40 Years of Pasta & Family

On Nov. 1, Vito Restaurant will celebrate its 40th anniversary — and like every other person and thing in the world this year, it’ll be a pandemic birthday. But Giovanna Somma, co-owner of the Santa Monica restaurant with her husband, Roberto, has a lot to be grateful for.

“Of course, it’s nothing like it used to be,” Giovanna says. “But we are doing OK. Fortunately, we are lucky enough that we own the property and we created a patio. And we do a lot of to-go. We are fine, but it’s very weird.”

What used to be a fine dining establishment with low lighting and bar crowds has transformed into a 13-table casual, lit-up, heated patio area in the parking lot.

“I was very skeptical,” says Giovanna about taking the Vito dining experience outside. “I have a nice, elegant restaurant. And now I’m here.”

Giovanna is sitting at the edge of her patio. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Unstoppable Sushi

Success stories are hard to come by these days. But Wabi on Rose is one of them.

“We’re thriving on Rose,” proclaims co-owner Tricia Smalls triumphantly via cell phone.

It’s music to the ears. Especially after an unexpected fire in December 2018 forced the popular sushi restaurant Wabi on Abbot Kinney (or Wabi 1) to close.

“We were doing the best we could to open in that location,” shares Smalls, “but due to the size of the loss, we were forced to look into other locations. Venice is our home and we wanted to stay, but there wasn’t a lot available.”

Then the owners of Makani, located on Rose, approached Smalls to do a partnership. Wabi’s owners were familiar with that space — one of Wabi’s owners was one of the original designers of Makani — and they decided it was a good fit.

Just two weeks before the pandemic lockdown, Wabi signed the contract. And despite the unfortunate turn of events, Wabi decided to move forward and try to make the best takeout program possible in Venice.

On April 4, Wabi on Rose (or Wabi 2) launched their takeout program. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Best Place to Order Up the Custom Cake of Your Dreams: Angel Maid Bakery

My stepmother discovered Angel Maid Bakery years ago on the strip of Centinela between Venice and Culver Boulevards, in a part of town now called Del Rey. It’s been our go-to custom cake bakery since, and we all have our favorites.

My favorite is strawberry shortcake, with fresh cut strawberries and not-too-sweet whipped cream between layers of white chiffon cake. My stepmom’s fave, the chocolate banana, is also delicious: chocolate cake with sliced bananas and custard cream, completely covered with fresh whipped cream.

We’ve never tried anything else, but the possibilities are endless: Tres Leches, mango mousse, raspberry passion fruit mousse, Mont Blanc (chestnut cream, meringue whipped cream, almond dacquoise cake), tiramisu, mocha chiffon, carrot cake, German chocolate and the menu goes on. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Best Museum Without Walls: Tim Rudnick’s Venice Oceanarium

Have you ever seen grunion run at midnight at the edge of the ocean? Or looked at sand from all over the world through a microscope under the white tent at the end of the Venice Pier on a Sunday? Or walked by a circle of people in November reading “Moby Dick” out loud, one at a time through a microphone, surrounded by a huge actual whalebone at the breakwater on Venice Beach?

Each one of these sea-centric activities is hosted by the Venice Oceanarium, a museum without walls since 1995, founded by Tim Rudnick.

In the late ’80s, when Rudnick was in his mid-40s, he decided to go back to school.

“One of my daughters, Pesha, gave me a book for my birthday with the inscription, ‘To dad, who knows everything.’ That made me want to find out more,” shares Rudnick. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Childcare for the 21st Century

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Brella Founders Melanie Wolff and Darien Williams

Everything is available on-demand these days. So why should childcare be any different? That’s the concept behind Brella, a new childcare model launched in Playa Vista in November.

Say you and your friend are new mothers strolling with your babies down Runway. You’re both struggling with the huge, life-altering changes that come with this new stage of life. You’re desperate to connect and chat about your issues, and maybe leave with a few ideas and solutions. But your babies are crying. They need to be held, fed and changed. And all you want to do is stop, sit, breathe and hear your friend’s comforting voice.

That’s the beauty of Brella. Pop into the brightly colored open space at Runway (or better yet, check online on the app) to see if there’s room for two … toddlers. Leave your babies with qualified, credentialed care and score the quiet, uninterrupted time you need. …

Read the full article at Playa Vista Direct.

Star Chefs Honor the Legacy of Chef Joe Miller by Preparing a Meal Like No Other

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Chef Raphael Lunetta, Jill Davie, Kevin Meehan (left); The Mar Vista chef Gulianna Sarto (right) 

Notable chefs, farmers market vendors, family and friends gathered on Dec. 2 at Venice Boulevard destination restaurant The Mar Vista to remember Chef Joe Miller, best known as the founder of Joe’s Restaurant on Abbot Kinney Boulevard.

