Aug 222013
 
John Besh greets a neighbor of the his new Pizza Domenica restaurant proposed for 4933 Magazine Street. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

John Besh greets a neighbor of the his new Pizza Domenica restaurant proposed for 4933 Magazine Street. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Pizza Domenica is intended as a more casual, smaller-scale spinoff of the acclaimed Domenica restaurant downtown. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Pizza Domenica is intended as a more casual, smaller-scale spinoff of the acclaimed Domenica restaurant downtown. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Neighbors of celebrated New Orleans restaurateur John Besh’s proposed foray into Uptown got a literal taste of what’s to come Thursday night at an open house for the Pizza Domenica on Magazine Street.

The restaurant will be a smaller, neighborhood-scale spinoff of the popular Domenica restaurant in the Roosevelt Hotel downtown, Besh said.

“We have really gotten to the point where we’re pushing at the seams there,” Besh said of the original location. “And we had been hoping to look at smaller locations outside downtown.”

The other half of the space in the Magazine Street building that hosts the Vitamin Shoppe has been vacant for years, Besh said, and quickly emerged as a favorite location for the expansion. The Besh group has not yet begun construction on the project yet — the walls and the stairs in the front area will come out, for example — but in advance of Thursday’s meet-and-greet, his team used chalk to give neighbors an idea of their plans.

One wall hosted the menu, and another wall showed where takeout orders can be picked up. Another wall by the kitchen was adorned with a chalk mural of a father and child watching a cook at the wood-fired oven, and even the floors were marked with approximate table locations.

Victoria and Clay Belancio, who live nearby, said they are already fans of the downtown Domenica and thrilled that it will be expanding so close nearby.

“Their reputation will bring some excitement to the neighborhood,” said nearby resident Victoria Belancio.

The proposed location of Pizza Domenica in the 4900 block of Magazine, next to the Vitamin Shoppe. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The proposed location of Pizza Domenica in the 4900 block of Magazine, next to the Vitamin Shoppe. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The space may have been vacant since Hurricane Katrina, said Shep Pryor, who’s lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years. Before that, he said, it was a Salvation Army thrift store, and long before that it was built to be a school, he said.

In order to open, the restaurant will need an amendment to the building’s conditional use, which requires City Council approval. That process will begin Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. before the City Planning Commission, where the staff is recommending approval.

The restaurant owners have already met with the board of the relatively new Faubourg Avart neighborhood association, said Mark Tullis, one of the founding members. Some neighbors are concerned about the parking impact on the neighborhood, Tullis said, but most are excited.

“The fact that the Besh Restaurant Group has such a great reputation, that certainly helps,” Tullis said. “Most people, I think, are pretty excited. A lot of neighborhoods would certainly love to have a restaurant like this opening up.”

Joseph Peychaud, president of the nearby St. Katharine Drexel Prep, said he was pleased to see from the plans that only the downstairs space will be used. He’s aware of the concerns of some neighbors, but it appears that the Besh group is addressing them, he said. The school may not take a formal position on the project until the planning commission meeting next week.

The relative lack of congestion along this stretch of Magazine is one of the factors that made the location attractive, said co-owner Octavio Mantilla. With only 15 or so tables — a maximum of about 90 seats, counting those at the bar — the parking impact shouldn’t be heavy, he said. And most people they have talked to so far have been very supportive.

“They know we’re very involved with the community, wherever we are,” Mantilla said.

A sample menu on the wall of the building. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

A sample menu on the wall of the building. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Dominica chef Alon Shaya chats with a neighbor of the proposed Magazine Street expansion. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Dominica chef Alon Shaya chats with a neighbor of the proposed Magazine Street expansion. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The floor plans for the new restaurant by architect Stephen Finegan. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The floor plans for the new restaurant by architect Stephen Finegan. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Samples of prosciutto and other cured meats await neighbors on a candlelit table. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Samples of prosciutto and other cured meats await neighbors on a candlelit table. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Victoria Belancio chooses from the antipasto offerings at the proposed Pizza Domenica on Thursday. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Victoria Belancio chooses from the antipasto offerings at the proposed Pizza Domenica on Thursday. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

A mural envisions families watching their pizza being prepared at the restaurant's wood-fired oven. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

A mural envisions families watching their pizza being prepared at the restaurant’s wood-fired oven. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

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  • QuienesSomos

    Why negotiate this with some faux-neghborhood association? Ridiculous! And I am SURE the busy-bodies will insist on a No Go-cup policy.

  • lemonjello

    Hopefully this location has a similarly excellent happy hour to the Domenica downtown. Was there any timeframe?

  • Amelia Street

    Look, I love this site – but you have really got to start using some hyperlinks to Google (or Bing) Maps when you’re describing and incident or something new coming in.

    Also, this Domenica thing is awesome.

  • JEDA

    it isn’t a faux-neighborhood association and actually the neighborhood association is supportive….even of geaux cups.