5 questions for: Gerry Klaskala

Aria’s chef-owner discusses his classic restaurant’s recent face-lift—and his take on the evolution of fine dining.

What was the impetus for Aria’s refresh?
We wanted to change the overall feel of the restaurant and create a warmer, more comfortable environment. We enlisted Seiber Design to bring our look to feel more “now,” more current and hip. We wanted comfort, above all.

How did you make the restaurant feel contemporary while preserving its original spirit?
The major change was to open up the space and make it more comfortable. The spirit of Aria is contained in the one-of-a-kind Neel Reid interior, which has great architectural bones and provides the comforting feeling of returning home. Our regulars return for our genuine hospitality and consistently delicious cuisine.

You kept the iconic chandelier and the Mary Engel dog sculptures.
There are three one-of-a-kind, distinct things about Aria that can’t be replicated: first, the timeless Neel Reid dining room; second, the Chris Moulder chandelier, arguably his most controversial creation; and third, Mary Engel’s canine sculptures. Gallery owner Marcia Wood thought they would be perfect in the room, and I couldn’t agree more.

How has the ritual of dining out evolved since Aria opened in 2000?
Dining out is no longer the special occasion that it was when we opened in 2000. It’s now part of our daily routine, and we’re reacting to that. We don’t want our restaurant to be the place you only seek out for birthdays and anniversaries; we also want to be the place you come to because it’s a Tuesday.

What’s the future of fine dining in atlanta?
The future for Atlanta dining is going to be incredible. We’re quickly moving forward on all fronts: talent, quality ingredients, variety of dining options and value.