The future of dining is now

Midtown’s Hot Italian is one of three LEED-certified restaurants in the state. Here’s a look under the hood.

Hot Italian co-founder Andrea Lepore (right) chats with Mayor Kevin Johnson on her restaurant’s back patio. The mayor recently commemorated Hot Italian’s LEED certification.

Hot Italian co-founder Andrea Lepore (right) chats with Mayor Kevin Johnson on her restaurant’s back patio. The mayor recently commemorated Hot Italian’s LEED certification.

Photo By phil kampel

Hot Italian’s motif doesn’t exactly scream green. The chic pizzeria and restaurant in Midtown is fashioned in a modern, black-and-white theme, with little indication of its pioneering energy and environmental ingenuity.

“It’s not actually green or brown,” joked Andrea Lepore, creative director and co-founder of Hot Italian. “It’s black and white. We wanted to show that green could be Italian design or modern design, not just bamboo or hemp.”

Hot Italian is the first LEED-certified restaurant in the region and just the third in California. LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) confirms that a project meets the utmost green building and performance measures.

The restaurant is also unique in that it allows the public to check out firsthand the variety of ways a building can be energy-efficient. Other local LEED-certified locations are mostly government buildings or private residences.

“People can’t just walk off the street and go in and touch and feel those things,” Lepore said of most LEED buildings. “One of the cool things about Hot Italian is that you can come and see and touch and feel all the green features.”

According to SMUD, Hot Italian is 26 percent more energy efficient than most buildings its size. The 6,000-square-foot restaurant located on 16th and Q streets will have its two-year anniversary in February.

Blended into its contemporary architecture and ambience are plenty of green features. Here are some of the highlights.

E-glass. From the outside, Hot Italian looks like a big limousine. The perimeter of the storefront consists of a dark tinted glass, called e-glass. The technology of the glass keeps the space cool by reflecting the sun, and it also keeps heat in during the winter months.

Lighting. The windows surrounding the space allow for plenty of natural sunlight, but the 17 Solatubes and LED track lighting do the rest of the work. Solatubes are skylights on steroids, with a design that brings natural light into the restaurant’s interior through rooftop domes that collect sunlight and redirect it through tubing technology.

Reclaimed materials. Most of the tables, counters and even display cases at Hot Italian are made from recycled materials. The gelato/espresso bar stools are composed of old bicycles. A large, circular “Prosecco table” was made out of reclaimed wood. Even recycled cans hang above the espresso-bar area.

The Earth tub. Out on the back patio sits an enclosed composting “tub” that is truly state-of-the-art. About the size of a hot tub, it’s also a hub for the Green Restaurants Alliance of Sacramento and other Midtown restaurants to bring kitchen scraps, which create compost for community gardens and area farms.

One Big Ass Fan. “A Big Ass Fan, that’s what it’s called,” Lepore said. And yes, she’s serious. The massive silver fan that she picked up off the Internet is 12 feet wide and looks futuristic, fitting of the restaurant’s décor while saving energy by circulating air throughout the space.

Alternative transportation. Several ultramodern pods rest out front of Hot Italian. These “Cyclepods” provide bike parking for up to 32 bicycles, 1,000 percent more than the LEED requirements. Bikes are secured vertically, making use of every space on each of the three pods. Additionally, a black-and-white map of Midtown takes up one of the walls inside Hot Italian, showing all the various methods of alternative travel.

More green features include air quality through no-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints, Energy Star equipment and water efficiency (be sure check out the strange-looking waterless urinals and the Jetsons-like hand dryers).

“We really wanted to do it the right way,” Lepore said. “We knew this building was going to take a lot of work to get it up to code. We figured if we’ve got that much work to do, we might as well do it the right way.”