank Sinatra’-style booths, with large circular, half-moon shapes, as well as arched   windows in between the booths so there is a separation, though customers can see activity on both sides.” Other comfortable, flex-back chairs and tables, made of a durable laminate with a vinyl edge and gloss sheen, are divided into smoking and nonsmoking sections and separated by a glass wall.

For the kitchen, Quaranta and kitchen designer Mike Barle, director of design for S.S. Kemp, insisted on prioritizing sanitation and safety. They also took into account labor savings, energy efficiency and a tight, but flowing layout to accommodate substantial amounts of equipment and enhance employee productivity. “All the cooking equipment is mobile with gas disconnect hoses so it can be moved for cleaning,” Barle says. “Also, refrigeration is exactly where it needs to be so staff don’t have to run all over the kitchen to get what they need.”

In addition, floors have many drains and are covered with a heat-welded, cushioned mat. “The wetter it gets, the more aggressive the mat becomes for slip-resistance,” Smith says. “Because the seams are heat-welded, everything can be hosed dating moisture backup. In the kitchen, which is self-contained and not visible to customers, the walk-in cooler and freezer are located close to the pantry. This allows staff to keep food products at proper temperatures during prep work. “We recessed the walk-in cooler so no ramps were needed and delivery carts can flow straight into it,” Barle says.

In the back of the house, staff prep ingredients for various cold and hot dishes and salads on worktables, including a refrigerated prep table, a reach-in refrigerator and various wall shelves. Staff also use a meat slicer for preparing protein for various dishes

Also in the back, staff make sauces and soups in a 60-gallon tilting kettle, and ribs, vegetables and crème brulee in a combination oven/steamer. They also prepare bananas foster and Italian greens, such as sautéed escarole on the six-burner range. In addition, Carolyn Quaranta makes the restaurant’s signature Mama Q’s sauce on the range. A mobile hot cabinet sits at the end of the line until needed for banquet foods.

On the hot cookline, refrigerated tables hold ingredients for dish preparation. The sauté station consists of adjacent range tops on which staff prepare a variety of dishes, including chicken allouette, veal Marsala, shrimp scampi, scallops duchess, linguine di pesche and haddock francaise.

Staff also cook pasta here. Fill faucets allow staff to add water to the pots right on the line, which adds to overall productivity. Pasta is combined with other ingredients prepared on the sauté line to make dishes such as linguine Carolyn Aglio é Olio with Italian greens, roasted peppers and garlic sausage; Tortellacci with meatballs or garlic sausage and Mama Q’s sauce; and Penne Calabrese Junior with grilled chicken over broccoli, mushrooms and hot peppers in a pink sauce. Dishes such as ravioli and manicotti are baked in the combi oven.

“We definitely had to make compromises to fit in all the equipment needed for the large menu,” Barle says. “For example, we eliminated pasta cookers and added more ranges because they are multi-functional and we ran out of hood space.”

Next on the line is a salamander broiler for melting cheese for stuffed banana peppers appetizer and chicken allouette. Adjacent to the broiler, the charbroiler grills pork chops, veal chops, rack of lamb, filet mignon, New York strip steak, salmon and marinated Portobello mushrooms.

Further to the left, staff use fryers with built-in filters for calamari, Friday fish specials such as beer-battered haddock, breaded haddock, and chicken and eggplant parmigiana. At the end of the hot line is a double-stacked conveyor oven for cooking pizza, haddock, brushetta and Italian-style quesadillas. A mobile bread rack is often parked next to the oven.

Also on the cookline, refrigerators are built with drawers vs. doors for labor efficiency and sanitation controls. “The chef ’s counter was pre-wired to a load center within the counter to give flexibility to the line,” Barle says.

On the opposite side of the counter that sits across from the hot line are POS printers where staff can see orders, dual heat lamps with display lights, a plate storage cabinet, a double-tier overshelf and a microwave oven.

Across an aisle is another section with shelving and a work counter, countertop soup units, a double-tier wall shelf, cutting board, two-drawer food warmer, mobile proofer/hot cabinet and a handsink.

Nearby is a section with a drop-in ice cream cabinet, dipper well, work counter, single-well hot food pan, a refrigerated prep table, POS registers, a plate storage cabinet, a double-tier overshelf, dual heat lamps with display lights and a refrigerated condiment pan.

The beverage station, with a drop-in ice bin, soda guns, glassrack storage and a coffee warmer, sits slightly outside the kitchen, so staff have easy access.

In the warewashing area, located near the storage and beer room, traditional garbage disposals were passed up for a scrapping, pre-flushing and disposing system. “This item is often value-engineered out,” Barle says. “It reduces water and sewer costs while doubling the scrapping speed from a traditional pre-rinse spray. The potwashing area includes semi-automatic potwashing sinks, which use high-powered jets of heated water to clean the pots and pans. This frees employees to complete other tasks.”

Maintaining tradition while changing to attract a broader customer base is always a risky venture. Caffe’ Capri seems to have achieved the right balance of old and new. Everyone interviewed for the article attributes the positive outcome of the project to the cooperative, interactive team approach that was taken from the project’s beginning to its end. “It’s rare that the owner is so involved in every detail,” says Smith. “I appreciated his interest and believe that’s why this was so successful.”


Located in Boardman, Ohio, a suburb of Youngstown, the new $3.5 million, 10,300-square-foot Caffe’ Capri Italian Bar & Grille (including the banquet room) opened in November 2005. The 2,000-squarefoot basement area includes space for storage, employee lounge and office space. Open from 11:30 a.m. until 11 p.m., the restaurant serves lunch and dinner. A lounge will stay open until 2:30 a.m. if customers make the request. Nearly 1,200 lunches and 2,500 dinners are served weekly. The average checks are $10 to $11 for lunch and $16 to $20 for dinner. Two private dining rooms, the Mama Q Room and La Veranda Room, are available for private functions. Approximately eight staff work in the kitchen per shift; other staff include 12 servers, two hosts and three bartenders. A total of 90 are employed here. The 1,600-square-foot kitchen is designed for sanitation compliance and efficient productivity.

Owner & Operator: Ron Quaranta Jr. and members of the Quaranta family

General Manager: Bill Gardner

Architect: Christy Brown, Youngstown, Ohio

Director of Design & Equipment Design: Mike Barle, S.S. Kemp, Cleveland

Interior Design: Andrea Smith, S.S. Kemp, Cleveland

Equipment Dealer: S.S. Kemp, Cleveland

Construction: Joseph Sylvester Construction Co., Boardman, Ohio