Happy Holidays

After living in Los Angeles for a few years, in December 1978, I decided to photograph a self-portrait series of myself dressed as Santa Claus to show how different Christmas looked in this metropolis on the Pacific Ocean where it never snows.
The photo essay would be published in the French photography magazine ZOOM.
Read below what I wrote in 1979 to explain the photographs.
I remember this today, Christmas 2022, when it’s 80 degrees and sunny in LA, and I am walking on the beach.
Happy Holidays everyone, wherever you are, wishing for Peace on Earth.


The Santa Claus figure is the symbol of Christmas In most parts of the world, but nowhere is it so pervasive as in the United States.
Here he is not only a character from a fairy tale, that children dream about and hope to see some day. Everyone has a chance, at Xmas time, to meet Santa Claus and get a picture taken with him. There is a plethora of these red costumed figures walking around. Businesses, stores and institutions rent costumes and beards and hire unemployed actors to impersonate the old fellow. They hope to show their goodwill, get the people into the Christmas spirit, and sell more merchandise. In the country where fairy tales come true Santa Claus is a physical presence, the guy next door.
As Xmas time approached last year, I, an Italian photographer living in Los Angeles (L.A.), was trying to figure a way to get into the Xmas spirit, so I decided to become Santa Claus. I went to a toy store, bought a Santa Claus costume, and put it on. With cameras and tripod I set out In the streets to take pictures of him (me) in L.A.
People from Europe and from the East Coast often complain that it doesn’t feel like Christmas in Los Angeles, because there is no snow, but actually I found out that there couldn’t be a more perfect setting for Santa Claus. The fairy tale character comes alive in a city that looks like a fairy tale dream come true. The gingerbread houses, the Disneyland-like parks, the art-deco buildings, the bright colors – Santa Claus is at home in L.A.

You may view the entire series in the Elisa Leonelli, Photojournalist Collection at this link

In 1982 I asked a friend to wear the Santa Claus outfit, so I could photograph more images in a similar vein, without having to use a tripod and self-timer, as I had done in 1978, when I was photographing myself. See that series at this link

Santa Claus. Toy castle, mini golf course. 1979

Novelties on Robertson

This week I took a couple of daytime walks on South Robertson Blvd between Cattaraugus and Cadillac, the borders our Reynier Village Neighborhood.

Eyes Peeled Coffee

Twice I stopped by Eyes Peeled Coffee, at 2839.  The first time I spoke to owner Gavy, and promised to list their place in the Restaurant page of our Reynier Village Blog, the second time it was right after Hamilton High students had come out of school at 3.30pm and a bunch of girls were mobbing the counter asking for Acai bowls. They were not available yet, but they will be starting Friday October 22, so I plan to go back a third time to sample this novelty, never before available in Reynier Village.

Fred’s Bakery

I noticed the pastel colored wrought iron tables and chair outside at Fred’s Bakery at 2831.

Undergrind Cafe

I walked into Undergrind Cafe, at 2713, all decorated for Halloween, and saw that they are now selling T-shirts and sweatshirts.

Carvd barbershop

I peeked into Carvd barbershop, at 2515, owner Martin was busy with a customer so I did not bother him. But I did spend time at Ivan Gallery at 27o1 chatting with my friend Barbara Mendes, who is always busy drawing and painting, now working on a second Queen of Cosmos Comix book, this time in full color.

Barbara Mendes-Ivan Gallery

More shops are getting close to opening for business, so why don’t you take a walk and check out our wonderful Great Street?
Read a list of Robertson Businesses, New on Robertson and more posts on this blog.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Eat on Washington

Pizza at the Coop

After receiving in the mail a $15 off discount if you spent $30, I visited again the Santa Monica Coop at 8770 Washington Blvd and National. I had featured this place when it first opened in a post about Food Markets. I found it to be as good as always, minus the great salad bar, that is no longer allowed after Covid-19. They have many hot food choices like pizza and soups, cold dishes like sushi and sandwiches, and lovely areas with tables, so you may eat lunch right there.

Bianca Bakery

Parking is free or one and a half hour, no validation needed, so I walked one block west to the Platform, I found open for indoor and outdoor dining the new restaurants featured in this blog, like Roberta and Margot. Loqi is small, so only takeout is available, but their fabulous large tacos are worth it. I walked across the street and bought a tasty ham and cheese croissant at Bianca Bakery. This Italian restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch from 9am to 3pm, and for dinner from 5 to 9pm.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

New on Robertson

Merit-LA, 2360 S Robertson

During one of my daily walks for exercise around the neighborhood, now that gyms and pools are closed, today I explored Robertson Blvd, South of Beverlywood Street. I noticed that the showroom of Merit-LA furniture at 2326 had greatly expanded, it was brightly lit by several doors and windows, it displayed a variety of beautiful items including a pool table

Across the street a showroom and workshop of motorcycles, motorized bicycles and accessories had just opened, Steel Buffalo Motors, at 2363.

A barbershop aptly called Carvd was setting up for business at 2515.

And Eloise Dog Grooming had moved from 2606 across the street, to 2517, nextdoor to Emil’s Hardware, and had a pretty lilac-colored planter in front.

Eloise Grooming, 2517 Robertson

You may check out the list of Robertson businesses on this page, and the eateries (in lower caps) under Restaurants.

Please support your neighborhood businesses in these difficult times.

P.S. On another walk on April 5, I stopped by Steel Buffalo Motor, took some photos of the awesome bikes inside, met the owner, Ben, welcomed him to the neighborhood.

Steel Buffalo Motors. 2363 S Robertson
Steel Buffalo Motors. 2363 S Robertson

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Culver City restaurants open


On this sunny Saturday afternoon, with the sky blue and clear after the rains, I took a walk in Downtown Culver City, after shopping at Trader Joe’s, to see which restaurants had reopened for outdoor dining, since they were finally allowed to do so on Friday January 29, after having been closed for over two months. And to my pleasant surprise I discovered that, besides the usual suspects, some new places had opened.

Citizen Public Market

The most intriguing is Citizen Public Market, inside the historic building that opened in 1929 as the Citizen Publishing Company. It is actually a fancy food court with four places already open: Goodboybob, Jolly Oyster, Pizzette, WeHo Sausage.


I walked into Gratitude, an art gallery on Main Street repurposed as a place to buy artisanal food and gifts.


I noticed that Piccalilli, also on the now pedestrian Main street, had the best outdoor set-up with flower planters.

Mendocino Farms

I ate a tasty Peruvian Steak sandwich at the newly opened Mendocino Farms at the Culver Steps

Cafe Vida. Culver City

As for the usual suspects, I found open today for lunch with happy diners enjoying their meals: Akasha, Cafe Vida, Grand Casino, Meet in Paris and several other restaurants.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Reynier Park

During one of my walks around the neighborhood to get out of the house, breathe some fresh hair and exercise, in these months of lockdown due to coronavirus, I spent some time to observe the activities at Reynier Park, the lovely grassy area that served so many community functions through the years.

I fondly remember when it was the site of park nights for RVNA (Reynier Village Neighborhood Association) from 2005 to 2016, where neighbors gathered with their families to enjoy food from local restaurants on South Robertson, such as Campos, Dolce Isola and Argentinian Empanadas, talk to each other and exchange ideas.

Today children were playing on the swings, thankfully that activity is allowed, while nobody was on the basketball court throwing hoops, since the basket nets had been locked. The picnic tables were empty, it was a bit chilly on this sunny winter afternoon, but two guys were getting a boxing lesson under one the wooden pergolas.

