In many ways, chef Nick Lama's newly opened Uptown seasonal eatery Avo is an ode to family, a family with deep Sicilian roots and culinary ties to New Orleans no less, from their Mid City beer garden of yore Bizot's to the St. Roch Market, which they ran for many years in its former seafood-oriented incarnation.
At Avo, delicate pastas have been plucked from the Lama family's treasured recipes—a melt-in-you-mouth short rib and mushroom lasagna that the family always eats at Easter, an herbaciious rigatoni perfect for summer. There is also a wealth of fresh seafood. But nothing on the menu is safe, as Lama will change the dishes seasonally. With summer in full effect, Lama notes: "Every time I go in the dining room it's the octopus and the burrata, and the white chocolate semifreddo too." On the dessert side, he's even playing pastry chef, turning out his takes on affogato (with housemade gelato and French Truck coffee), anise olive oil cake, semifreddo, and more.
Not too shabby for a former finance-guy, who quit the accounting world to hone his culinary chops at the CIA, returning to New Orleans with stints at Muriel's and Gautreau's before opening his first restaurant in May. Also a wing aficionado (he has wings on the menu, folks), Lama loves to get his fill at Bayou Hot Wings, Mid City Pizza and Manchu.
Here now, the chef spills the beans on four incredible dishes you have to order at Avo this summer.
"I wanted to do something local that I grew up catching, fishing and eating. Chickpea ragu is something that's really simple but flavorful. That's the type of food I like to eat. The tapenade just kind of brightens it up."
"The sauce is a Salmoriglio sauce, a Sicilian sauce, which is where half of my family is from. It's basically a Sicilian chimichurri. It goes great with seafood."
"I love fresh peas and mint. It's like spring on a plate. Both of my parents had gardens, so I grew up always having an abundance of fresh herbs."
"I make two pans of it a day. It's killing me, but it's delicious. It's a labor of love. My grandmother makes it every Easter. She has certain dishes: Christmas is stuffed shells, Thanksgiving is cabbage rolls, and Easter is lasagna. I definitely want to incorporate those kind of things into the menu."