About six years ago, David Grutman took Noah Tepperberg on a boat ride around Miami. The Groot Hospitality founder wanted to show his best friend, the co-CEO of Tao Group Hospitality alongside co-CEO Jason Strauss, a property he had recently purchased. The landmark Mediterranean Revival building, which first opened in 1926 as the home of the Miami Women’s Club, was situated right on the shores of Biscayne Bay. Grutman thought the historic waterfront structure was the perfect venue for his first-ever partnership with Tepperberg: a lively restaurant that would make an indelible impression on the up-and-coming Edgewater neighborhood.
“If we were going to do something together, we didn’t want to do just a regular space,” Grutman says. “We wanted to do something that was going to leave a legacy for both of us.”
Grutman and Tepperberg’s proudest achievement, Casadonna, opens this week. The coastal Italian-inspired restaurant, whose menu takes cues from seaside destinations like Naples, Taormina, and Bari, is housed in the bottom levels of the 97-year-old building. AD100 designer Ken Fulk, who Grutman worked with on The Goodtime Hotel in South Beach, was behind the dramatic transformation of the once-crumbling space. He and his team did everything in their power to maintain its original charm while bringing it into the 21st century.
“The goal was to seamlessly weave in the new with the old, which I think might be my favorite part of the process—figuring out how you elevate it and have those worlds collide so that it doesn’t become an artifact [of the past],” Fulk says.
Grutman, Tepperberg, and Fulk agreed on a grand palazzo aesthetic with a playful palette of pinks and blues. The bubble gum and blush tones are a nod to the Floridian locale, while the aquas and teals were derived from the arched windows that are original to the structure. “The color of the windows was historically significant, so we kept them and really used them as touchstones and jumping off points for the design,” Fulk adds.