At the recently opened Avo restaurant, Chef Nick Lama is a New Orleans native and fourth generation Sicilian, and he brings his culinary heritage to Magazine Street through both the food and design. Large photos of his family adorn the main dining room, complementing the white, gray, and black decor. In one, his grandmother is lifted into the air by an elephant; in another, his grandfather is holding a grouper fish in the old St. Roch Market, which his family owned in the years before Katrina.
The simple elegance of the dining space was designed to complement Lama's food, which architect Brooks Graham says is always the starting point when conceptualizing the look of a restaurant. According to Graham, who's overseen the design of the Cochon Butcher expansion, Mariza in the Bywater, and Balise in the CBD, another of the inspirations for the restaurant design was the classic Italian Carrara marble bar top.
"It really dictated the color palate," Graham says of the marble. "I always start with the menu and the chef's vision, but then there's usually one important design aspect to be the genesis of the rest of the room, the rest of the building."
The outdoor space has been updates as well, with fresh flooring, furniture, and a wall of candles on one side.
The vibrant colors of the old Martinique Bistro have been toned down, applying a gray wash to the red wood inside the building, laying down a black floor, and painting the walls white. The black tables, made by the general contractor, CAIN, are some of the nicest tables in the city, Graham says. "I defy you to find a more beautiful restaurant table. [CAIN] really went above and beyond the call of duty."
Chef Lama was an active participant in the design process, and was very involved in ordering the bar stools, chairs, and chandeliers. "Nick was incredibly excited about the whole process," Graham says. "We worked together very closely."
"I'm excited for Nick," he adds. "I'm proud of the space and impressed by the food."
Avo: 5908 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70118; 504-509-6550