Join RVNA, support your Neighborhood Association.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli


Sunday lunch on Washington Blvd

In these sad and tragic times of COVID-19, when so many people around the world got sick or died or lost their jobs (which only in the US means they no longer have health care), we gave some comfort to our heavy heart today by going out to lunch and enjoying this beautiful, warm and sunny day.

My best friend and I ate at our favorite Italian restaurant in Culver City, Pasta Sisters, loved their comfort food, lasagne and spezzatino (beef stew) with polenta. We noticed that Father’s Office was also packed with customers, seated outdoors with additional tables added to the pedestrian block of Helms Bakery.
After lunch, we walked West to the Platform, where Roberta was lively with people eating pizza, and Bianca Bakery was equally full.

Then we walked back to the East toward La Cienega, and found three restaurants, closed today for Sunday lunch, but open for dinner, EK Valley, serving Mexican Oaxacan food, Industry Cafe and Jazz, offering East African specialties, and the Italian Brunello’s Trattoria.

Check our other post-Coronavirus restaurant posts
Culver City Restaurants outdoor dining
Restaurants open near Reynier Village
Restaurants open in Culver City
Open on Robertson

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Trial of the Chicago 7

Aaron Sorkin (c) Armando Gallo-HFPA 2017

Aaron Sorkin wrote and directed The Trial of the Chicago 7, with Sacha Baron Cohen playing Abbie Hoffman, Jeremy Strong as Jerry Rubin, Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seal. On Netflix September 16, watch trailer.
Sorkin did not know about this trial when Steven Spielberg proposed to him in 2006 to write the script, he was 8-years-old in 1969, so he asked his father about the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations at the Democratic Convention of August 1968.
I ask Sorkin what he hopes this film will teach his 19-year-old daughter. “My young daughter joined the Women’s March the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated, she has been out on the street these past few weeks marching with Black Lives Matter protesters, so she is teaching me about protest. Protest is a very honorable form of patriotism, it’s not anti-American, every important change in this country has always happened because of protest. My daughter and her friends are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong © Niko Tavernise-Netflix 2020

I ask Jeremy Strong about Jerry Rubin: “From Jerry’s books you get a sense of his anarchic, creative, defiant spirit. He was a merry prankster with a real volcanic outrage underneath, he used guerilla theater, humor and theatrical tactics. He cared greatly about people’s struggles for liberation all over the world, and, ultimately, he believed in what he called an interracial humanhood, which is such a wonderful noble concept.”

Coastal Elites

Sarah Paulson © HBO

Coastal Elites, written by Paul Rudnick and directed by Jay Roach, was originally conceived as a play for New York’s Public Theater. These 5 monologues were recorded during the pandemic and will air on HBO September 12. Bette Midler is a retired teacher and theater loving New Yorker, Dan Levy an actor auditioning for the role of a gay superhero named Fusion, Issa Rae a former schoolmate of Ivanka Trump, Sarah Paulson a meditation teacher, Kaitlyn Dever is a nurse caring for COVID patients.

Dan Levy (c) HFPA

Dan Levy, son of Eugene Levy, creator of the TV series Shitt’s Creek (2015-2020), says of gay superhero Fusion: “He spends his time combating racism, sexism, and homophobia. He’s the fusion of harnessing good in every possible way, and combating evil with the good that he carries.”

Kaitlyn Dever (c) HBO

Kaitlyn Dever, who starred with Beanie Feldstein in Booksmart (2019) directed by Olivia Wilde, says: “Now more than ever, we are realizing how important leadership is in a time like this. So I have been encouraging all of my peers and my followers on socials to go out and vote.”

Culver City Restaurants outdoor dining

Pasta Sisters patio (c) Elisa Leonelli

Los Angeles restaurants were allowed to open again for dine-in (May 29), after being closed for 10 weeks (since March 20) to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and, after implementing safety guidelines, many did, but, due to increases in coronavirus cases and deaths, on July 1 they were ordered closed again for 3 weeks, unless they can offer outdoor dining. We took a walk in Culver City today at lunch time and we were pleasantly surprised to see that quite few places were open, and dozens of diners enjoyed their meals under the shade of patios in the summer heat of this 4th of July weekend.

Pasta Sisters-Eggplant Parmesan (c) Elisa Leonelli

We were happy to see Carasau, the new Italian restaurant that opened a year ago, serve their signature pizzas and their menu of Sardinian specialties. We sat down at our favorite place, Pasta Sisters at Helms Bakery, and loved their eggplant parmesan (melanzane alla parmigiana).
Also open: Auld Fella, Cafe Ugo, Cafe Vida, City Tavern, La Dijonnaise, Grand Casino, Janga by Derrick’s, Public School, Rush Street, Sake House, Tender Greens, Tentenyu.

For more Culver City restaurants open for takeout and delivery, click on this earlier post

Jacarandas blooming

Seven years ago we had written in this blog: “Dozens of jacaranda trees have been blossoming in Reynier Village for the past few weeks, their violet purple flowers brightening the neighborhood and blanketing our streets…” Click here to read.
And it’s happening again in 2020, as it does every year in late Spring. In this time of crisis, when a worldwide pandemic is bringing so much death and misery to people, when the rightful protests over the police killing of George Floyd are used as an excuse for looting, this is a reminder that the Earth continues to flourish, despite humankind’s efforts to destroy it.

You may read in this Los Angeles Magazine article how jacarandas were introduced to Southern California by pioneer horticulturist Kate Sessions. Born in San Francisco, she moved to San Diego, after earning a degree in natural science from U.C. Berkeley in 1881, started cultivating imported and local plants, became a landscape designer and founded Balboa Park. The beautiful Jacaranda trees, originally from the Amazon in Brazil, were planted extensively in L.A. in 1920s and 1930, when Reynier Village was built. Read more details in this LAist article.

This flower is so symbolic of Los Angeles that local writer Eve Babitz named Jacaranda the protagonist of her book, Sex and Rage (1979). Babitz has been experiencing a reflowering of her own lately. Last year Lili Anolik published her biography, Hollywood’s Eve, and Eve published a new book, I Used to Be Charming, with essays she wrote for magazines between 1975 and 1997, and her 1980 book about Fiorucci.

For more info please read my article in Cultural Weekly, Eve Babitz and Me.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Restaurants open near Reynier Village

Here are some restaurants open for takeout and delivery near Reynier Village
The zip codes are Los Angeles 90034 and 90035

Asian Fusion, 1710 Roberston

Asian Fusion, EK Valley, Gloria, Hu’s Szechuan, Julie Goes Green, Kogi Taqueria, La Esquina, Madre, Natalee, Phorage, Simpang Asia, SuperPho, Tara’s Himalayan, Tiki Fish, Tuk Tuk Thai, Ugly Roll, Vegan Joint, Versailles

Click on restaurant’s name for menus and more info

We ordered recently from BiiBiip (Mediterranean), Campos (Mexican), La Esquina (Mexican), Nathalie (Thai), Pasta Sisters (Italian), Simpang Asia (Indonesian), SuperPho (Vietnamese), Versailles (Cuban)
We enjoyed all the other places, when they were open for dine-in. Madre is the new name of El Nopal. Some of our favorite restaurants unfortunately are temporarily closed, like Si Laa, where they serve the very best Thai food, way above all the rest.

Gloria’s Cafe, 10227 Venice

For eateries on Robertson Blvd, click on this link

For restaurants in Culver City, click on this link

Restaurants open in Culver City

Chicas Tacos. 9345 Culver Blvd

Here are some restaurant in Culver City open for take-out and delivery. Others have temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Akasha, AR Cucina, Bianca Bakery, Brunello Trattoria, Cafe Vida, Chicas Tacos, Cava, Father’s Office, Grand Casino, Kay and Daves, La Dijonnaise, Loqui, Pasta Sisters, Phovorite, Sage, Sake House, Tender Greens, Tentenyu, Ugo

Click on restaurant names for address and menu.

