Just beyond the quaint Italian bistro, the place was jump jiving.
With flapper dresses and fedoras, argyle socks and fishnet stockings, zoot suits and spectator shoes, Northview High School students turned back time during a razz-a-ma-tazz salute to the Roaring Twenties.
Known as Great Gatsby Day, the Sylvania school's annual event transforms the auxiliary gymnasium into a "speakeasy," similar to one of the secret clubs that sold liquor during Prohibition. This speakeasy's atmosphere bubbled with root beer and ginger ale, not bathtub gin.
"All of this, it gives you the feel of the age that the author described," said 16-year-old Jeff Sundheimer, who was struggling to get a grasp on a purple yo-yo at one of the gaming tables.
"I had a Yo-Yo when I was younger. I have not touched one in years," Jeff said.
Other students were, um, a bit clueless when it came to playing other games popular years ago, including jacks.
"I have to show them how," said Susan Hopkins, a parent. "I played jacks when I was a girl. There weren't video games then."
She applauded the students and teachers for getting into the swing of things on Gatsby Day.
"I think this is great. They get to learn about the culture, they learn about fashion, entertainment, and social structure. The kids really get into it," Ms. Hopkins said.
Many of the 355 juniors who visited the speakeasy during the day looked as though they had just stepped off the pages of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jazz Age novel.
"You need to get your dancing shoes on," said Fran Borchers, an American Literature teacher, as she announced the Charleston competition. Ms. Borchers admitted she was a little sore from giving Charleston lessons in class the day before.
As Northview's jazz band kicked it up a notch, students cut a rug. Long strands of pearls whipped around the young girls' necks. Sequins shimmered. Fringe flounced.
Gordie Howe reeled in his partner Julianne Judge for a final flash on the dance floor; it paid off. They won the contest and sets of jacks.
"This experience today gives us a better understanding of the Great Gatsby time. It's a cool thing," Gordie said.
Runners-up November Williams and Cliff Lemke were awarded baseballs for their prizes.
"We tried our best," Cliff said.
Earlier, juniors Isaac Cohen and Justin Kruger entertained with their rendition of Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First" comedy routine.
"I love the Roaring Twenties," Justin said after the performance. A main reason? "Because of the girls in flapper dresses," he explained.
Some students borrowed gloves, hats, shoes, shirts, and other clothing from relatives; others shopped thrift stores.
Katie Litzer, 17, wore a glam midnight blue gown, on loan from the theater department. A champagne-colored mink coat draped her shoulders.
"I'm an Italian gangster's wife," she said. "This has been a lot of fun. It's a great way to get the junior class together. Everybody really gets into it."
Some flapper girls posed for photographs atop John Hadley's Great Gatsby car, a 1935 Auburn Speedster, parked just outside the Italian bistro (the cafe was the "front" for the speakeasy). Appropriately, Mr. Hadley, a parent, was dressed in a zoot suit.
"I think this is great," Mr. Hadley said. "This gives students the opportunity to put themselves in the setting from the book."
Students swallowed goldfish (the cracker kind, not the swim-in-the-water variety) and dined on veggies, dip, cheeses, cookies, fruit, and popcorn.
Action at the Yo-Yo table continued to cause frustration.
"I've never used a Yo-Yo before," said Meredith Lodge, 17, dressed in a bubble-gum pink flapper dress.
"This is a lot of fun," Meredith said. "It's a good way to learn about the times."
This, she said, brings the book to life.