Hot competizione!

SN&R has an Italian challenger to green-building glory

SN&R buys a building, wants to make it green and pays Sena: Eco-Warrior Princess to write a weekly column about it.

It’s going to be a race, a showdown to the brutal end. Which Sacramento green-building project will finish first: SN&R’s renovation of a gutted building on Del Paso Boulevard or the Hot Italian eatery and boutique in Midtown?

SN&R has yet to actually begin construction on our 19,000-square-foot structure in north Sacramento. We’ve secured a few vendors and narrowed down some eco-friendly components: waterless urinals and dual-flush toilets, recycled denim-jean insulation, skylights aplenty and LED task lighting, paired with a bank of energy-efficient overhead induction lighting, and the rest fluorescent fixtures. We’ll cover the concrete floor with a soy-based nontoxic stain and plant drought-tolerant flowers in the parking lot.

Hot Italian began construction of its 6,000-square-foot facility on the corner of 16th and Q streets (in the former Young’s Fireside store) in February and is scheduled to open this summer—a vague deadline, but less so than SN&R’s tentative completion date of, you know, sometime in the future.

I met up with Hot Italian managing partner Andrea Lepore and executive chef partner Fabrizio Cercatore a few weeks back to gauge the project’s progress. I was easily distracted, though, when I happily visualized the corner’s impending transformation: a pizza and panini cafe. Espresso and gelato bar. Italian clothing boutique and Vespa gear shop, plus a 700-square-foot courtyard out back and sidewalk seating in front, facing Fremont Park. It’ll look like a scene straight out of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. Perhaps more importante is that Hot Italian will be Sacramento’s first LEED-certified retail establishment.

“There’ve been housing projects, office projects and government projects, but this will be the first time customers can come into a building and touch and feel and see green building,” said Lepore, who decided to participate in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Retail pilot program at the urging of Sacramento-based GreenBuilt Consulting and Construction, who she hired as project consultants.

Eighty commercial projects nationwide are collaborating to create and test the new rating system set to launch later this year. In addition to the typical green-building criteria—water-use reduction, proximity to alternative transportation, low-emitting materials and so on—LEED for Retail addresses lighting needs and equipment with high-energy consumption unique to the commercial sector (office and residential spaces have their own guidelines).

During Hot Italian’s demolition stage, workers carefully separated wood, concrete, insulation and metal to send to a recycling facility. The building will incorporate low-flow water fixtures and toilets. The flooring will remain concrete. Tabletops will be made of PaperStone material, a 100 percent post-consumer paper-product certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The lighting will be LED or fluorescent, except for three 600-watt snazzy Italian fixtures. There will be two-wheel parking for scooters, motorcycles and bicycles out front. Magnifico!

The eatery’s owners coughed up $11,000 for an Earth Tub composting system designed for commercial use. Restaurants in San Francisco have been composting food scraps since 2004 through the city’s compost program, in which the organic material collected is used to fertilize farms and vineyards in northern California. A fine idea, but Sacramento’s not quite there yet.

“If more of the restaurants compost, then maybe the city will create a program to assist with that,” said Lepore, who took it upon herself to opt for composting; the fertilizer will supply Fremont Community Garden and other urban gardens in town.

Thankfully, the owners have received some assistance from the city, as green building is a tough endeavor to attempt alone. And Lepore has Midtown development experience, having played a role in getting the L Wine Lounge and Urban Kitchen off the ground. Before that, she did sports marketing for 10 years for the Sacramento Kings and Monarchs. She met Cercatore through mutual friend and basketball player Ruthie Bolton. At that time, the chef was running his own restaurant in the picturesque Italian Riviera. A few years later, Lepore and Cercatore decided to create the Hot Italian, and the native Italian left his beloved restaurant in the hands of his sister, moving to Sacramento three months ago.

As for Lepore, it didn’t take much convincing for her to choose the eco-friendly route: “I always knew we wanted to build it green,” she said. “And it’s such an arduous process to renovate a building, you might as well do it the right way.”

Whatever happens with this head-to-head green-building competizione happens, I just hope both SN&R and the Hot Italian cross the finish line.