For updates and more restaurants, click on Downtown Culver City, Helms Bakery, The Platform

For nearby places in Los Angeles click on the Restaurants page

Pasta Sisters. 3208 Helms Ave

VIDA and Boyle Heights

When I first watched the TV series VIDA in 2018, I was excited to learn about the East LA neighborhood of Boyle Heights, and to see all kinds of sexual preferences and gender expressions represented, in what used to be a macho Latin culture. I wrote this article in Cultural Weekly, VIDA-Latinx TV, and I actually asked my family to spend my birthday exploring that neighborhood. See my article about TV programs streaming in 2020 for another series set in Boyle Heights, Gentefied on Netflix.

VIDA-Lyn, Emma (c) STARZ

I loved the second season of VIDA in 2019, and the third and last season airing Sunday April 26, 2020 on STARZ. As a journalist in the Hollywood Foreign Press, in 2019 I had the privilege of interviewing Melissa Barrera and Mishel Prada, the young actresses playing the sisters Lyn and Emma, and I met them again, virtually, a couple of weeks ago. I asked to interview Roberta Colindrez, who had impressed me as Nico in VIDA, and I was granted a one-on-one interview on video.  I wrote two articles, one for the Golden Globes website and another for Cultural Weekly. But there’s so much more to say. So here are excerpts from the questions I asked this year to Mishel and Melissa.

Melissa Barrera, Mishel Prada © HFPA

Elisa: What are your thoughts on the Catholic and Christian churches condemning homosexuality as a perversion, which is so damaging to young queer people?
Mishel: It’s really beautiful that we get to explore in VIDA this season what that really means. Because what we saw in the first season was that, even though these very traditional Mexican Catholic women didn’t fully accept the idea of homosexuality, when the mother passed away or when help was needed, they were still showing up with the rosaries and were there for each other.  And that’s really at the heart of the complexities that we see.  We could still be holding onto these ideals of Catholicism and Christianity, but we should be more encouraged to take what we want from it, which are themes of love and acceptance, and move away from hate and not acceptance.

Elisa: Emma has sex with men but develops emotional relationships with women, particularly with Nico, the bartender. Roberta Colindrez identifies herself as queer, how about you?
Mishel: Actually for me the least interesting part of Emma is who she has sex with, because she has so many other emotions going on, she is very open and she’s going to fall in love with whoever she wants to fall in love with.  And I feel that way as well, I don’t identify as anything in particular.  Wherever life takes me, I will fall in love with whoever the human being is. There’s something really beautiful about being open to falling in love with whoever you happen to fall in love with. I love that romantic idea of being open to what life gives you.

VIDA-Marcos (c) STARZ

Elisa: Can you talk about Marcos, who holds a double queerceañera party at the bar Vida, and his gender expression that sometimes is male, other times female?
Melissa: Series creator Tanya Saracho actually wrote that character based on the actor, Tonatiuh Elizarraraz. He is just like that, he is fluid in the spectrum and he goes from whatever he is feeling one day to whatever he is feeling the next. He can go from butch male, and you wouldn’t know if he is gay or not, then sometimes he wants to wear heels and makeup, and he does. There’s something really beautiful about someone that is so free to express themselves in however they are feeling. Marcos identifies as male in the show, because Lyn calls him a he, he does not use the they/them trans non-binary pronouns, which sometimes can be confused with someone who is so fluid. What I love about our show is that you see all kinds of people that are all over the sexual spectrum and the gender spectrum, and not everyone has a label, which is okay. You don’t have to know exactly where someone falls in the spectrum to fall in love with them and Marcos is the proof of that, because the audience loves him.

Elisa: How would you describe the friendships between Marcos and Lyn?
Melissa: The relationship between Marcos and Lyn is very cool, because they are like brother and sister, they become confidants. And during season two that’s very apparent, because he is always there for her in all of her troubles, but in season three, Lyn is on another trip, getting to know her father and keeping that a secret from Emma. And as much as Marcos wants to be there for her, they also start having a falling out, because they are not on the same page anymore and their priorities are not the same. And that’s the dynamic of friendships, that happens all the time, friends fight, they have fallings out and they disagree. So there’s a little bit of more color to their friendship, which I loved.

P.S. Read June 24 interview with VIDA creator Tanya Saracho.

Open on Robertson

In these times of fear because of Coronavirus, we are still allowed to walk in our neighborhood, whether we have a dog or not. I did that today and checked which eateries are open on Robertson for take out and delivery, not for dine-in. I walked into Argentinian Empanadas at 2513, spoke with Christian, had a taste of coffee ice-cream at Edoughble Sweet Shop at 2625.  Campos Tacos at 2639 was open as well, all the chairs turned over on top of the tables. Undergrind at 2713 is open every day from 8am to 2pm. Dolce Isola at 2869 is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 8.30am to 3pm. No tables set up outside, though. Fred’s Bakery at 2831 was closed, but only because it was Saturday. Every other day they open early, at 6am until 5pm, shorter hours on Sundays.
A lovely improvement, since I last time walked on Robertson a few days ago, is the walkaways painted orange, part of the Great Street project, after we have been enjoying the sidewalks extensions and the new street crossing with traffic light at Gibson
We hope you will all take a walk in our lovely Reynier Village, and support our local eateries.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Bianca Bakery

Today I tried a new restaurant in Culver City, Bianca Bakery, at 8850 Washington Blvd, next to the Platform shopping complex. I tasted their daily lunch special, polpette di vitello (veal meatballs) in marinara sauce, and I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious they were and how well they bonded with the freshly baked French baguette slices. The place is spacious and elegant, with outdoor seating, and a glass see-through area where the baked goods are prepared.
On the menu they have mostly Italian specialties, pastas such as Rigatoni alla Bolognese and Gnocchi Madeo, entrees like Caciucco, a fish stew from Tuscany. There’s a touch of French, Croque Madame, and Argentinian cuisine, Entraña a la parrilla (grilled skirt steal) with Chimichurri sauce.
I noticed a new pocket park nearby, with Italian style canvas chairs (sdrai) and a mural by Block Shop. It’s called Platform Park.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Obsidian, Massage on Robertson

Obsidian © Elisa Leonelli

Last night we were invited to an open house to introduce a new place to have a massage in Reynier Village, Obsidian at 2865 Robertson. We met the owner, Zvi Kraus, born in Israel, raised in Los Angeles, and his entire family, mother, father, sister, brother and wife. We tasted delicious food from local eateries, small empanadas from Argentinian Empanadas, rugalach from Fred’s Bakery, a white coconut cake from Dolce Isola, we chatted with neighbors. It was a truly inspiring community event. Today we went back to experience a therapeutic massage and it was great.  Zvi (the name means deer in Hebrew) used to work at Massage Garage in Culver City, he chose this location on South Robertson to open a place of his own. A Reiki Master and Pranic Healer, Zvi does not simply offer massages, but spiritual healing and emotional wellness. He says: “We are here for you to create greater space for the body, soul, mind and emotions.” Obsidian takes its name from the mystical crystal. You may book a range of services online at this link. Give it a try!

Culver City History Tour

Culver Hotel

Today I attended a tour called “Culver City at a Crossroads,” organized by the Los Angeles Conservancy. It gave me a chance to discover many things I did not know about the history of iconic buildings such as the Helms Bakery and the Culver Hotel.

