Recent Project Highlight: Renovating the iconic Ristorante Alba

Nov 08, 2021

Hi friends! We recently had the great pleasure of collaborating with designer Kara Childress and Shelton Builders, Inc. on a beautiful project, renovating the previous iconic Cavour restaurant into the new Alba Ristorante .

Housed in the historic Granduca Hotel, Cavour has been the longtime hub for the hip Houston crowd, but owner Girogio Borlenghi was ready to reinvent it and take it to new heights.

“We wanted it to become something new but continue to have the theme of being a very sophisticated, classic Italian place and to renew ourselves,” Granduca owner Giorgio Borlenghi says. “That is why we called it Alba, not just because that’s a city in Italy (renowned for its white truffles), but because alba in Italian means dawn so it’s a new dawn for us.


The former Ristorante Cavour restaurant, which had provided a romantic dining scene for discriminating diners and hotel guests for more than a decade.


Upscale rustic restaurant

Details like warm antique wood and romantic florals create an inviting and elevated atmosphere.

Upscale rustic restaurant

Taking a cue from an incredible 18th century ceiling from a villa in Naples, Italy from Chateau Domingue, carpeting was replaced with vintage wood flooring reclaimed from a stable in Italy. Kara used the original chairs and recovered them in a luscious mohair on the fronts and a tied in the new drapery fabric on the backs. The soft neutral cloths meld into the space, allowing the grand elements to come to the forefront.

Upscale rustic restaurant

Quite an evolution! We painted over the existing wood floors transforming them into the feel of old European stone. Their now black and white checkerboard pattern creates a dramatic effect in the new Champaign bar bringing to life Kara’s vision. This is the perfect ambiance for an evening cocktail, and Alba has created signature drinks such as the Alba Kiss and Giorgio’s Negroni to set the tone of your dining experience. Other elevated elements include European antiques, mixed with a leather banquet, bistro tables and a pastoral wallcovering mural by Stark.

Upscale rustic restaurant

The beams were also quite a change! Believe it or not these are manufactured with foam. By applying our finishes on top they truly look like reclaimed elements straight from a centuries old chateau in Italy now marrying well with Ristorante Alba’s new elevated look.

Upscale rustic restaurant

The walls are composed of two coats of a natural lime plaster topped with rich layers of a luscious green-blue grayed limewash. It creates a subtle velvety depth when absorbed into the plaster. You can read more about the benefits of limewashing here. We loved the color so much we formulated a paint color in it’s honor. Named The Granduca, it is now available from our designer series line of paints for walls, trim and for DIY projects in our new Segreto Chalks!

Upscale rustic restaurant

Walking into the space after install, I fell in love with the focal art piece and had to ask about it!! The black and white painting by Carolyn Mara, a noted Miami artist. Also happens to be the Borlenghi’s daughter. I thought that was so cool and adds to the charm and welcoming feel of this new upscale restaurant!

Upscale rustic restaurant

A photo series from Slim Aarons La Dolce Vita collection underscores the luxe living that Ristorante Alba exudes. Other changes include adjusted lighting, and all new tableware brought in to reflect a more contemporary note.

Upscale rustic restaurant

The champagne bar from Cal Travino incorporates an 18th-century Italian bibliotheque from a small chateau in the Bourgogne region of France, complete with a painted ceiling. The previous two art niches were recreated to house much needed storage with retro-fitted 18th century oak doors and original hardware!

Upscale rustic restaurant

Another view of the gorgeous bar! The 18th century Louis XVI shop counter is topped with 2 reclaimed Belgian blue stone table tops. The soft green color palette combined with brass, warm wood tones and stone checkerboard painted floors is just perfection.

Table setting at upscale restaurant

Of course, if afternoon outings are more your cup of tea, Alba serves afternoon tea in the most sumptuous setting.

On the Menu

Italian born Maurizio Ferrarese, the Granduca’s executive chef, has created a sumptuous menu with delectable dishes like Acquerello Risotto with Barolor and Truffle, Snow Crab Claws with Pistachio Vinaigrette, Sliced Wild Boar Lanzino and Chilean sea bass.

Kara Childress , always a design genius, did a masterful job on the interiors as well as Shelton Builders, Inc with the renovation. We have loved being a part of Houston’s newest hotspot, and are looking forward to visiting often! The interior finishes were carefully selected to read Old European, and when the room is flooded with light you might very well be transported to northern Italy! Until next time! XO, Leslie

  • Bobbi Jo
    Posted at 07:00h, 08 November Reply

    Beautiful! So elegant, soft, and inviting.

    • Leslie Sinclair
      Posted at 05:55h, 11 November Reply

      Thanks Bobbi Jo, ps I loved you last gift idea post!!

  • Donna
    Posted at 08:10h, 08 November Reply

    Just gorgeous! What talent that you and your team have to help bring the vision of Kara Childress to life. A wonderful result from talented collaboration!

    • Leslie Sinclair
      Posted at 05:57h, 11 November Reply

      Hi Donna, honestly typically I don’t love doing a commercial project, but this one I loved the entire process and out come- It feels like and upscale home.

  • Lyn
    Posted at 08:15h, 08 November Reply

    What a gorgeous space! It brings back memories of fine dining, dressing for dinner, excellent service, and memorable evenings.

    • Leslie Sinclair
      Posted at 05:48h, 11 November Reply

      I agree!! I am going to take my mom there osoon for afternoon tea!!

  • Edward Gonzales
    Posted at 09:24h, 08 November Reply

    Beautiful transformation! Working your magic.

    • Leslie Sinclair
      Posted at 05:47h, 11 November Reply

      Hi Ed! So good to hear from you!! I hope you are doing well. I know you are busy! We see your beautiful materials everywhere!!

  • Mary Ann Falciani
    Posted at 20:43h, 08 November Reply

    Beautiful. Wish I lived closer, I would love to have dinner in this lovely setting. So rare these days.

    • Leslie Sinclair
      Posted at 05:46h, 11 November Reply

      Hi Mary Ann! I would love to join you!!

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