I first met chef Nick Lama when we were placed in the same group of judges for the New Orleans Po Boy Festival last November. At the time, he was the chef de cuisine at Gautreau’s, one of my favorite restaurants in the city.
Chef Lama recently opened his own restaurant, Avo, at 5908 Magazine St., in the space that most recently housed Martinique Bistro. The redesign by architect Brooks Graham was substantial; the interior dining room feels more open, the result of both physical changes and the generally lighter color scheme. There are about 30 seats in the dining room, including the bar, and another 50 or so on the covered patio.
Avo is Italian for “grandfather,” and the name is significant. Large-format photographs of Lama’s family adorn the walls, including one of his great-grandparents at a tavern they owned on Bienville Street, the Bizot Beer Garden. While Lama clearly honors his family’s Sicilian roots, his cooking at Avo borrows from all of Italy’s regional cuisines.
Lama told me that Italian cooking is about using fresh, local ingredients at their best, preparing them simply and letting their flavors come through. Most products he uses are locally sourced.
The menu changes seasonally as a result, and pastas are made in-house.
Avo is currently open for dinner every day but Tuesday and Sunday, from 5:30 to 10 p.m., and by the time you read this, may also be open for brunch. Call 509-6550 to make a reservation.