Harry Culver’s Office, Culver Hotel

It was Harry Culver who founded Culver City in 1917, at the crossing of three tram lines, half way between Abbot Kinney’s Venice and Downtown LA. In 1924 he commissioned architects Curlett & Beelman to build the Hotel Hunt, now the Culver Hotel, in the Renaissance Revival style. It was owned by John Wayne from 1945 to 1967, then fell into disrepair, it was reopened by Lou Catlett and restored in the 1990s, in 1997 it was placed in the National Registry of Historic Places. In 2007 new owner Maya Mallick revived it as a boutique hotel and restaurant. I had photographed this building before, but today we had access to Harry Culver’s private office, ante-room and vault.

Helms Bakery. H.D. Buttercup

In 1930 Paul Helms commissioned architects Grant and Bruner to build the Helms Bakery in the Art Deco style, it opened in 1931 and operated until 1969. Their famous trucks delivered bread and baked goods throughout Los Angeles, they had a distinctive whistle to call customers. Their motto was “Daily at Your Door.” I had never walked inside the furniture mart H.D. Buttercup, where the history of Helms Bakery is told in words and pictures on a wall, an actual truck from 1948 is preserved there. For the first time I saw the original arched wooden ceiling with skylights.

Helms Bakery. Original ceiling

I had photographed the murals by Art Mortimer in the parking lot that reproduce old B&W photos from the 1930s and 40s, but today I saw one of the actual photos of the early 1930s trucks. A replica of the 1962 truck is parked on the now pedestrian Helms Bakery District.

Helms Bakery 1930s truck, mural by Art Mortimer

Learning more about the history of the bakery, that served bread at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, helped me understand the meaning of the mural titled “Helms Coach Gone A Rye,” painted in 2002, also by Art Mortimer. It depicts Culver City landmarks like the Culver Hotel and the Kirk Douglas Theater, oil wells and an airplane, as a backdrop to a Helms truck that has hit a fire hydrant. The back doors open to reveal the shelves of baked loafs inside.
Another historic building, the Beacon Laundry built in 1932 in the Zig-Zag Modern Art Deco style, now houses my favorite Italian restaurant, Pasta Sisters. That is where I had a wonderful breakfast of Neapolitan sfogliatelle and affogato, hazelnut ice cream drowned in espresso.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Read more articles about Culver City
Pasta Sisters at this link
Movie Studios at this link

And new article in LA Curbed about the history of Culver Studios

A Cannabis Cafe

Cannabis Cafe (c) Elisa Leonelli

Touted as the first restaurant in America where guests can openly smoke marijuana, A Cannabis Cafe opened October 1st at 1201 N La Brea Ave in West Hollywood. They serve farm to table food and offer a variety of cannabis products to eat, drink or smoke; both are sourced from Lowell Farms, grown with organic fertilizer and no pesticides.

Cannabis Cafe (c) Elisa Leonelli

I was there today, as a member of the press but also as a customer. I ordered their avocado toast for breakfast. It came topped with peas and radishes and tasted delicious. I did not sample any marijuana offerings, but I listened to the explanations of a flower host or budtender. She showed me how to operate a giant water pipe called a gravity bong.

Cannabis Cafe. Gravity bong (c) Elisa Leonelli

I was puzzled by the logo of a bull and found out that it refers to William “Bull” Lowell, founder of the company in 1909. My waitress told me it represents a Minotaur, the half bull/half man creature of Greek mythology.

Cannabis Cafe (c) Elisa Leonelli

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

P.S. For more info read these articles in LA Magazine, New York Times, LA Weekly.

Jaffa restaurant

Jaffa Palms

While walking on Venice Blvd today, I discovered a restaurant that just opened in a new luxury apartment building, the Goldwyn. They are not open for lunch on weekdays, so I could not sample it, but plan to go back.  They have a happy hour from 4 to 6pm every day, dinner from 5pm, brunch at 10am on weekends. At 10306 Venice Blvd, it’s a second location of Jaffa at 8048 3rd St. It’s named after an old neighborhood in Tel Aviv, it serves modern Israeli cuisine. Tel 424-298 8180.

roasted cauliflower

As for the Goldwyn, the 1 bedroom apartments with balconies rent for around $3000.

apartment at the Goldwyn

Museum of Weed

The Museum of Weed, at 720 N. Cahuenga Blvd (north of Melrose), is a temporary installation that opened August 3 and will close on September 29. It’s open Wednesday through Sunday. You may check the hours and buy tickets on their website. Admission is $35.

Museum of Weed

I visited it today and I was impressed. The location is a beautiful giant warehouse built of wood, high beam ceilings, luxurious bathrooms, with even a shower. There’s a gift shop, a coffee bar and a dining area. A large staff of two dozen young people offer live explanations in each of the rooms. The exhibits are curated with deep knowledge of the history and the issues around the cultivation of hemp through the centuries until today. I did not know that first US president George Washington grew hemp for industrial use at Mount Vernon, and that it was current president Donald Trump who in December 2018 made it legal again to grow hemp, after decades of prohibition. The funniest quote is from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: “It’s not a drug. It’s a leaf.”

Neon entrance

First you enter though multicolored neon “doors of perception”, then you start with a room called pre-history, in the second room wall-size posters highlight how the use on marihuana, particularly on the part of Mexicans, was demonized, as causing perversity. In the following room the infamous 1936 B&W movie Reefer Madness is playing, posters of other movies, such as The Devil’s Weed, 1949, line the walls.

Psychedelic swirls on the floor of a room accessed though the doors of a Volkswagen van signal the arrival of the 60s, with its hippie culture, feminism, the Civil Rights movement, anti-war demonstrations, the sexual revolution. “Cannabis turned into a symbol of freedom, love, and rebellion from the establishment.” In the next room I noticed a BW photo of Beat poet Allen Ginsberg holding up a sign saying “Pot is a reality kick.”

Counterculture room

I loved the poster for a Janis Joplin concert in San Francisco in 1967.

Janis Joplin poster

Then came the backlash under Richard Nixon, in 1970 marijuana was declared a controlled substance, like heroine and cocaine. And on the federal level it still is, despite having been legalized for recreational use in many states, like California.

The most heartwarming exhibit was the bedroom as a typical stoner, with a lava lamp and a poster of the 1978 movie Up in Smoke with Cheech and Chong.

Stoner’s bedroom

The most chilling exhibit was a hospital room for AIDS patients. It was during that epidemic in San Francisco in the mid 80s that marijuana was used to alleviate the nausea caused by drug AZT.  That is what started the movement of legalization for medical purposes. The first legal medical marijuana shop in San Francisco is lovingly recreated.

As we used to say in the 60s, “it was a trip,” and I recommend you take it.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Franco Columbu, addio

Franco Columbu lifiting weights in his home-gym. Los Angeles, 1978

Only this morning I read in the Los Angeles Times of the sudden death of Italian champion bodybuilder Franco Columbu, on August 30. He was 78.  While vacationing in his native Sardinia, he became ill swimming in the Mediterranean and drowned.

Columbu’s nickname was “The Sardinian Strongman.” The son of shepherds, he started as a boxer, moved into weightlifting, then bodybuilding, won the title of Mr. Olympia in 1976 and 1981.  He acted in TV and movies, wrote books, was friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. 

I remember meeting Franco in 1978, at his home in Westwood, where he ran a chiropractor studio with his wife Anita.  He had built a gym in his garage, where he trained.

Franco Columbu at his home in Westwood © Elisa Leonelli 1978

I was conducting a series of interviews and photo sessions with prominent Italians living in Los Angeles.  Here are a couple of quotes from my 1978 article.

About his childhood as the son of shepherds.