There had been other memorials before — Miller, who was only 60, died in late October from complications of cardiac arrest — but this was a celebration of his life … with food. The event centered around dinner, which longtime Joe’s Restaurant fan Gail Rogers said was the best food she’s ever eaten — “and the wine was flowing.”

Michelin-starred Joe’s Restaurant was open for 24 years before closing in 2016. My entire family loved Joe’s, and most of them attended the dinner. I, too, have fond memories of the nights we celebrated family occasions at Joe’s. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Vote16CulverCity Builds Support TO Lower the Voting Age in City Elections

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Sarah Hager (left), Piper Samuels
and Rebecca Rottenberg

An organized group of 16- and 17-year-olds wants the right to vote in local elections. That’s the push behind the national campaign Vote16USA, which aims to raise awareness for this issue around the country.

Wait — don’t teens get in more car accidents? Aren’t they apathetic? These are the kinds of questions that Vote16CulverCity organizers Piper Samuels, Rebecca Rottenberg and Sarah Hager hear all the time, and a lot of the effort that goes into their campaign is to refute negative stereotypes about teens.

The three Culver City High School students are at the Veterans Memorial Building on a Wednesday night in mid-August to ask the Culver City Democratic Club for an endorsement. They hope to build support for a proposed 2020 city ballot measure that would ask Culver City voters to lower the voting age to 16 for future city council elections.

And they’re making a very good case to this crowd of more than 60 club members, each of whom have chosen to commit at least two hours on a weeknight to staying engaged in local politics. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Sisters in Step

twins“You guys are the cutest things on planet Earth,” gushed “So You Think You Can Dance” judge Vanessa Hudgens. “My heart is melting for you guys.”

“You guys are adorable,” added judge Mary Murphy. “I wish I could be your sister.”

For 25-year-old twins Gratsiela (Gracie) and Desislava (Desi) Sandeva of Dobrich, Bulgaria, being on “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 15 was a dream come true — from the day they applied for the hit show online to the moment they stepped on the stage to audition in front of a live audience and TV cameras in New York City.

“Our life has changed for sure — for good, of course,” says Gracie. “I think we are the same Desi and Gracie from before, we are just more confident in ourselves. There was also a few times that little kids on the streets recognized us from the show.”

Although they didn’t make the cut, Gracie and Desi are not giving up their dreams just yet. …

Read the full article at Playa Vista Direct.

The Historic Landmark Next Door

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Photo Credit: Maria Martin

Where did the phrase “pulling out all the stops” come from?

From an 1879 pump organ like the one inside the Centinela Adobe, Historical Society of the Centinela Valley President Diane Sambrana will tell you on a tour of the house, located just west of the 405 Freeway between Florence Avenue and La Tijera Boulevard. “Each one of its knobs gives you a different sound,” she explains, “and when they’re all out, you have a grand finale.”

This and hundreds of other interesting historical facts about Westchester, Playa del Rey, Inglewood and beyond flow from Sambrana, who lives in Inglewood next to the house where she was born.

The Centinela Adobe, where you’ll see and hear about the many inhabitants of this three-room homestead and how they shaped local history, is open for free tours from 2 to 4 p.m. Sundays and by appointment. So are the adjacent Haskell Heritage Center and Freeman Land Office, where books, photographs and artifacts illustrate the story of the Centinela Valley. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Fall Arts Preview 2019: Dance

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Photo courtesy of Sankai Juku

SOMAFest @ Highways Performance Space
Sept. 1

Expect feelings to be flowing at this celebration of movement that focuses on internal experience over external appearance. It’s a two-hour showcase that doubles as emotional catharsis. Dance as therapy. Dance as savior. Dance as uplifter, with film, voice, live music and choreography more heartfelt than heavy on technique. All the emotional goodness of dance is in there.
1651 18th St., Santa Monica. $20-$25. (310) 453-1755; highwaysperformance.org

Invertigo Dance Theatre @ The Broad Stage
Sept. 13-14

Not many dance companies would tackle the life of math genius Alan Turing, who helped break Nazi coded messages during WWII. But Laura Karlin— Invertigo Dance Theatre’s artistic director — is bold and adventurous with choreography and content (think bobbing for apples but from another dancer’s mouth). Her company’s “Formulae & Fairy Tales” highlights more than beautiful bodies bounding across the stage — it makes a point: Turing was persecuted and, ultimately, died for being gay.
1310 11th St., Santa Monica. $49-$79. (310) 434-3200; thebroadstage.org

Read the full article at The Argonaut.