Five Mediterranean restaurants serving up delectable design

Destination Dining

Five Mediterranean restaurants serving up delectable design

(Alex Lesage)

From Cambridge, Massachusetts to Montreal, Quebec to Naples, Italy Mediterranean food is having a moment among new high-end restaurants. The designers of these five new establishments repurpose heavy materials like marble, terrazzo, and oak paneling to fit a contemporary aesthetic that favors lightness and references to time-honored motifs. Archways are rendered in green marble but stripped of ornamentation, and seating is comfortable—plush banquettes and Cesca chairs. Amid these traditional-ish touches are playful elements like candy cane–shaped bar lights and cheeky chartreuse tableside service stations, all meant to complement hybrid menus that present fresh takes on the region’s myriad foodways:

light fixtures hang over dining booth
(Jason Varney)

Zaytina, New York

A new restaurant by celebrated DC Chef José Andrés delivers Mediterranean serenity to the new Ritz-Carlton in New York’s Nomad district. Rockwell Group chose a series of serene blues, blonde woods, and beiges to keep the focus on the eclectic Turkish, Greek, Lebanese, and Italian–influenced menu. To draw eyes to cobalt banquettes, the design team kept the architectural finishes neutral but rich in material variety. Large and small woven linen pendant lamps in the main dining room are designed by The Alpha Workshops are decorated with hand-painted illustrations by Rockwell Group’s Graphics studio that celebrate Mediterranean harvests. Every hotel restaurant needs a bar, and the one at Zaytinya doesn’t disappoint. A grid of lucid circles inspired by the talisman that protects against the evil eye comprise a bar screen that curves up to the ceiling. Drinks are handed to guests over a lava stone surface with a chiseled stone bardie. Below diners’ feet, tiled floors surrounding the bar with an olive and leaf motif are inspired by architect Gio Ponti.

pink chairs in a restaurant
(Brian W. Ferry)

Bar Enza, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Home Studios’ Bar Enza, located inside the Charles Hotel, is a calm oasis in Cambridge, Massachusetts’s bustling Harvard Square. Soft warm lights above and between split pea–, cream of mushroom–, and tomato soup–hued velvet banquettes add a homey but refined calm to the main dining room, a contemporary take on the traditional Italian trattoria. From the molded ceiling to freeform wall mirrors to the wavy tops of some banquettes, squiggles and curves complement angular elements like the bar, which is topped with translucent cabinets that highlight the restaurant’s substantial wine selection. Massive windows behind the exterior banquette and facing wicker-backed chairs flood the restaurant interior with even, natural light. Matte white brick walls, like those behind racks of glassware, reflect light throughout the ground-floor space to complement the soft-toned seating as well as the terrazzo and dark wood floors.

red circular bar stools
(Alex Lesage)

Piatti, Montreal

Ivy Studio married dramatic gestures with traditional Mediterranean motifs for Piatti, a Montreal restaurant known for its wood-fired pizzas. The oven is built into a green Saint-Denis marble wall, a sharp contrast to the typical beat-up ovens in most fancy slice shops. Guest can dine at an oven-facing curvy marble and stained wood counter, or a more traditional white marble-topped bar in the adjacent dining room. Even the kitchen entrance, demarcated by hand plastered double-arched chicane, gets the royal treatment. A steel armature fitted with a backlit fluted glass panel over a U-shaped bar showcases the restaurant’s wine collection. The bar itself is clad in vertical oak boards that support a four-inch-thick travertine top for drinks. At night, recessed lighting underscores the texture of the establishment’s original stone walls, while during the day, sheer cream curtains allow soft filtered light into the space and provide a calm backdrop to the striking standalone elements throughout the space.

streaked yellow and white ceiling in restaurant with wood counter
(Peter Murdock)

Cucina Alba, New York

A new restaurant from chef Adam Leonti, with interiors by GRT Architects, brings bread-centric Italian to New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. Cucina Alba occupies the ground floor of Thomas Heatherwick’s Lantern House, a High Line–straddling building at West 18th Street. The buttercream-yellow dining room ceiling in the L-shaped restaurant echos the curve of a fresh-baked loaf as it swoops up to faceted bay windows. Beneath those windows, a wraparound banquette and backsplash was imagined as a terrarium, festooned with found objects and potted plants. A sand-colored terrazzo floor was poured on site and fitted with zinc strips to tie together the room’s roundness. A bar clad in quartered white oak and lined with Marcel Breuer’s 1928 Cesca chairs echos the curve of the facing banquettes.

restaurant with green dining chairs
(Mattia Aquila)

Aria, Naples, Italy

It took FADD Architects almost three years to rework an office into Aria, a two-level Sicilian restaurant and bar in the heart of Naples. A green Alpi marble portal leads to a dining room with a 20-foot mirroed ceiling upon which hangs three Edra brass bells. The dining room is sectioned in one instance by a grey steel etagere lined with books and vases. On the ground, heat-treated oak parquet floor tiles support evergreen leather Molteni Chelsea dining chairs and semicircular banquettes in complementary green. A discreet door leads to The Lodge, a subterranean lounge with an eye-catching green lacquered wooden bar counter. Artwork throughout is supplied via a collaboration with Luigi Solito Gallery.