“Tending sheep as a child taught me a mental peace that would help me focus on the development of muscles, a tiring, monotonous, painful task.”

About moving to Los Angeles.

“In Europe, Germans hate Italians, Greeks cannot stand Turks, while Americans are happy to find out that you come from a foreign country and they always want to help you if they can.”

Goodbye, Franco…

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

For more photos, click on the series: Bodybuilding, Franco Columbu, in the Elisa Leonelli, Photojournalist collection at Claremont Colleges Digital Library.

Robertson Open House


Today Sunday June 2, we strolled to Robertson from our house, visited the many establishments that were open for the Art Walk, we said hello to friends and neighbors.

Barbara Mendes-Ivan Gallery

Michael, RVNA Co-President, Dan at the Relational Center, Avi at Fred’s Bakery. The amazing artist Barbara Mendes, at Ivan Gallery. The green flyer below was designed by her.

Chris-Letterpress Chocholate

And we met new people. At Letterpress Chocolate, Chris offered us a sample taste.

Trina-Hang Steady Frame Design

Inside a new shop, Hang Steady Frame Design, we spoke with Trina, who was hanging the artwork of the kids that attend her Dancing Crayon Workshop.

Ana and Julian-Mostly Angels

We received a gift of crystals from Julian and Ana at Mostly Angels.

It’s wonderful to live in such a friendly neighborhood, Reynier Village.

Click on this list of Robertson businesses

For places to eat, see them listed in lower caps on the Restaurants page

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Graciela Iturbide, photographer

Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas © Graciela Iturbide 1979

It was not until this morning, while reading a review in the LA Times, Her view of Mexican life, that I found out about an exhibit of photographs by Graciela Iturbide, at the Rose Gallery (D-4), Bergamot Station Arts Center in Santa Monica, 2525 Michigan Ave.

Muerte Novia, Chalma-Mexico © Graciela Iturbide 1990

I was intrigued by the work of this photographer, when I heard her speak at the Skylight Studios, in conjunction with the REFUGEE exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City. Please read my 2016 article in Cultural Weekly.

Heroes de la Patria, Puebla-Mexico © Graciela Iturbide 1993

So I made plans to take the Expo Line from Culver City to the 26th Street/Bergamot Station stop.  There is also ample parking, if you wish to drive. 

It was a treat to see so many BW prints by this amazing woman in a show titled Hay Tiempo (There is Time).  This is what her lifelong mentor, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, used to say to remind her to pause and observe. 

The exhibit closes this Saturday May 18, so don’t delay, if you wish to see it.

Mexico DF © Graciela Iturbide 1972

Text by Elisa Leonelli

Photoville LA

Pit bull Flower Power © Sophie Gamand

A free pop up photography festival featuring over 55 installation, Photoville LA, presented by Annenberg Space for Photography, is set up in the grass area behind 2020 Avenue of the Stars in Century City (from Saturday to Monday April 26 to 28, from Thursday May 2 to Sunday to May 5).
I went to check it out today, because I wanted to see more work by Lysney Addario, whom I had featured in my article about an exhibit about Women Photographers.

Blossom © Sophie Gamand

I also looked at many other exhibits and I was enchanted by the sweet faces of the pitt bulls with flowers garlands on their head.

To counter the bad reputation of pit bulls as ferocious dogs, In 2014 Sophie Gamand started to photograph adoptable pit bulls adorning their head with handmade flower crowns. Posted on social media and published in a book, Pit Bull Flower Power, these photographs helped hundreds of dogs find homes. One of the featured pit bulls is named Blossom, another Frida.

Frida © Sophie Gamand

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

New Restaurants Culver City

Margot bar © Elisa Leonelli

We were disappointed when we discovered that EnjoyEat, our favorite Italian restaurant in Culver City, had closed until further notice on January 1, 2019, after months of only having been open for dinner, not for lunch. When we contacted the owners, who still run their original restaurant, Eatalian in Gardena, they replied with the comforting news that they are working on a new concept and will hopefully reopen soon.

Palihotel © Elisa Leonelli

We always thought EnjoyEat was cursed with a bad location, in an alley next to the Arclight Cinemas, that is off the beaten path.  But then in mid January the newly remodeled Palihotel opened in an historical 1923 building, across the street, on that same Van Buren Place (as we posted on Nextdoor on January 10), so now more people will likely discover this location.

Simonette-Palihotel ©Elisa Leonelli

A French restaurant, Simonette, opened at the lobby level of the Palihotel, with outdoor seating in an inner courtyard, the tables surrounding a mature tree. Their brunch menu includes Moules Frites, a Belgian specialty of mussels and fries.

Roberta’s © Elisa Leonelli

Late last year Roberta’s Pizza had opened at Platform, the fancy shopping mall at 8850 Washington Blvd, across the street from the Expo Line Culver City station. We had eaten there and posted on Nextdoor (December 1, 2018). We had written a blog post on their 2017 Pop Up experiment, and a review of Platform in 2016.

Margot © Elisa Leonelli

Today we tried a new restaurant, Margot, that opened at Platform on December 19. It is described as a mix of Spanish and Italian cuisine, so we ordered a focaccia sandwich filled with the typically Italian cold-cut, mortadella, and a frisee salad that came mixed with spicy olives. Both dishes were tasty but too salty. We didn’t care for the loud music, but the large and bright restaurant was comfortable.

If you want to eat authentic Italian food, try Pasta Sisters, that opened their cosy restaurant at Helms Bakery last March. Read our blog post here.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Actors Gang performs Dario Fo

Actors Gang theater © Elisa Leonelli 2019

The 1970 play Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Italian playwright Dario Fo is being performed until March 9 by the Actors Gang, founded in 1981 by a group of actors, with Tim Robbins as artistic director. Since 2005 their theater is located in Culver City’s historical Ivy Substation, built in 1907 in the Mission Revival style to house electrical equipment for the Los Angeles Pacific Railway. It was left vacant in 1953 and restored in 1993.

Tim Robbins, who had directed and acted in the political satire Bob Roberts (1992), now says, “I made that film as a warning about politics becoming superficial entertainment, based on factors that have nothing to do with the truth, image over substance, and the power of the media to create an image for someone, even though their past is very clearly clouded with potential misdeeds. And I believe that is what happened with Mr. Trump, he was elevated into a candidate by this crazy fascination we have with reality TV and celebrity.”
“There is a direct line between Bob Roberts and Accidental Death of an Anarchist, which stands in defiance of fascism. At a time when authoritarian governments are being supported by our president, and the judiciary is being corrupted by politics, this play resonates as if it was written yesterday. What inspired me, when I first read Dario Fo, was his ability to produce incredibly funny situations and dialogue about important social subject matter. Dario’s wicked humor and courageous satire gave me great inspiration to create theater that was relevant, entertaining and dangerous in its uncompromising telling of truth to power.”

Dario Fo

We went to see this American version of the play and were impressed by its manic intensity. You may read a review in Cultural Weekly. However, if you understand Italian, we encourage you to watch this 1987 video of Morte accidentale di un anarchico, with the incredible Dario Fo in the title role.
It is preceded by an introduction about the real life events that inspired the play, when police immediately arrested a railway worker, Giuseppe Pinelli, accusing him of the bombing of a bank, which had been more likely carried out by a right wing group with ties to law-enforcement. While the innocent man was being interrogated at police headquarters in Milano, he jumped or was thrown out of a fourth story window to his death. Fo recalls that the authorities were quite upset about the staging of his play, that made a farce out of their criminal blunder, and they brought his theater troupe to court 40 times. So in order to avoid sentencing, the name Pinelli was never mentioned, it was replaced with Andrea Salsedo, an Italian anarchist who in 1920, two days before Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested, fell to his death from the a 20th story window of the Bureau of Investigations offices in New York City.
Dario Fo, who died in 2016 at the age of 90, was a comedian, a playwright and a political activist. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1997.

