Scarpetta, Toronto

Polished stainless steel, chrome, and splashes of bold color create an urban ambiance for this seamless open-air pergola.
Posted November 5, 2012

Chef Scott Conant, proprietor of the growing Scarpetta Restaurant empire, has outposts in New York, Las Vegas, Miami Beach and Beverly Hills.

But none of the spaces is as peculiar as in the new Thompson Hotel in Toronto’s thriving King West neighborhood. As the hotel was being built, the owners asked Toronto landscape architecture firm Gh3 to create an outdoor pavilion in the greenspace adjacent to the hotel. Once the firm had built a black, metal, geometric pergola, the hotel contracted with Conant, and the pavilion became an outdoor extension of its main Scarpetta restaurant, which is inside the hotel adjoining the lobby.

The Toronto design firm II BY IV Design was hired to conceptualize an interior for this outdoor dining experience. “It’s a long, rectangular space, so one challenge was to create a seating plan that maximizes the available square footage,” says II BY IV partner Keith Rushbrook.

The solution was a single communal, 40-seat dining table, but with elevation changes so each seating seems private and apart from the adjoining one.

Another challenge was the architecture itself, which is an open grid. There’s nothing to keep the weather out. And Toronto is a Great Lakes city, so weather can be a concern.

“We used materials that are impervious to a four-season climate,” says Rushbrook. The floor is concrete, the tabletop is Corian, the legs are exterior-grade polished stainless steel, the bright red lamps on the table are plastic and resin and the metalwork on the service stand and bar are exterior-grade polished chrome.

The restaurant operates outdoors only from spring to fall, but a reflecting pool alongside the pavilion freezes, so ice skating and hot chocolate are a favorite wintertime attraction.

But on a spring or fall night, with Toronto’s lights gleaming and the CN Tower looming in the distance, it’s a purely urban experience.