Young Chefs' Big Bets IV
Sole owner Sava Lelcaj, twenty-six, moved from Sava's Cafe across the street with a downtime of only five days. "I don't require a lot of sleep," she explains. The one part of her plan that she admits was unrealistically ambitious for her turnaround was the liquor license. "We've got so much going on," she says. "I feel like we've moved from a studio apartment in the city to a mansion in Connecticut. The cafe was the pilot restaurant, this is the dream restaurant." She has an option to buy Zanzibar's license and hopes to be serving alcohol by January.
While Sava's Cafe had forty seats, Sava's can seat up to 300 (counting outdoor tables). Though she employs close to fifty people, Sava likes to interact with her kitchen as well as her customers and is still on a learning curve. When we visited, her left arm was striped with burns: "From the fryer," she says ruefully. "The baskets are heavy, and I've got scrawny little wrists. Across the street I had little electric tabletop fryers."
Sava's makeover involved mainly cleaning and painting but also eliminated some of Zanzibar's iconic touches. The African kente cloths that hung from the ceiling are gone, and the two African-themed murals have been painted over. Since several customers let Sava know they miss the larger mural, she plans to do something spectacular to replace it.