Text by Elisa Leonelli

Wisdome LA

After reading an article in the LA Times, we visited Wisdome in Downtown LA. 1147 Palmetto St.
We walked inside 5 darkened domes, white on the outside, we sat back on couches to watch SAMSKARA, a psychedelic 22-minute 360 degree video by digital artist Andrew “Android” Jones.

Fantasmagoric paintings and holograms by the same artist are displayed in the art gallery of two other domes. See some of the artwork on Jones website.
Another dome houses Virtual Reality experiences like Burning Man by Jones, Micro Desert and Blue Nebula, where you can paint your own swirls and butterflies onto fantastic backdrops.
You may watch an interview with Jones where he explains how he was influenced by the Art of Burning Man.

Wisdome LA is open Thursday to Sunday 11am to 11pm. $29 admission.
Be sure to click on red hot weblinks for video promos.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

P.S. Read a lenghty article, published in LAIST on February 14, 2019
Massive Domes Filled With Trippy 3D Visuals Take Over 35,000-Square-Feet In DTLA

Meditation Gardens

I had read about the Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens, located at 3500 West Adams, in the online magazine LAist over a year ago, but did not visit it until yesterday.
I planned to meditate about the end the year in this “spiritual oasis,” and I did, but what I wasn’t expecting was to connect with my Italian heritage. I discovered that the elegant Guasti Villa, that now houses the PAL&G, was built by a wealthy Italian immigrant in 1910.

Guasti Villa, 1910

Secondo Guasti, born in 1859 in Monbaruzzo, province of Asti, in the Northern Piedmont region, emigrated via Mexico to Los Angeles in 1883, arriving with one dollar in his pocket. He found work as a cook at the Italian hotel and restaurant Italia Unita, located in the Avila Adobe on Olvera Street. In 1887 the enterprising young man, then 28, asked the proprietors for the hand of their 15-year-old daughter Louisa Amillo, and their happy marriage lasted 40 years until his death. Secondo bought cheap land in the Cucamonga Valley near Ontario, an arid desert where the soil was good but the water scarce, and in 1900 founded with several partners the Italian Vineyard Company, the largest in the world at 5700 acres, producing 5 million gallons of wine a year by 1917. In 1912 he built a small town called Guasti for his 1,200 Italian and Mexican workers, with a school, a market, a bakery, a library, a firehouse, a doctor’s office, and in 1926 a Catholic church, San Secondo d’Asti, modeled after the one in his hometown, named after its patron saint.
Read Guasti’s story in this 2000 LA Times Times article “From Penniless Immigrant to Wine King”

Guasti Villa, pond

I had found out about the history of Italian immigrants in Los Angeles 3 years ago, while visiting the newly opened Italian-American Museum, IAMLA. You may read my article in Cultural Weekly at this link. Guasti is mentioned in the 2009 book Los Angeles’s Little Italy by Mariann Gatto, with vintage photos.

Guasti Villa, ballroom

As docent Ryan lead us through the Guasti Villa, we learnt that it was built in 4 years between 1910 and 1913, at the cost of $500,0000, in the Beaux-Arts style inspired by the Italian-Renaissance, with symmetrical architectural elements like arches and Greek columns. We admired the Carrara marble tile floor of the veranda, the grand ballroom lined with inlaid oak wood, the large oval ceiling fresco depicting the lady of the house Louisa among the clouds, with her surviving son Secondo Jr. (four more children who died appear as angels). An inscription reads in Latin “spez mea in deo=my trust is in God.” A curved staircase leads to the upper level, that we didn’t get to visit, arches open to the two parlors, one for men to smoke their cigars and drink their liqueurs after dinner, with a rose marble fireplace, and one for women, that was separated by a wall, and used to have ornate wallpaper, now preserved in a frame. On the opposite side we entered the dining room, also with an ornate mantelpiece, and tapestry lining the upper walls; one figure pictured is Bacchus the Roman God of wine.

Guasti Villa-women parlor

It’s in this room that some of us took advantage of the offer of a sound meditation to connect with our soul, which is held monthly on Tuesday evenings at this spiritual center now headquarters of the MSIA church (Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness) founded in 1968, and of the PTS (Peace Theological Seminary) founded in 1977 by John-Roger Hinkins, who had been raised Mormon in Utah. In 1988 he passed the “keys” to what he called “Mystical Traveler Consciousness” to current leader John Morton. In 1976 Hinkins also founded USM (University of Santa Monica), that offers a Masters Degree in Spiritual Psychology. He died in 2014.

Peace Labyrinth

We then were shown how to walk the labyrinth, a circular path on the ground, made of travertine marble, modeled after the one at the Chartres Cathedral in France, added in 2002. You have to set your intention for this walking meditation, ask for the LIGHT (Living in God Holy Thought). See more info at this link.

Peace Garden

Finally I descended among fountains to the 3 lower levels of gardens, filled with plants like ferns, huge birds of paradise, tall bamboo, citrus trees, I stopped to look at the red fish in the koi pond, I sat under a gazebo on a wooden bench to meditate.

The Guasti Villa is available for rent for movie and TV shoots; recently it served as a set for the television comedy Veep. Click here for 2017 article with many photos.

The mansion was used for lavish parties during the lifetime of their original owners; they ever published their family recipes in a cookbook. Click here for 1994 LA Times article.

Guasti Villa, staircase

After Secondo’s death in 1927, his widow continued to live there with her son, who died in 1933 at age 42, her daughter-in-law Gertrude remarried in 1935 and moved to New York. At Louisa’s death in 1937, the house was bought by Hollywood choreographer and director of movie musical Busby Berkley, who sold it in 1946. It was purchased by the Los Angeles Physicians Aid Association, who transformed it into a retirement home, adding two residential wings in the back. MSIA acquired the property in 1974 and spent more than 20 years to restore it to its original splendour. It was declared a Historical-Cultural Monument in 1990.

The Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens are open to the public Tuesdays-Fridays, some Saturdays and Sundays, from 12 noon to 4pm, attending a tour is required. Reservations must be made through Evite. Free, $10 donation suggested. Click on this link to register.

Text by Elisa Leonelli
Photos courtesy of PAL&G

Palisades Village

Palisades Village © Elisa Leonelli

The newly remodeled shopping mall Palisades Village had opened in September, and finally today I had a chance to visit it, when a friend invited me to lunch. We picked Edo Little Bites, because we were familiar with the Italian cooking of Edoardo, son of Giorgio Baldi. As luck would have it, one of the specials was lasagne, prepared in the traditional style of my hometown, with green spinach pasta, béchamel, pork ragout and parmesan, layered then baked in the oven. For more info about the cuisine from Modena, please click here to read my article in Cultural Weekly.

Palisades Village Xmas © Elisa Leonelli

We walked around the small cluster of shops and restaurants all decorated for Xmas, we enjoyed the Amazon Books store and the Vintage Grocers.

Bay Theater © Elisa Leonelli

Looking forward to trying the Bay Theater, built in in 1948 and closed in 1978, which reopened in November as the luxury Cinépolis, where you lounge in recliner seats and order food to eat before (hopefully not during) the movie, like at the iPic in Westwood.

LA news and midterm elections

As well as following the news in the New York Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, TIME magazine, etc, I subscribe to online newsletters to find out what is happening in Los Angeles every week.

