Buffo Restaurant

Located within Calgary’s Saks Fifth Avenue, Buffo is a new restaurant from DIALOG for the Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality group. A rich and varied materials palette and flexible floor plan sets the stage for a mixture of private dining exclusivity and a fun speakeasy vibe – something new for the Calgary fine dining scene.

Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality wanted their new Chinook Centre restaurant to bring something different to the Calgary dining scene – a fun upscale venue that could offer a variety of private dining experiences. Project challenges included creating a memorable dining destination that could also cater to shopping centre clientele, special considerations for an interior entrance directly through Saks Fifth Avenue, and the discovery of cross beams running through the intended locations of a window on the façade of the restaurant.

Tight project timelines and budget provided opportunities for the team to innovate creative solutions, and the design team responded with a concept that balances exclusivity and approachability in an environment that entices guests with a speakeasy vibe.

The resulting space is a modern interpretation of an Italian speakeasy. Rich velvets, soft mohair, textural leather, patterned floors and bright brass compliment moulding, brick and fluted glass; all contributing to an early 20th century aesthetic.

Under a coffered ceiling, a large rounded bar made of bright blue tile, classic grey marble, and brass and glass shelving occupies the centre of the space. Counter seating next to the bar offers direct views into the busy kitchen; while large built-ins around the restaurant’s perimeter display meats, cheese and wines; enticing patrons as they sit in patterned upholstered chairs.

Three large chandeliers above the dining space accent black portals where thick, blue velvet drapes hang to separate the space when needed. Two large private dining areas can be further divided into additional secluded spaces. Fun infuses the space through clever, classic details like secret doors in the front bar disguising a coat check, cheeky artwork and the bold use of red, blue and green.

An unassuming façade leads patrons into the space from Saks Fifth Avenue. Once inside, they are met with custom doors set below a cinematic ceiling and signage board, juxtaposed with a lighthearted mural of a joker with an oversized fork and spaghetti. The offending beams were disguised with a faux window, while reclaimed chairs were revamped; both solutions helping meet the budget and timeline.

Photography by Evan Dion