NICOLAS BAZAN III
In Argentina, where RioMar’s co-owner Nicolas Bazan III grew up before moving to New Orleans as a teenager, meals have always played a central role in the culture. “Argentineans believe the dinner table keeps the family together,” he says. “A meal in my household was the time to turn off the TV and enjoy each other’s company so everyone could reconnect with each other.”
This same idea of thoughtfully-prepared food bringing people closer forms an essential part of RioMar’s spirit. In Bazan’s opinion, food is meant to be shared. The lunch menu is always tapas, a Spanish style of eating which is inherently communal, and during dinner, appetizer plates stacked up on an iron serving tower invite everyone at the table to sample different dishes. At RioMar, the sharing of entrées and desserts is likewise encouraged.
Bazan, who oversees the front of the house while Chef Miles works his magic in the kitchen, strives to foster a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere for RioMar’s guests. He considers one of his greatest assets towards this end to be his staff. RioMar’s well-trained team of waiters and waitresses harmoniously work together, sharing tables and tips, as they advise guests about menu selections.
“Miles and I make sure our staff is educated about what we’re serving,” Bazan explains. “Not a day passes where we don’t taste and talk about food and wine.” Indeed, wonderful wines are as important to the RioMar experience as the freshest seafood is. Bazan takes great pride in what’s offered at the bar and works closely with Master Bartender Paul Handley. Cocktails are culturally relevant and seasonally influenced like wonderful caipirinhas. So that the wine will complement the cuisine and the atmosphere, selections are from Spain or areas formerly colonized by Spain, in particular Chile, Argentina, and the west coast.
Of the many wines RioMar offers at any given time, a good forty can be ordered by the glass. Just as he encourages diners to sample the variety of the delectable dishes emerging from RioMar’s kitchen, Bazan feels diners should have flexibility in their wine selections. With so many wines by the glass, RioMar’s guests can pair up different wines with different courses and taste a variety of grapes and regions in a single meal.
RioMar is by no means the first time Bazan has worked a restaurant. Before partnering up with Prescott, Bazan had passed through 15 New Orleans restaurants in a decade’s time. He’s grateful for his myriad experiences, ranging from busser and dishwasher to head waiter and manager, both in casual chain restaurants and fine dining establishments.
“All the different positions I’ve held have given me a wide view of what makes restaurants successful and how all the different jobs fit together,” Bazan explains. He credits these experiences with making him the well-rounded restaurateur he is today.