“We designed this project three times, in three locations, before [it] opened.” Craftsman & Wolves Patisserie
Photo: Bruce Damonte

Zack | de Vito Architecture on
2016 AIA|LA RDA Winner Craftsman & Wolves Patisserie


In conjunction with its AIA|LA Restaurant Design Awards, the chapter hosts an annual ‘Behind Great Restaurant Design’ panel at Dwell on Design. Relaxed but informative, the event features an interchange between the designers of the awards program's finalists selected by the jury each year, and the jury itself.

This year’s conversation was particularly lively. Jury members—restaurateur Bill Chiat and designer Alexis Readinger, Assoc. AIA,—riffed off each other, sharing their in-depth knowledge, passion for restaurants, and initiated conversations with finalists. Afterwords, questions from the audience prompted surprising stories from finalists about how they acquired their first commission for a restaurant, cafe or bar.

Back at the office, we thought—why end that conversation here—and asked all 2016 finalists to respond to three questions.

Here, to kick things off, is Zach | de Vito, winners of the jury’s award for the Cafe/Bar category with Craftsman & Wolves Patisserie, San Francisco, CA. The firm’s first restaurant commission was illustrious— for the seminal San Francisco restaurant The Globe but began so simply—a guy on a bicycle.

How did the office get its first restaurant or cafe design commission?
It was around 1995, we got a call asking if we cold design a sign, similar to the one we had on our office. The [client] saw it when he was riding around on his bike. We asked what the sign was for, he said a restaurant, we asked if he had an architect and he said no, and hired us.  It was a small job with a fantastic chef/owner, Joseph Manzare, who had been a chef in Malibu for Wolfgang Puck, it was called Globe in San Francisco.

It became one of the most popular new restaurants that year, and was a late night hang out for the restaurant industry. We met our next restaurant client at the opening party, and the next client while working on that project, and they were also super successful, and now 250 projects later, we are known for designing restaurants. We are still friends with all of these first clients.

What most surprised you about designing  Craftsman & Wolves? Or, what was the toughest challenge?
We designed this project three times, in three locations, before they opened. Our connection is the chef/baker, the brilliant William Werner. The second time we did the design, we had it fully permitted and ready to build and William’s financial partners went bankrupt, leaving everyone hanging. William regrouped, found new investors, and finally opened C+W.

Each time we had a new location and the design changed, William developed new ideas, we had new spaces, etc. We also designed two different off-site commissary kitchens, so it is almost five projects in one! Beyond the years of work, multiple locations and bad partners, the biggest challenge was budget, which is never surprising.

What’s a current project and why are you excited about designing it?
On the restaurant side we are doing a new location for a growing local chain, called Burma Super Star.  This is their 7th or 8th location, it is in a building they own and in a very challenging location, San Francisco's Skid Row. Our client is confident they can help transform the area. It is a great old building, a great, inspired client, and a challenge, but exciting.

We also do a lot of residential and we have a great, Napa Valley mini estate for a design inspired
Last updated: 08-Jul-2016 04:15 PM
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