Who needs Beverly Hills art galleries when we have trendy Olive RestoBar in the Promenade in Downey!
Three local artists recently invited the art-loving community to sample an exhibition of their current work at the Olive. Every seat in the restaurant was filled, every table was taken. This time, the patrons came for the food, nibbling on starters like tomato crostinis and hot fresh pita bread with green sauce. But next time they’ll come for the art.
The night was balmy for February, and the small but tasteful exhibit was staged on the eastern edge of the Olive’s outdoor patio seating area so diners could admire the art while they sipped their craft cocktails. Argentine-born Monica Pucciarelli’s wildly fanciful females were placed side by side with Carolina Del Toro’s unusual photographs of magnified objects and her husband Jorge’s paintings. Look for the alligator – Carolina’s says they are her husband’s hidden signature touch.
The sophisticated Mediterranean infusion ambiance of the Olive RestoBar starts with Sam, its Egyptian owner, said the Olive’s Crystal, who greeted us at the door. The Bar is elaborately stocked with unusual items, even the most expensive tequila, Rey Sol Tequila, a bright orange intense color that is made from the blue agave and comes encased in its Bustamente-designed crystal decanter. More moderately priced drinks are The James Dean cocktail, like a whiskey sour, and the fruity and sweet Blackberry Mojito. Try Chapo y Kate, a tequila-based drink.
Downeyites in the know have been coming here since the Olive opened, enjoying entrées like lamb shank with a mole-like sauce that pairs beautifully with the tender lamb and smooth mashed potatoes. If there’s room, one can order the chocolate chip gelato and mascarpone tiramisu.
The Olive appeals to the taste buds of the palate, while the art stimulates the artist’s palette, of colors. “As a little girl in Mexico,” said Carolina, “I remember looking forward to the times the Indigenous people, Huichol, from my state of Nayarit, would come down from the Sierras to sell their arts and crafts. So beautiful, and very colorful!”
A small state in western Mexico, Nayarit lies between the forested mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Pacific Ocean. Just south are Matanchen Bay’s surfing beaches, while north is Mexcaltitlán Island, considered the birthplace of Aztec civilization.
“Having a large family in a small town, most parents at that time would not usually encourage, nor support the arts,” said Carolina, “because it was believed that art was not going to put food on the table. Though now, I get 100% support from everyone in my family, whether I sell or not!”
Carolina’s favorite subject is “Mother Nature's ‘paintings,’ from a small flower to a vast landscape. She posed beside a black and white photograph that looked like an abstraction but actually was the curve of a magnolia petal, many times magnified.
“Every time I look at Mother Nature colors, patterns, shapes through my lens,” said Carolina, “that is when I find myself most at peace with it. And, whenever I exhibit my images, I always hope more than one viewer will feel the same.”
I love talking about Jorge's amazing talent,” said Carolina.
“He started ceramics while in elementary school,” Carolina said. “He had a friend whose father had a ceramic shop and he remembers hardly waiting to get out of school to go "play" with clay. He says he started making miniature sculptures, like an inch or two in size.”
“Now he has converted the garage into a studio, and owns about five different size kilns.”
“His favorite subject is reptiles,’ said Carolina, ‘but he loves animals in general. Especially those in danger of extinction. In fact, most of his sculptures portray either an extinct animal, like the White Rhino, or one in danger of it. His intention is to create conscientiousness about the beautiful creatures we share our planet with.”
Jorge pointed out the hovering spirit faces in one of his paintings on display at the Olive. “They represent our ancestors and power,” said Jorge. “The pyramid in the center is Mayan and it means strength.”