Nook Kitchen, the cozy Italian eatery located at Arcadia's Gaslight Square shopping center, is expected to undergo major renovations this fall. Owner Frank Vairo confirmed plans for a forthcoming expansion that's supposed to start in September — though the restaurant's plans already may have hit a snag.
Nook hopes to take over the neighboring space that once housed Mama Java's Coffee House. The coffee shop closed in August 2012 and reopened under a new name, Terra Java, operated by new owner Omei Eaglerider. Eaglerider also ran a bakery, Terra Bites Bakery, in the same spot, but both locations shuttered this summer. Nook's owners have been trying to move forward with plans to take over the space since May but were only able to buy the property earlier this month.
Vairo's initial plan was to increase Nook's seating by creating two new dining rooms: a private party room in the former Terra Java space and a semi-private, 25-person party room in the area that currently houses Nook's kitchen. A new kitchen would be built in the former Terra Java space. The restaurant doesn't have a party space currently, but Vairo says parties still end up being a big portion of Nook's business. The extra room also would provide much-needed overflow for Friday and Saturday nights.
Nook's hopes of expanding, however, may be on hold.
"We found out that the coffee shop next to us was only approved to be a coffee shop — literally just to serve coffee, no food whatsoever," Vairo says.
"So when we went down to get permitted, the city said we needed to get sprinklers. So I'm kind of at a negotiation with our landlord [Darly Burton, who owns the shopping center in its entirety] to see if he'll pay for those sprinklers or not. I'm already putting a bunch of money into it. I'm moving the whole [Nook] kitchen into Terra Java. It's a huge renovation."
If the sprinklers don't get installed (Vairo estimates it could cost another $50,000), then Nook's expansion would stop in its tracks.
Nook, which opened in fall 2013, is Vairo and co-owner Tagan Dering's second venture in the Valley restaurant scene: The duo previously owned Amaro Pizzeria & Vino Lounge in North Scottsdale. They purchased Dilly Dally Lounge, a dive bar a few doors down from Nook, in April 2014 and hope to restore the popular dive bar to some of its former glory.
In order to extend the bar's lease, which expired at the end of July, Vairo says landlord Burton requested cosmetic changes to the watering hole in keeping with the upscale nature of nearby restaurants Beckett's Table and Crudo and the casual chic of Nook. As such, Dilly Dally will remain a dive bar with a cleaner aesthetic. The long, worn original bar will remain, as will what Vairo calls the "terribly amazing" 1970s-style wood paneling. The bar otherwise is being gutted: Original brick walls — similar to those at Nook — will be exposed, the bathrooms will be completely redone, and a well bar will be added to increase service flow. The door will be painted Tiffany blue to match Nook's, to designating that the two share owners.
"We're putting games back in — the original shuffleboard and pool tables — [and] we're putting some booths in," he says. "It will be a lot more comfortable, a lot better for service."
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Nook, a chef-driven neighborhood spot, features Neapolitan-style gourmet pizzas — fresh from a wood oven that dominates half of the restaurant's bar. The menu is a marriage of familiar pizza rosso and bianco offerings, with a few unexpected dishes like short rib or beer braised pork butt bruschetta and poutine. The narrow 50-seat restaurant offers a bar on one side and is lined with large, semi-circle booths on the other, creating an intimate, albeit elbow-to-elbow environment.
The trattoria speakeasy kept largely quiet about its plans for renovation, telling only a handful of customers before going public with an Instagram post declaring, "You may not know that Dilly Dally & Nook were related, however they are now! When Dilly is cleaned up and reopened, don't call it a come back. It's been here for years."
Dilly Dally Lounge closed in early August for renovations. Vairo says it's slated to reopen in mid-September after about six weeks of construction. Nook Kitchen is still open for its dinner service daily starting at 4 p.m. Should construction take place, the restaurant will remain open, with the extension fully functional after four weeks of construction.