There's a lot of hemming and hawing in the LAT food section about absurdly loud restaurants, but the tone of the piece is captured in an early sentence: "How loud a restaurant is -- or isn't -- has to do with the quality of noise as well as the quantity." The quality of noise? What about the quality of silence? Here’s the thing: Restaurant owners tend to drag their heels when it comes to improving acoustics because they're afraid that a quiet dining room will be viewed as an unpopular dining room. Loud is young and sexy; quiet is for Early Birds. Besides, a lot of the owners just like it loud, whether customers like it or not.
At Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza, what designer Lisa Eaton inherited was a space that needed a lot of physical work -- and a boss with a penchant for loud rock music. "Mario hands us an iPod when we're ready to open," says Eaton, who has designed most of Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich's restaurants, including Del Posto and Babbo in New York. "We never incorporate that aspect [sound] into the design. You can never tell what a room's going to do." What the Pizzeria noise did was reverberate around the high ceilings, so much so that diners complained. Eaton says they installed acoustic panels on the upper part of the walls, "then we painted them a very dark brown [like the ceiling] and it disappeared; it became this ambient umbrella that you don't really notice."
*The "sound design" of restaurants was discussed a couple of weeks back on KCRW's "DnA" program with Frances Anderton.
Jonathan Gold of LA Weekly and David Rosoff of Osteria Mozza were among the guests.