14 Memorial Highway
Visitors to the restaurant Alvin & Friends (14 Memorial Highway in New Rochelle. NY, 914-654-6549) are always charmed by the colorful, Matisse-inspired paintings that hang on every wall. What they may not realize at first is that these original oils were all created by owner Alvin Clayton.
The charismatic restaurateur’s first career was modeling – his clean cut good looks were featured in fashion magazines like GQ, Esquire, Vanity Fair and Vogue — and it was while working and living in Paris in the early 1980s that he taught himself to paint. Clayton’s biggest influence was Henri Matisse, whose paintings he studied intently – and whose bright color palette reminded him of his home, Trinidad. Clayton’s vivid works soon earned him the admiration of collectors like Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Robert De Niro, and Don Cheadle. (To see more of Clayton’s art visit his website, www.alvinclayton.com.)
Last May Alvin & Friends moved from its original location to a larger space, located across Memorial Highway from the New Rochelle Public Library (with plenty of parking in the municipal lot adjacent to the library as well as the covered parking next to the Avalon apartments). The restaurant has more than doubled its seating, but its sophisticated design is both elegant and comfortable: Wooden panels inset with glass windows carve the space into cozy dining areas, while dramatic iron-and-hemp chandeliers accent the high ceilings and provide a counterpoint to the colorful paintings that cover the walls.
The restaurant’s signature painting is The Circle, a brilliantly colored canvas that hangs near the bar. The painting was inspired by the restaurant’s unique backstory: To open the original Alvin & Friends, Clayton put together a group of investors – the “Friends” of the restaurant’s name – that reflect the diversity of New Rochelle. ”They invested in the concept and in our community,” says Clayton, who sees the same energy in the customers drawn to the restaurant’s chic urban vibe. That synergy moved Clayton to create a painting inspired by Henri Matisse’s 1909 work La Danse – but modified to reflect the diversity Clayton sees in New Rochelle.