New Dallas restaurant Circo is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
From the glitzy staircase designed to look like a larger-than-life chandelier to the monkey lamps hanging in the dining room, it's bananas.
"It truly is like a circus," says Lauren Santagati, CEO of White ROC Hospitality Group. "The dining experience is a show."
The two-story restaurant in Dallas is part of the group of Circo restaurants in Dubai, Las Vegas, the Dominican Republic and more. The company was started by now 86-year-old Sirio Maccioni, who wined and dined decades of celebrities and high rollers at the original Circo in New York City as well as at his original glammy restaurant Le Cirque. Both are currently closed.
Maccioni gave hundreds of letters written by dignitaries such as Ronald Reagan, Barbara Walters and Michael Bloomberg to the operator of the new Dallas restaurant. More than 30 of those letters hang on the walls in Dallas, as if celebs like Ivanka Trump are already endorsing this new place.
The circus begins Sept. 20, when Circo opens. And a circus it shall be.
Upstairs, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Circo hosts its "members" -- people who have paid at least $250 per month or companies who have paid up to $15,000 per year -- for access to Circo's private club, which includes two pools, a bar and a resort-style restaurant menu. (Not a member? Try it out for $35 a day.)
"You can eat, play and stay here all day," Santagati says of the second floor, which she calls Circo Beach.
She envisions members hanging out, country-club style, using the wifi during a workday. They can host meetings, take a yoga class, sunbathe in the pool or even get manicures. Restaurant reps say they already have more than 50 people who have paid for memberships.
That same type of show -- a see-and-be-seen spot for Dallas' rich and famous -- can be found downstairs.
After entering the restaurant, diners will see a pastry chef in the glass-enclosed wine room, painting dessert truffles.
The menu is Italian coastal cuisine, created by native Italian Alfio Longo. Three dishes were already on his menu: lobster salad; crème brûlée; and Ravioli Mamma Egi (ricotta and spinach ravioli cooked in a butter-sage sauce, and named for the matron of the Maccioni family). All three of those dishes were signatures at other Circo restaurants and at Le Cirque, and as Dallas carries on the Maccioni family tradition, Santagati says they were required additions to the menu.
Maccioni is credited with making crème brûlée a powerhouse dessert, and Circo in Dallas will serve it in Le Cirque's original dishes.
Much of Longo's menu will have dramatic flourishes, such as as the royal platter of seafood stacked high with jumbo prawns longer than an outstretched hand. On the cocktail menu, a dirty martini will be made with cioppino broth -- a fish stew that will be carefully strained.
Circo will also offer photo-worthy large-format cocktails, meant to be shared among friends, and bottle service.
And if someone at your table goes missing, she may be hanging out in the women's restroom, where a bartender will be stationed all night, giving out free glasses of Champagne.
Dallas is far from Maccioni's family roots in New York City, but Santagati says Dallas is perfect for an over-the-top restaurant.
Because in Dallas, dining is what we do: "We don't have an ocean here," she says. "People love to eat and drink."
And why now? Santagati met Maccioni several years ago, undergoing "a year-and-a-half interview process" to be able to bring Circo to Dallas, she says.
This elaborate place might just be Dallas' glitziest new restaurant.