Chef Nick Lama opened Avo.
(5908 Magazine St., 504-509-6550),
the new Italian restaurant from chef Nick Lama
, is now open, serving dinner daily at the former Martinique Bistro space.
A great-grandson of Sicilian immigrants, Lama describes his food as "regional Italian cuisine with an emphasis on fresh and local ingredients."
“I’m trying to get ingredients that have been grown as close to here as possible,” Lama says. “I think that’s the thing with good Italian food – it’s food made with local ingredients that are fresh and prepared in a very simple way so the ingredients really stand out.”
Born and raised in New Orleans, Lama grew up in the kitchens of his parents and grandparents. Lama’s father ran and owned the St. Roch market until Hurricane Katrina, selling fresh seafood there as well as at his other two restaurants on the north shore and in Bucktown.
“I grew up loving, cooking food, always being around people who cooked,” Lama says. “Food was a big part of my family, even just the process of it, being in the kitchen and just cooking together.”
Lama’s new restaurant pays homage to his family not just in name – "avo" means ancestor, or grandfather in Italian – but in the large, black and white portraits of his parents and grandparents hanging on the walls inside the dining room, above a cobalt blue banquette.
After receiving a degree in finance, Lama decided to follow in his family’s footsteps and began cooking at Muriel’s before getting his culinary degree and moving on to stints at other restaurants, including Gautreau’s, where he worked as chef de cuisine until recently, when the Martinique space became available.
“When I saw the space, I just knew it was perfect for what I wanted to do,” Lama says.
But it was the charming ivy-covered brick walls and the outside courtyard that really sold him.
“I knew we needed an outdoor space and the courtyard is just amazing and very romantic, “ Lama says. “There’s just something about being in New Orleans and sitting outside, drinking a glass of wine and eating some good food.”
Avo’s menu reflects Lama’s modest aesthetic and most dishes highlight four or five ingredients.
Grilled artichokes are served with lemon caper aioli and gremolata; burrata is topped with slices of prosciutto, grilled peaches, arugula and vanilla syrup.
House-made pasta features prominently on the menu and includes an herb spaghetti tossed with sausage, clams and chili and a rigatoni dish served with smashed peas, pancetta, ricotta salata and fresh mint.
Entrees include pork Milanese paired with red wine-braised turnips, Swiss chard and salsa verde and hanger steak is served with grilled eggplant caponata, fennel onion marmalade and aged balsamic vinegar.
Avo’s wine list is entirely Italian, with bottles ranging from $40 to $90.
The restaurant serves dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Saturday. Beginning next week, Avo will serve Sunday brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For more information, visit the restaurant’s website here.