Even when Stefania Morandi is not sipping champagne at Casa Rubia’s bar, you’ll find her tastefully adventurous imprint there and throughout Trinity Groves. She served as sole designer for most of the restaurant incubator’s busiest spots, after striking a deal with Phil Romano and Stuart Fitts for the job just weeks after arriving in Dallas from her native Italy, before she had even mastered the English language. Today, Morandi, 26, is a designer at GSR Andrade Architects, where she just finished work on the communal spaces of an Arkansas hospital. It’s a leap from where she got her start just two years ago.
“You must be much more precise; you cannot forget anything,” she says of her new venture, noting that working at an architectural firm does come with benefits that independence at Trinity Groves didn’t, like a vast library of samples and expert colleagues. “With restaurants, you can do whatever you want—get crazy with surfaces, fabrics, everything.”
Morandi has an affinity for “real” materials and clean lines, like the gemstones she says inspired Casa Rubia’s geometric logo and the sizeable tessellated mural she created by layering photos of Barcelona’s Basílica de la Sagrada Família. Next door, Souk’s linear layout and symmetry mimic the flow of a Moroccan marketplace. Morandi incorporates a similar sense of equilibrium into her wardrobe, which she describes as “minimalistic for the office and more feminine for the evening,” with ever-present coats or trenches, big rings, and iridescent or metallic pieces.
Another muse of Morandi’s: Tignale, the town in Northern Italy where she grew up, and its beautiful Lake Garda. Morandi’s favorite color is blue, and when she designed Four Corners Brewery she had a brewery on Lake Garda in mind. She chose gradient shades of blue for the walls and sliding glass doors to create an open space.
“When I came here, I didn’t think Dallas needed other restaurants,” Morandi says. “But I would leave work at Trinity Groves each day and feel the energy on the patio and think, ‘I want to get a drink here.’ It must be working.”