Downtown Los Angeles (c) 1983

It’s great that LAist is finally back, after being shut down by its owner last November.  Curbed LA is geared to real-estate news, but has other info as well, Los Angeles Magazine sends a daily update about the best things to do in LA. The once reliable LA Weekly has unfortunately been bought by consortium of investors and most of their staff fired. My favorite news source is Cultural Weekly, since I’m a regular contributor. Click here for my articles.

Disney Hall (c) 2015

It was particularly useful to consult these local publications for guidance on how to vote in the November 6 elections. On October 24 the NPR radio station KCRW sent short videos explaining some of the propositions. I posted it on Nextdoor. On November 5 Curbed LA sent an updated 2018 Los Angeles voter guide, LAist emailed a Voter game plan.

MOCA (c) 1987

On November 7, by 6am, I read editorials such as President hits his limits in the Los Angeles Times, which has improved their coverage since the newspaper was purchased by Chinese doctor Patrick Soon-Shiong. I read in TIME magazine How Women Candidates Changed American Politics in 2018, and in the Daily Good First Muslim and Native American Women elected to Congress.

Union Station (c) 1986

As Stephen Colbert put it in his live election coverage: “The Democrats have taken control of half of one of the three branches of government. All the G.O.P. has is the other half of Congress, the Supreme Court and a president who does whatever he wants.”

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Getty Villa and Getty Museum

There has been renewed interest recently in the life of John Paul Getty. It was explored in the movie All the Money in the World, where director Ridley Scott decided to remove the performance of Kevin Spacey to replace him with Christopher Plummer. Then Donald Sutherland played him with gusto in the FX-TV series Trust. The actor said: “Getty didn’t use power in an aggressive way, he wasn’t a bully, he was very pragmatic, extraordinarily well organized and brilliant.”

Getty Villa, photo by Elisa Leonelli 1982

Despite the character flaws of this wealthy man, he created something wonderful that ensures his legacy as an art collector, the Getty Villa. Built in 1976 and modeled after the Roman Villa dei Papyri in Ercolano, Italy, this lovely museum houses antiquities of Roman and Greek art.

The Beauty of Palmyra AD 190-210

I visited the Villa many times through the years, always proudly showing it off to out-of-town visitors. I was there again a couple of weeks ago for a media appreciation event. What I found particularly poignant was the room devoted to sculptures, drawings and photos from the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria, because some of the temples were destroyed by ISIL in 2015.

Perfection in Black, by Edward Steichen © Condé Nast 1935

I remember how exciting it was when The Getty Trust built the Getty Center, that opened in 1997. I visit it regularly, when there’s a photo exhibit of interest. Click here to read my article about Robert Mapplethorpe. The current show, Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography, 1911-2011, is amazing. It includes not only photos by Richard Avedon, Edward Steichen and many others, but a few actual gowns by famous designers, such as Coco Chanel and Christian Dior.

The New Look of Dior © Richard Avedon 1947

We are very lucky to have such world-class museums in Los Angeles. Thank you J. Paul Getty!

Text by Elisa Leonelli

Neighborhood Bookstore

We learnt from residents posting on Nextdoor that a bookstore opened in our neighborhood, which is exciting news, so we went to check it out.
Sideshow Books, a store of used and rare books that for 11 years was located on Idaho Ave, near the Nuart movie theater, has recently moved to 1639 S La Cienega Blvd just north of Airdrome St.

Sideshow Books

Owner Tony Jacobs told me that their previous place was too small, they had so many books that they needed more space for their large inventory. This new location is spacious and brightly lit by two big skylights. Tony is concerned that many people throw books away now, and they are not being reprinted, so they will disappear. Used bookstores are an essential part of the chain of life for books and they are dying out now because of the price of real estate. His mission is to preserve and promote book culture, the goal directed at younger people is to make books cool again, he hopes customers will come into his store and discover books they didn’t expect to find.

Tony Jacobs, Sideshow Books

It’s not just old books that Tony wishes to preserve, but also the appreciation for classic old movies. He teamed up with film scholar Tom Newth to show a series of Hollywood’s sleepers, like All Through the Night (1942) with Humphrey Bogart, and Italian suspense films (gialli) like Mario Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963).
The movies are projected on the wall from a laptop in the funky back patio of the bookstore on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8.30pm. Call for program: 310-428-4631

If you love books, please support this local bookstore, and visit The Last Bookstore downtown, located at 433 S Spring St, in an amazing building from 1914 that used to be a bank.
Read Ray Bradbury’s 1953 classic novel Farenheit 451, about a future totalitarian society where books are outlawed and burnt. Francois Truffaut directed a film version in 1966, it was recently remade into a TV movie for HBO. Look up my article about Ray Bradbury in Cultural Weekly.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Garage conversion to ADU

When I received a notice in the mail about a LA City hearing (scheduled for July 5), I read it carefully, and wondered why residents within a 500 feet radius had to be notified, about a construction permit for a home in Reynier Village.  I asked Liz Carlin for advice.

2630 Bedford St

I knew that on September 26, 2016 Governor Brown signed ordinance AB 2299 and SB 1069 about ADUs, Accessory Dwelling Units, that took effect on January 1, 2017.  A ADU, also known as a “granny flat” or “backyard home”, is a permanent second unit with a full kitchen and bathroom, that can be used as a rental, on the same lot as the primary single family residence. In Los Angeles, 2,342 secondary units were permitted in 2017, up from 120 in 2016.
Read this article in the Los Angeles Times and this article in LA Curbed

Find out how to submit a site plan application for a ADU on this website of LA County Dept of Planning. Study the Interim memo at this link.
Click here for the May 22 update that will take effect later in 2018.
For information about your property, visit West LA’s DSC (Development Services Center) at 1828 Sawtelle Blvd. LA 90025. Tel: 310-231 2901

The ordinance stipulates that a ADU in rear or side yards cannot exceed 50% of the primary house square footage, to a maximum of 1200 SqFt. So our clever homeowner on Bedford St asks to have the main house, which is 875 feet, converted to a ADU, so they may build a structure twice the size behind it, 1,707 SqFt, in place of the current studio of 544 SqFt.  The garage would have to also be demolished and rebuilt bigger, because 2 off-street parking spaces are still a requirement for every home, however an ADU does not require additional parking, if it’s within half a mile of public transportation.
See more photos of 2630 Bedford St at this webpage

2600 Bedford St

Around the corner on Beverlywood St, in the backyard of 2600 Bedford St, a two story structure is being built to replace the old garage. No City hearing was needed for this construction. The contractor name is Arbib Construction: 800-222 4743.

More homeowners in Reynier Village are likely studying how to follow suit, to increase the value of their property, earn rental income.
RVNA (Reynier Village Neighborhood Association), SORONC (South Robertson Neighborhood Council) Land Use Committee, and District 10 Councilman Herb Wesson, will have to monitor the situation, so the increased density won’t affect the quality of life, and the already scarce parking in our lovely “Village.”

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Eat Vegetarian

On Mother’s Day we tried OOAK, the new Asian Vegetarian restaurant in Culver City. We had pumpkin soup and shaking beef (actually mushrooms). The Cantonese food and the service were excellent. I asked for the meaning of the word OOAK. It’s an Internet acronym for “One Of A Kind.”

OOAK, Culver City

This made me reflect on the advantages of a vegetarian diet, that has been popular in the West since the counterculture 60s. That means eliminating any meat (beef, lamb, pork, veal, chicken) or fish from your food intake, eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. When fish and seafood are allowed, that is a pescetarian diet; when eggs and dairy products are included, that is called ovo-lacto vegetarian. No animals are killed when eggs and milk are produced, however, fish are killed for us to eat them, and, as a friend of mine says: “I don’t eat anything that had eyes.” The Macrobiotic diet, inspired by Zen Buddhism, allows fish.

