Savaradio in Linwood, N.J.
A former employee cafeteria has been transformed into an elegant restaurant with a kitchen featuring 20 sauté burners and other equipment for producing an ambitious menu with Mediterranean, Asian and Cuban influences. A lower-level storage and food prep space supports the bustling kitchen.
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In 1992, Lisa Savage opened her first restaurant in Atlantic City, N.J. It was small, indeed, with five tables and 18 seats. In October, the enterprising chef opened her fourth restaurant in Linwood, near Atlantic City. This facility is eight times the size of Savage?s original venture, with 60 tables and 250 seats in the dining room and another 32 seats in the private dining and special banquet rooms. ?This was a dream project for me,? says Savage, who earned a degree from the Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape Community College and trained further in Turino, Italy.
Constructed in a 14,000-square-foot space in a building complex with retail stores, executive offices, a conference center and a fitness center, Savaradio was built in a space formerly housing a cafeteria for Prudential Life Insurance employees. Prudential moved out of this building nearly 15 years ago. The space Savaradio occupies remained dormant until Savage and her partners, Michael Boettcher and John Zaccardi, decided to turn it into a premier restaurant featuring elegant décor in a dining room with beverage, raw seafood and pizza bars. In addition to the food bars out front, a 1,800-square-foot kitchen with equipment for just-in-time food preparation supports a menu offering Mediterranean, Asian and Cuban dishes. On a lower level is a 4,000-square-foot space with equipment for cold and dry storage and preparation of stocks, vegetables and other mise en place, as well as desserts.
Savaradio, located in a space previously occupied by a corporate cafeteria, is a $3.5 million project that includes a 7,700-square-foot, 250-seat dining room with a beverage bar, pizza bar and raw food bar; a 1,800-square-foot kitchen; and a 4,000-square-foot lower-level storage and prep kitchen. A 100-person staff led by chef-owner Lisa Savage serve lunch and dinner. A private room and banquet space are available also. The cuisine reflects Mediterranean, Asian and Cuban influences.
Co-Owners: Lisa Savage, executive chef, John Zaccardi and Michael Boettcher
Architect & Interior Design: SOSH Architects, Michael LeBlanc, senior director, Atlantic City, N.J.
Foodservice Consultants: David Adams, senior designer, and John Egnor, principal, JEM Associates, Pleasantville, N.J.
Equipment Dealer: Thomas United, Pleasantville, N.J.
Upon entering the $3.5 million restaurant, which includes a 7,700-square-foot dining area, the beverage bar immediately catches customers? eyes. ?We created a concentric floorplan, placing the bar and its perimeter radial seating within the center core as a focus,? comments Michael LeBlanc, senior director, SOSH Architects, Atlantic City, N.J. ?This allows for expansion or contraction of the bar space to accommodate bar and dining crowds on Friday and Saturday nights.?
The high landscaped backs of the perimeter seating in the bar area act as a visual break between the bar and the main dining area, giving the other dining areas more privacy and not making the restaurant appear empty during the early seatings, he explains. The individual perimeter bars, one featuring raw seafood and the other featuring pizza with a freestanding pizza oven, provide meal options for customers preferring a full or more casual dining experience. Temperature-controlled wine rooms for red and white varieties are visible from the private dining room. Currently, Savaradio is the only Linwood restaurant with a liquor license.
?The trees, bamboo and planters both inside and outside the restaurant provide a visual connection between the spaces and offer a more natural zen quality,? LeBlanc adds. Greens, golds, rust and black colors reflect in the ceiling mobile, the large-scale mural in the private dining area and six art pieces in the corridor that are similar to the mural in the private dining room. The carpet and entry?s curved wall uses ginko leaf to reinforce nature along with the bamboo floors, slate tile walls and floors.
?Because the space was formerly a cafeteria, we were challenged with the complete wrap of glass windows on all three sides,? LeBlanc says. ?The ceiling, which is 25 feet in the middle and slopes to the outside edge of the building, created a lighting challenge because we couldn?t light the space from the ceiling. With such a vast space, we needed to fill that area with a hanging mobile.?
