On the far end of the dining room is a white grand piano. It sits on a raised floor that is lined with white and black piano keys. There’s a disco ball hanging from the ceiling, and shiny silver curtains in the back.
Randy Loren’s Dolce Vita Ristorante has a new location. And while it’s still a little bit of Vegas right here in Schenectady, this new rendition is the Vegas showroom that Loren always envisioned — red upholstered VIP booths, a cherry wood-topped bar trimmed in piano keys, a dance floor and signature cocktails with names like Atomic Glowing Dolcetini Explosive.
“We’ve already surpassed the old place,” said Loren on Wednesday, several hours before he was to be the star of a ribbon-cutting hosted by the Chamber of Schenectady County and an evening mixer with appetizers and drinks. “Our New Year’s Eve was double what it was in the old place.”
Dolce Vita has been open at its newly renovated location for about three months now, but in typical Loren fashion, the restaurant owner plans to wait until winter is over to host a “mammoth gala grand opening.”
Loren closed down his old restaurant at 2035 State St. at the beginning of 2012. His business was doing well, he said, but the place was falling apart. So he signed a 10-year lease with an option to buy for a former day spa located at 1727 State St. just down the road and spent the next nine months gutting the place — which was partitioned into 18 rooms — down to its four walls. In its place, he built a restaurant and performance space and what he calls the “Chandelier Room” — a private banquet and meeting room with white walls, white tablecloths and white napkins.
“Randy Loren is available to provide music and dancing,” reads a description of the room on Dolce Vita’s website.
Song and dance are Loren’s lifeblood. The Schenectady native spent more than three decades touring Las Vegas and entertainment venues across the country, playing piano, crooning Frank Sinatra and sashaying to disco-era hits. He planned to open a casino and showroom in Vegas, but a divorce catapulted him back to his hometown.
“I just decided I didn’t want to go back to Vegas or back to traveling like I was before, and I figured I’d create my own venue,” he said. “I knew Baby Boomers were out there, still reliving the age of the ‘70s and the ‘80s, and that’s what I created — a retro venue to celebrate a good decade of life. When you walk in here you won’t believe that you’re in Schenectady, N.Y.”
The 60-year-old entertainer takes pride in every nail, screw, design and paint stroke at his new restaurant. It will cost him about $300,000 to eventually purchase the building he’s in, which he hopes to do within the year. His daughter, Amanda, helps him run the place and has a pulse on a “younger crowd” that Loren is not too worried about drawing. He knows he’s bigger and better in older crowds.
“They love the atmosphere, the whole decor, and they love the idea of a dance floor,” he said.