LOCAL Houston | The City Guide August 2016 - Page 58

A STROLL ON ARTHUR AVENUE By Erin Hicks | Photography by Daniel Ortiz AFTER SO MANY ACCOLADES FOR HELEN GREEK FOOD & WINE IN RICE VILLAGE, THE OPPORTUNITY TO DESIGN AN ITALIAN CONCEPT RESTAURANT (ONLY THIS TIME ON STUDEWOOD IN THE HEIGHTS) FOR THE SAME TEAM – SHARIF AL-AMIN, AND CHEF WILLIAM WRIGHT – WAS EXCITING. The proposed name of the restaurant was Arthur Avenue – a salute to the “Little Italy” of the Bronx. My first step in the design process was a trip to NYC to glean inspiration. I ate and drank (and drank and ate) my way through every restaurant in Little Italy. On the last day, I realized that I had not yet made it down to the famed Arthur Avenue. Though not really a subway girl, I hopped on a train and made my way to the Bronx. (I will say the Bronx is a little scary.) I found Arthur Avenue, and discovered that old-school Italian joints on Arthur Avenue, as well as those in Little Italy, were not very aesthetically appealing. The process of designing a restaurant is exhilarating but there are also challenges. A ton of thought goes into creating the perfect vibe, but the limitations of the space and my budget are always important considerations. important to think carefully about what artwork made sense in the space. Pops of color throughout, with vintage Italian works, complete the desired feeling. I have traveled to Italy a few times and love how many of the A cozy wine room (with seating for four) was a key design element and will restaurants separate their spaces with cozy banquettes and uhouse the hundreds of bottles of authentic Italian wine carefully curated by shaped booths. This intimate solution creates a casually elegant consulting wine sommelier Shepard Ross, ensuring this space becomes “The and warm atmosphere. That was my vision. The signature tall banCoveted Table” at Arthur Avenue. quettes in Arthur Avenue’s bar area, along with the stylish Dekton bar top made of silica, glass and stone, are the perfect mix of old and new. Working with the existing rustic quality of the exposed, deep burgundy-hued brick walls, I could see aged iron chandeliers and sconces really working in the space. I began to work with that imagery and off we went. The existing space had a large open window into the kitchen. I don’t have a burning desire to watch my food being prepared, so we removed the window and upholstered the entire wall in a woven leather to create the intimacy I was looking for. I also landscaped a few other walls – to pay homage to the old-school dusty grapevine greenery found in so many Italian restaurants. It was 58 L O C A L | august 16 The patio design is a fun space and I opted for succulent boxes to add color to the cozy, banquette-filled seating areas. Picturing myself enjoying a beautiful Italian Franciacorta (sparkling wine) on the patio with friends and family was definitely in the cards as my vision was brought into reality. The overall feeling of this fantastic new space? A casual yet elegant Italian eatery meant to pair perfectly with the incredible menu created by Chef William. I’m so grateful to have been a part of this project and to have been inspired by the creative team of professionals that are Arthur Avenue.