The conversion from cafeteria to restaurant also presented notable challenges for the kitchen designer, David Adams, senior designer, JEM Associates, in Pleasantville, N.J. ?We fit a lot of equipment into the kitchen to accommodate the à la carte menu that requires many sauté burners and other pieces used for à la minute cooking,? Adams explains.
The lunch menu offers selections from the raw bar; several types of pizza; salads, ranging from Salmon Teriyaki and Cobb to Asian Calamari and Caesar with grilled or blackened chicken or shrimp; sandwiches, including paninis; fajitas; and wraps. The expanded dinner menu features starters such as eggplant stuffed with three cheeses and topped with sautéed mushrooms and marsala sauce and Chicken Tierra, a dish with a boneless breast topped with prosciutto and mozzarella and finished with marsala sauce. Entrées include lamb osso bucco, sesame-crusted tuna, oven-roasted duck with sundried cherry and port wine sauce, and chorizo-stuffed pork chops. Also on the daily menus are Tuscan veal, carne cubano and steak. Desserts such as macademia-crusted blueberry mango pie and fried ricotta doughnuts finish off the lunch and dinner menus.
Savage and her staff use the 20 sauté burners to prepare fish dishes such as walnut-crusted salmon and jumbo scallops with baby bok choy, sauces, lobster and risotto, crab ravioli and a variety of other dishes. The 26-foot hot cooking line adjacent to the ranges features a pasta cooker for making dishes such as whole wheat linguine, orecchiette with garlic, broccoli raab, sausage and tomato, and other pasta specialties. Adjacent to the pasta cooker, a charbroiler grills lamb, pork, veal chops, steaks and chicken; a base refrigerator holds products needed for the charbroiler; and a flat-top griddle cooks vegetables and brunch items such as pancakes and French toast. A salamander hangs over the griddle. Next on the line is a fryer battery in which staff make crispy artichokes, calamari and onion rings. A reach-in refrigerator at the end of the line holds prepared food for finishing on the cookline.
Across the aisle from the hot cooking line is a one-section freezer, a pressureless steam cooker for preparing vegetables, a chef?s counter with heat lamps, refrigerators, hot wells and soup wells. The counter had to be built to fit in a long, narrow area, which, Adams says, compromised utility space. This is the one piece of equipment Savage adamantly dislikes. ?The plating area isn?t big enough and there isn?t enough room for mise en place,? she says. ?It came in one piece and was difficult to position. I don?t like the edges. And if I could reverse time, I would have asked for a piece half this size and used bain maries instead.?
At the end of the line, near the sauté burners, is a half-sized double convection oven for finishing meats and fish.
?In the beginning when we first saw the space, we thought we?d be able to utilize all the existing duct work,? Adams says. ?But our equipment, much of which needed exhaust hoods, required additional duct work.?
Also in the kitchen are an ice cream cabinet and a pantry counter where staff assemble desserts. POS terminals sit on the line and at the pantry counter.
Near the pantry is a service bar, complete with an ice bin, blender station and beer tower. Across the kitchen, staff use the coffee brewing system, espresso machine, iced-tea brewer and soda machines to assemble beverages for tableservice.
Also on this floor is the dishwashing room. ?For a short time, we kept the original dishwasher, but soon that had to be replaced,? says Adams, adding that the only equipment salvaged from the old operation were the walk-in coolers, two reach-in refrigerators and a worktable used in the lower-level kitchen.
In the dining room, the raw bar serves oysters, antipasto, stone crabs and a wide array of salads. Undercounter refrigerators and refrigerated counters are essential for safe food handling here.
The other front-of-the-house food bar contains a brick pizza oven for baking pizzas and fresh-baked bread.
As Savaradio continues to receive positive acclaim, Savage and the staff keep looking for more productive ways to meet the increasing demand for their hospitality. One of the many decisions made early on in the planning process ? to select heavy-duty equipment that could withstand intense usage day in and day out ? is serving them well. ?We don?t want to compromise the quality of our food in any way,? Savage concludes. With her determination to succeed with this new venture, it?s quite likely she?ll hold true to her conviction.