Cava Restaurant in Southington Serves Up Amazing Holiday Display

Fashioned by Tony Papahristou, whose family owns the West Street eatery with Italian fare, the lavish decorations have drawn attention from New York City window designers who have offered jobs to the 20-something because his work is so impressive.

Cava Restaurant

1615 West St., Southington


Hours: Mon.-Thu. 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri. 11:30-10 p.m., Sat. noon-10 p.m., Sun. noon-9 p.m.

Price range: Starters $11-$14, entrées $18-$33

Handicapped accessible

The ever-changing and ever-growing seasonal wonderland features more than 2,000 feet of garland, 50,000 lights, dozens of trees and wreaths and overhead canopies made of real tree branches drilled into the ceilings and then decorated to make the place even more magical.

Tapping an annual budget of about $10,000, Papahristou adds to his growing collection of commercial holiday wares after deciding each spring what the new themes for each room will be. In nine years he has amassed an extensive collection of professional decorations including prisms, feathers, baubles, bangles, ornaments, cherubs, rice lights, pearls, gems, ribbons and more that are used to create yards and yards of the decadent garland, wreaths and trees featured in each room.

“I just know that each year people come back just to see our decorations, so each year I try to top myself when it comes to each room’s design,” says Papahristou, whose past creations have included an elegant Gatsby Room, a whimsical Princess Room, an Ice Castle and a holiday classic-inspired Nutcracker Room.

For those planning to visit again, or dine for the first time this year, Papahristou has yet more special treats for the eye.

The main dining room is being transformed into the Versailles Room, complete with elegant, full-sized crystal chandeliers, reminiscent of the famous landmark’s great hall.

“I got the idea when I visited France earlier this year, so, of course, the Versailles Room had to have chandeliers,” he says. “There will be fleur-de-lis and other Versailles-inspired elements and it will be very palatial,” he says, as he prepares to put the finishing touches on the rooms that will be ready the day after Thanksgiving and stay decorated through early February. “I think it’s my favorite room this year.”

Other themes include The Secret Garden sunroom that features trees and bird cages hung from the ceiling, and the Carousel Room with a display of 10 carousel horses and a fireplace mantel decorated with the theme in mind.

The bar and tavern area has a Queen of Hearts theme, an homage to Alice in Wonderland. Thousands of yards of spooled metallic ribbon cover the tree branches on the ceiling, with trees and garland boasting red balls and black and white harlequin ribbon. Look closely and you might notice the red hearts projected on the walls or the subtle velvet heart tucked above the bar.

“The idea is that even if you come here more than once during the season, there will be so much to see that you can’t take it all in at one visit,” says Papahristou. “You will always see something new whether you look right or left or up and down.”

The self-taught Papahristou, with help from restaurant employees, creates all the decorations by hand. “We’re working on them about 12 hours a day now,” he says. “It takes about six weeks to get it all ready,” he says.

And taking it down?

“There are 35 of us here and we all pitch and get them down and stored in just one day,” he says, smiling.

Papahristou is a stickler for detail when it comes to his creations, which are primarily non-secular so they are appealing to all diners, regardless of religious or cultural beliefs.

“I love the holidays and the parties and the spirit, and I just want our restaurant dining rooms to be special, eye-catching and jaw-dropping and something everyone will ooh and ahh over,” says Papahristou. “I think people are truly surprised when they come here the first time because they don’t believe it when they walk inside. And I just love to see the smiles.”



Eleni Papahristou, owner of Cava Restaurant, hangs Swarovski crystals in the Versailles Room of the Southington restaurant. Photos by Arnold Gold


Bartender Ryan Lavoie pours a drink in the Queen of Hearts Room.


The Secret Garden sunroom