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Big changes at West Ave: Ava Kitchen to be gone but not forgotten as new restaurant eyes space

News_Alto Pizzeria
Alto Pizzeria Photo by Sarah Rufca
Alto Pizzeria, new sign
Photo by Candice Schiller
News_Alto Pizzeria_exterior
News_Alto Pizzeria
Ava Kitchen & Whiskey Bar, hostess
Alto Pizzeria, new sign

Robert Del Grande bet big on West Ave, creating two new concepts — Ava Kitchen & Whiskey Bar and Alto Pizzeria — for the large, double-decker space that fronted Kirby Drive. As has been rumored for weeks, this gamble didn't quite pay off, and Ava will be closing its doors on Saturday.

"We love West Ave, it's a great concept, but we have too much space," said co-owner Lonnie Schiller. "Ava was competing with 50 similar restaurants that have opened in the same area in the past two years." [Full disclosure: Schiller is an investor in CultureMap.]

Schiller/Del Grande will focus their efforts on Alto Pizzeria, the second floor space, while adding some of the most popular dishes from Ava to the menu. Schiller says they are also adding a to-go pizza component with a "smart-phone activated curbside pick-up area."

The former Ava space downstairs will be reconfigured and possibly expanded for a new tenant, rumored to be Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse (a rep for Del Frisco's would not confirm or comment). The current entrance near the elevator and stairs to Alto will be sealed off and the facade of the restaurant will be moved to face the West Ave interior courtyard instead of the street.

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