Skip to content
June 1, 2012 / Linda Hartong

CASANOVA Restaurant :: Carmel’s Most Romantic Restaurant

SOME YEARS AGO… we ( The Georis family) were walking along 5th street between San Carlos and Mission, when we suddenly heard a gentle “Hello”. The sound came from behind a screen door in a tiny house, the worse for wear, just past the Shell station. We approached the door (which never opened) and met Aunt Fairy Bird, a small black lady who had lived there for over 50 years.

Her house, situated as it was in downtown Carmel, was in truth, a shack, but it was coveted by nearby landowners. She lived there alone for many years. When she died at nearly 90, not long after our only encounter, her house and a lot were the object of spirited bidding in an estate sale. We learned that she had once been the cook for Charlie Chaplin, that her husband Tom had been a popular handyman in Carmel, and that she was a handy-lady for several Carmel Families.

While cleaning up her house, her executor found a great many Social Security checks that she had saved, hidden in the pages of newspapers and magazines. With him we helped open her safety deposit box and found a gold watch and two $2 bills. Aunt Fairy Bird’s place is now occupied by Casanova Restaurant. Approach it with some reverence.”

-The Carmel Pine Cone

I have written about this restaurant before. It is a huge favorite of ours. The food is excellent, well-seasoned and beautifully presented. The service is impeccable. 

But as delicious as the food is, it also the ambiance which we come back to enjoy.

So let me tell you a little about how this restaurant with its series of intimate spaces came to be – because “The Casanova” style and decor is now widely imitated.

Casanova has influenced not only many other restaurants but also the look of many private houses in Carmel and beyond. Guests often bring their designers and their architects to capture the Casanova look. We have seen  guests pull out cameras and measuring tapes between the appetizers and the main course!

The Georis Family writes that “IN 1977 AUNT FAIRY BIRD’S HOUSE which had fallen into disrepair,

was remodeled. The design was a blend of the family’s old farm-house in Belgium, with elements of the warmth and richness of their childhood memories, and the character of the old house itself.  Great attention was given to every detail to keep up the spirit of the old residence”.

I walk by the original garage which is now 2 stories with balcony window boxes.

Yes indeed, this is a transformation.

It is October and a pumpkin adds its bit of color and charm.

I love the bench in front

And the welcoming tables for dining al fresco.

Inside are a kitchen and 3 of the original rooms, cozy and inviting on a cold day. 

They kept the original floor plan and added the outdoor Fountain Patio. 

This is our favorite spot. The large tree in the patio center has a table built around it. 

Oil cloth tablecloths

Tile murals  

And warm colors invite me to linger over lunch and a glass of wine

In 1987, they excavated 14 feet under the restaurant to build a cellar for their world-class wine selection. Upon request, you can take a tour.

In 1997 Casanova expanded by purchasing the adjacent property and adding  another kitchen area and two more dining rooms. 

I stroll though the hall outside this kitchen

and find the Milagro Room open today. Usually I stand outside this window on the Havana Terrace and press my nose to the glass.

But today I get a shot

Milagro Room

Decorated in the style of an Alpine chalet.

Seating Capacity: 32

The Havana is a covered garden patio.


Havana Terrace

Covered heated garden patio where guests enjoy dining al fresco.

Seating Capacity: 32

I  start out the exit under the unicorn

And past the potting bench

Admiring the plaques on the exterior walls. 

Today the door is open to the

Harvest Room

Surrounded by lavender and rose-filled planters, it’s a traditional French Provencal dining room with an open-hearth fireplace.

Seating Capacity: 74

As I look in longingly, a smiling waiter motions that I may come in and photograph. The room is being set for a large private party and looks so inviting. The light is dim so I apologize for the grainy shots.

Out once again into the sunlight

I pass the “signature” bicycle with menus in its basket

And walk by the window of the Harvest Room.

I hope you enjoy the tour. I can see why this warm decor would inspire others.

I am going to look for one of those oilcloth table cloths myself.

And I do — at Whittakers of Carmel – Whittakers of Carmel


Leave a Comment
  1. Bella Remy Photography / Jun 2 2012 12:52 am

    Each of your Carmel posts are just stunning and makes me want to jump on an airplane! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Linda / Jun 2 2012 12:54 am

    This is such a nice little treat for those of us who dream about Carmel. Thank you so much for brightening our day.

  3. Annie Westlake, / Jun 2 2012 8:48 am

    Have always heard many good things about the Casanova Restaurant, and I must try it after seeing your beautiful pictures. We usually go to Forge in the Forest because of the doggy patio. Thanks for suggesting something different. Can’t wait!

  4. tammy j / Jun 4 2012 12:29 am

    i wish aunt fairy bird could see it now.
    i hope… i think she would be pleased.
    i love two lines. “we heard a gentle ‘hello.’ …
    and … “approach it with some reverence.”
    how enchanting is this little huge place!
    i love the colorful oilcloths. they have such a nostalgic smell.
    i could smell them all through the post!
    again, you weave your magic for us.
    i may never see carmel by the sea. but because of you i feel
    i have come to know it. it is a very special place.
    now i know where to get a beautiful oilcloth too!

  5. janet bishop- magina / Jun 4 2012 1:04 am

    I walked by an ogled it last fall. So warm and charming. Next time I will make a point of eating there. It looked so small from the street , but it appears they might have had room for us at lunch with all those differesnt spaces 🙂

  6. leontrice / Mar 19 2017 6:00 pm

    I watched Casanovas being built and then celebrated my rehersal dinner with my family from afar there in 1981. Its a very special spot.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: