In the world of restaurants, there is a difference between a hot spot and an institution. Restaurateurs in New York City are in constant competition to achieve the latter. There are many elements to consider, but among the most important are longevity and devoted regulars. A common quality across institutions: distinctive interior design.

One of the best-designed new restaurants on the scene right now is Casino, which opened this past December in Chinatown. The glamorous French-Italian Riviera-style restaurant, owned by Aisa Blue Shelley, was designed by Camilla Deterre, 32, a model and interior designer.

Deterre has worked in the fashion world since she was a teenager. She’s interned for photographers such as Annie Leibovitz and Mario Sorrenti, and modeled for labels including Eckhaus Latta and Maryam Nassir Zadeh. In 2013, while continuing to model, she turned some of her attention to design. Deterre took a job at the architecture-and-design firm Roman and Williams, which is known for projects including the Boom Boom Room—the Standard hotel’s 18th-floor cocktail lounge—and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Montecito home.

For the interior of Casino, Camilla Deterre was inspired by architect Javier Senosiain and his free-form designs.

When asked about her initial interest in interior design, Deterre simply responds, “I guess I like space.”

The cool, insouciant New Yorker grew up in the restaurant business. In the 1990s, Deterre’s mother, Ana Opitz, opened and co-owned Pravda, a beloved Soviet-themed SoHo vodka bar that closed in 2016, with Keith McNally. “I grew up in the service industry, so it’s a part of me. I feel comfort there,” Deterre explains. “I think it gives me a small sense of belonging.”

In 2014, she entered the restaurant world herself, designing the interior of Mimi, a French restaurant in the West Village. She outfitted the small bistro with navy and silver details; Deterre favors combinations of grace and severity. The bar area features shelves inspired by the French architect Charlotte Perriand, and utilitarian, chrome light fixtures hang throughout the restaurant.

“I guess I like space.”

Around then, Shelley and Deterre met while working at the now closed restaurant Navy, on Sullivan Street. (Deterre was a hostess, while Shelley was a bartender.) Shelley, an admirer of classic New York restaurants, such as McNally’s Balthazar and Minetta Tavern, wanted to create a place with a feeling similar to that of his institutions but one that catered to a younger crowd dedicated to “hanging out.” They joined forces to open Casino, which offers more novel fare than old-school Manhattan restaurants. Kumquats complement the duck breast, and cashew-dandelion pesto spruces up roasted carrots.

Shelley and Deterre make an interesting duo: the pragmatist and the visionary. Deterre was responsible for the concept of the space, though her original vision was “insane”—Shelley’s word. “I had a post-Covid idea of the internal being the universe,” Deterre says. She imagined a restaurant that resembled the inside of a human body, citing “The Giant Heart,” an immersive exhibition at the Franklin Institute, in Philadelphia, as a reference point.

For the main dining room, Deterre sourced vintage Pistillino lamps by Studio Tetrarch.

Parts of that initial idea come through. The front portion of the restaurant—the café and the bar area—is sparsely decorated and skeletal in design. The contours of the space evoke the organic curves of the architect Javier Senosiain, known for his advancements in bio-architecture and free-form design.

While many of the references for the space are high-concept, they are counterbalanced by bespoke, intimate touches, such as hand-sewn curtains and plaster arches, both made by Deterre herself. The pair prefers the designs to appear homemade and create an atmosphere of ease.

Sophistication is not sacrificed. When I first dined at Casino, a few months ago, I was struck by a set of unusual light fixtures that punctuate the walls of the dramatic dining room, which has sumptuous red velvet banquettes. The lights, which resemble a sort of futuristic spike protein, are chrome Pistillino lamps by Studio Tetrarch from the 1970s. Throughout the space there are also French cafeteria lights and Austrian sconces.

Deterre mixes severe details with whimsical ones.

“I just dug around on all the auction and vintage-design sites until something seemed interesting, unseen, and not crazy expensive,” Deterre explains. “Everything in there is under a thousand dollars,” she notes, which is a feat considering that many of the fixtures seem sui generis.

In the 2010s, the space belonged to neighborhood stalwart Mission Chinese Food. I dined at that restaurant many times. Now, sitting in Casino, I feel acutely that this particular address has entered a new era. In December, during my first of many dinners at Casino, I had too many drinks with a friend, laughed with the staff, and flirted with the Supreme skaters, who rented out the restaurant’s back room for their holiday party. I remember feeling that I was at the center of something good. That “something” could be a Manhattan institution in the making.

Hayley J. Clark is a New York–based writer