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ICON Towers

Three years ago, Graziano Zazzara and his son, Graziano Jr., bought the building at 344 Warren Street. It took over a year to finalize the design and get everything in order so construction could begin. The building was pretty much gutted to pave the way for 89 apartments, 2 floors of commercial offices, and one spectacular restaurant!

Graziano Zazzara and his son, Graziano Jr., bought the building at 344 Warren Street. The redesigned building will house 89 apartments, 2 floors of commercial offices, and one spectacular restaurant!

Grazi gave me the grand tour, and grand it was. The apartments have one or two bedrooms with 750 to 1500 square feet. Each floor has a storage area so that tenants don’t have to try and store everything in the apartment. “I don’t want our tenants to waste valuable closet space on things like seasonal decorations, bikes or anything else that needs a bit more storage,” stated Grazi. “We tried to think of all the amenities anyone would need in order to make the apartment their home.” Believe me when I say … THEY THOUGHT OF EVERYTHING!

There is a fully equipped gym for residents, and another gym just for the commercial tenants. There’s a community room for parties or gatherings free of charge. All you need to do is schedule the time. Also, those residents with only one bedroom who have out of town guests, there is a guest room with a bathroom. “If you have a one bedroom apartment, we don’t want you to put your guest on an air mattress. This way, the residents have their guests in the building rather than sending them to a hotel,” explained Grazi. And if you have pets … well there’s a dedicated area to bathe your dogs/pets. It’s a great room with a sink that can handle your dog of any size, “and the residents love it,” Grazi said. “One lady began to cry when she saw the facility.” But the amenities don’t stop there. He then took me to the lower roof where they are building a large deck that will have barbecues, tables and chairs. The perfect facility for summer living in the city. On the other side of that terrace area will be a roof top garden! “There’s a lot of people who miss having their fresh tomatoes, zucchinis or flowers to work on in their leisure time.” Grazi stated, “Like I said, I want this place to feel like their home, not a generic apartment building.”

I was truly impressed by the size of the apartments. Each has a window view with granite window sills. The tall ceilings show off the spacious accommodations that are staged beautifully. There is also a washer and dryer in each unit, and the kitchen features stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops. There is abundant counter space with a peninsula for either food prep or a breakfast bar. Even the one bedroom apartment I saw had a walk-in closet in the bedroom with plenty of space for a queen-sized bed. The grayish hardwood floors complete the elegant look of every room.

They began renting apartments a little over four months ago and have filled 85 of the 89 units. There is only one commercial space available to lease now. “I thought it would take over a year to fill even 80% of the building, but we’re almost at full capacity” claims Grazi. -“It’s a blessing I never expected and I think it’s a testament to the quality we tried to put into the building.” Grazi and his son worked diligently to make their dreams come true and it shows in the quality in both the apartments and commercial spaces.

“To complete the building, I wanted to put in a restaurant that was both beautiful and relaxed. I also wanted the best Italian food around,” said Grazi. His partner in the restaurant is also the head chef, Fabio, which is also the name of the restaurant. Fabio is directly from Italy, but was unavailable for today’s interview. However, once open, I plan to have a delightful meal and have a chance to speak with Fabio, but that will have to be a follow in my next article.

Grazi is no stranger to the restaurant industry. His Dad and Mom started The Villa restaurant over on Burnet Avenue in 1955. However, the family closed in 1967 so his parents could retire. While designing The Villa, his Dad had a “S” shaped bar built and then commissioned artist, Victor Kosa, to paint a replica of Dante’s Inferno. The painting is a stunning replica especially since it’s 20 feet long and about 7 feet tall.

One of the former employees is well respected attorney, John Rinaldi. He was a server at The Villa in order to put himself through law school. Why is this important?  Well, Grazi hadn’t seen John for about 25 years and finally bumped into John at the DMV one day. Grazi’s Dad passed away in 1998 so the painting was important to him, but he didn’t know where it was. He happened to tell John about wanting to find the painting, and much to Grazi’s surprise, he found the John had bought the painting from his uncle when the building was sold. John loved the painting and told Grazi he would leave it for him in his will, but then called after a few weeks and told Grazi to “come and get it. It’s sitting in the attic and I know it’s more important to you.” Until now, the painting was in Grazi’s home for 18 years. “I had to fold it half to make it fit in my house,” said Grazi, “it wrapped around into another room, but at least I had it.” Now this phenomenal painting is displayed in the dining room at Fabio’s. Grazi believes his Dad was watching out for him, “that wall was already here yet the painting looks as if it were made for that space.” And it’s true, I thought he had it made for that wall, but it was more like divine intervention. Two other pieces of art were found on top of the walk-in cooler when the old restaurant was being deconstructed. These depict the canal in Venice, and again, the pieces look custom made since the colors match the décor perfectly.

It’s not only the artwork that makes this place so beautiful. There is beautiful ironwork throughout the restaurant.

Another feature is a large aquarium that Fabio brought with him. His pet Paco is a Paco fish who is now 15 years old. This big fish is quite the conversation piece, but will certainly entertain everyone in the family. And that’s the objective. Both Fabio and the Zazzaras want a beautiful upscale facility, but they want everyone to feel at home. “I want to feed everyone – kids and adults whether they’re wearing ties and suits or shorts and t-shirts. It’s fine dining with a relaxed environment,” said Grazi. And to prove his point, there are no child menus. Instead, children are given an old-fashioned view master with the kid’s menu inside. I laughed because it’s something I haven’t seen since I was a kid, but what a wonderful way to marry high style with family values. The environment is not only relaxed, there are padded chairs to help you rest and relax.

It’s not only the artwork that makes this place so beautiful. There are four sconces on the wall, “I bought those for $50 each and had no idea what I would do with them, but once I walked in here, I knew they belonged here.” Grazi Jr. was an integral part of the design. “The chandeliers were custom made to match the sconces, but then we decided that we should incorporate the iron work throughout the restaurant,” said Grazi Jr. One of the iron features is a cart they use to flambé their custom pasta appetizers. They have a wheel of reggiano parmesan cheese and they scrape some of the cheese in to the center. They then take vodka and set that section on fire. Once the cheese is melted into a creamy sauce, they place the homemade pasta in the cheese and then serve enough for four. It’s a real show because the art of cooking is as important as the restaurant décor.

“Working with Fabio is the perfect business marriage, and I’m really looking forward to opening sometime in June.” Grazi stated proudly. I plan to visit as soon as it opens because I know it will be the newest hotspot in the city of Syracuse!

Janet LaFrance
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