I’m standing in a small narrow hallway in the lower level of the Museum with Rob Cassetti, senior director, creative services & marketing. On one end is the loading dock for the entire Museum, on the other end is the GlassMarket, the Auditorium is to the right, and on the opposite side, the kitchen for the Museum’s GlassMarket Café. It’s a small, high traffic area used by all departments of the Museum. Shipping and receiving for the GlassMarket, food deliveries, mail, and collection loan objects all make their way down this corridor.
We’re joined by Chris Morelli, a project engineer on the construction management team. He’s one of the last of the crew here on a late Friday afternoon, and it’s a good thing that things have cleared out a little. He explains that the Café construction site has been a buzz of activity since the project began, with over 40 people onsite working this week. I can’t imagine how that many people fit to work in this back space, but it makes it clear why the renovation is necessary, not only for visitors dining at the Museum, but also to improve overall circulation and space management in the kitchen, storage and catering areas.
With the renovation, the flow of the kitchen transitioned from a long rectangle to a larger square. There is a new giant walk-in freezer, added storage, a new dishwashing station and added kitchen workspace. Construction included building a small addition to the side of the existing Museum for a tray return station, and relocating pipes under the kitchen floor to open up space. This renovation is only the first of many changes happening within the Museum as the North Wing expansion is underway.
As we walk into the main dining area of the café, I’m reminded why I love to have lunch here. The floor to ceiling windows are always stunning. Rob points out where there will be a glass canopy over the servery stations. He notes that the translucent glass will look like it’s always been there, fitting into the existing architectural design. However, the glass also serves an important function in ventilation and improving the air quality of the Museum. This helps make sure that the smell of pizza doesn’t end up wafting into the galleries.
I can see the new brick pizza oven, but it’s still wrapped up in plastic. Once it’s installed, it will be one of five new menu stations. When you walk into the Café, you’ll be able to grab a tray and choose from a variety of options. New digital menus will provide daily meal options, pricing, and display vegetarian/dairy free/allergy information. The stations include international cuisine, Italian, pizza, soups & salads, and sandwiches. Grab n’ go and kids’ options will be available at each of the stations.
It is no small feat to make this all happen in a few short months, and crews have the added difficulty of working within a museum, a place typically not used to the sounds and smells of drilling and welding. Most of the work happens at night to prevent disruptions when the Museum is open during the day. Chris said that a project like this would usually take five to six months; but when the Café reopens on April 1, it will have been completed in just three.