OOAK, Culver City

A vegetarian diet is sometimes chosen for ethical reasons, “do not kill living beings,” even though arguably plants are living as well; but it is also beneficial to your health, reducing animal fat, proven to cause cancer, high-blood pressure, and other diseases.
During the past few years a vegan diet has been promoted as even healthier; that means no animal products at all, no eggs, no cheese, no milk, no yogurt. But often, in order to simulate the taste of meat and cheese, soy products and other substitutes are used.
Even more extreme is a diet of raw food. In addition to no meat or animal products, there’s no cooking, as the heat removes some enzymes from vegetables.

MAKE OUT, Culver City

For me eating meals of fresh fruit, salads and steamed vegetables, cooked lentils and beans, feels healthy, but it’s not a religion. I believe in what novelist Barbara Kingsolver says in her 2007 non-fiction book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, that eating grass-fed beef and organic chicken is okay, and environmentally responsible. Reading that book was eye-opening, and it set me on a path of healthier eating. I love making blended vegan soups with a variety of cooked vegetables and spices. For more on this subject, you may read my article Souping for Health in Cultural Weekly.

MAKE OUT, Culver City.

See below some Westside restaurants that offer vegan, vegetarian or raw food.

SAGE, Culver City

Among the fast food chains, I like Veggie Grill, inexpensive and tasty. Recently I tried Daily Harvest, a vegan food delivery service of fruits smoothies, cooked vegetable soups and legumes.  I really liked it.

SAGE, Culver City

Of course, you are able to make vegetarian food choices at most restaurants; just eat salads, vegetable dishes and legumes. Indian, Thai, Chinese cuisines have delicious vegetarian specialties. My favorites are Szechuan eggplant and Baingan bharta (mashed eggplant).

SAGE, Culver City

OOAK. Asian Vegetarian Cuisine
9540 Washington Blvd, Culver City

SAGE. Plant Based Bistro
4130 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City

MAKE OUT. Raw food
9426 Washington Blvd, Culver City

VEGAN JOINT. Since 2006
10438 National Blvd, LA 90034

ANNAPURNA. South Indian vegetarian
10200 Venice Blvd, Culver City

INDIA SWEETS & SPICES. Indian vegetarian, since 1986
9409 Venice Blvd, Culver City

REAL FOOD DAILY. Organic plant-based
414 N La Cienega Blvd. LA 90048

GRACIAS MADRE. Mexican Vegan
8905 Melrose Ave. West Hollywood

Text and Photos by Elisa Leonelli

Terra opens at Eataly

Terra, the new rooftop restaurant at Eataly in Century City, opens Thursday March 29 at 5pm. They will only serve dinner at first, until 11 pm, later also lunch.
The word Terra in Italian means Earth, soil.

Terra terrace, iPhone photo by Elisa Leonelli

As you enter this 11,000 square feet indoor and outdoor space, the first thing you see is the huge wood burning grill. Nicola, the son of Eataly’s founder Oscar Farinetti, explains that the concept was to have a fire pit in the middle of a restaurant. Their specialties are grilled meats (beef, pork, lamb) and vegetables (artichokes, asparagus, beets, carrots, zucchini). There are also pasta dishes, of course, and fish.

Terra grill, photo by Elizabeth Daniels

The large terrace with cushioned seating has a wooden Botanica Bar serving gin drinks. A variety of gins are imported from Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Hawaii, Scotland, and other places. A tasty snack is arrosticini, a typical dish from the Italian region of Abruzzi, skewers of grilled beef, pork and mutton. An herb garden is also on the terrace, as well as a covered seating area for dining.

Terra Bar Botanico, photo by Elizabeth Daniels

Dulcis in fundo, a cart of ice cream is passed around at the end of the meal, only one flavor, fior di latte, with various toppings.
Appetizers, small plates, vegetables and salads are priced from $8 to $19. Pastas from $19 to $23. Main courses from $28 to $42.

grilled beef, iPhone photo by Elisa Leonelli

There is valet parking on Avenue of the Stars, just South of Santa Monica Blvd, and an elevator that zips you up to the 5th floor restaurant. Eating at Terra will definitely a pleasurable luxury experience for those who can afford it.

You may read in Cultural Weekly my articles about Eataly’s opening last November, and about a tortellini-making class at Eataly’s Cooking School this January.

Pasta Sisters in Culver City

Pasta Sisters finally opened on Sunday March 4, at Helms Bakery in Culver City, and it was worth the wait. It was an exciting experience to be there on their first day.

Pasta Sisters, Helms

My family and friends became fans of their storefront takeout place at Pico and Arlington, as soon as they opened, three years ago. We especially love their lasagne and eggplant parmesan.

Pasta Sisters patio

Now that they have a nearby restaurant with two outdoor patios, we will be able to enjoy their delicious food comfortably seated. The menu was expanded from their signature fresh pasta dishes, with the addition of several items, including beef stew and polenta (spezzatino con polenta Valsugana), a specialty of Padova, the Italian city in the Veneto region where the sisters are from.

Paola Da Re

Paola and her sisters Luisa and Patrizia learnt to cook from their mother Maria Giovanna. Paola is the chef, son Francesco, daughters Giorgia and Francesca help her run the family business. Paola credits the enthusiasm of their 40 employees and the optimism of her children for the successful opening of their new venture.


On my first day I tried panzerotti, an appetizer I never tasted before, fried dough with two different hot stuffings, spinach and ricotta cheese, Italian cooked ham and mozzarella. They were amazing. I look forward to going back many more times and trying all of their dishes.

Giorgia, Francesca

For more info on where to find authentic Italian food in Los Angeles, or prepare it yourself, you may read my articles in Cultural Weekly
Italian Bread, Modena style
Fresh pasta, Modena-style

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Pasta Sisters staff

Alien Zoo in Century City

I was invited to experience Alien Zoo, a Virtual Reality pop up in the Century City Mall. It opens to the public Wednesday February 7 and runs until Friday March 2, from 12 noon until 8.40pm, every 40 minutes. You put on feet and hands sensors, a backpack and goggles, and the adventure starts. You fly on a pod immersed in fantastical landscapes populated by magical creatures: megaraffes, frogcats, megabats, a skyray, a giant mantis, and a scary monster, the Sicari. It’s fun and exciting, the ride lasts 12 minutes and children over 10 are welcome.
I won’t tell you more so as not to spoil the surprise, just go experience it yourselves. It’s worth the $20 ticket price. Call 424-603 2980 to book.

Click on the website of Dreamscape Immersive for more info.
Click here for schedule.

While in Century City you may try, for free, another Virtual Reality experience, a walk through the streets of Havana, at the CUBA IS exhibit of the Annenberg Space for Photography, open until March 4. Read my article in Cultural Weekly: Photographs of Cuba.

Unplug in West Hollywood

Unplug Meditation WEHO opening

Last night I was invited to the opening reception for the new West Hollywood location of Unplug Meditation, at 8500 Melrose Ave, in the newly renovated building at the corner with La Cienega. Beautiful and trendy people were in attendance; it was a cosmopolitan group, I heard French and Australian spoken. Founder Suze Yalof Schwartz introduced the teachers of various types of meditation. I was intrigued by one class described as Brain Massage. Other classes are called with the suggestive names of Aha Moment, Deep Calm, Discover, Imagine, Morning Intention, Soul Travel, etc.

Founder Suze Yalof Schwartz

I have been a frequent visitor to Unplug’s Santa Monica location at 12401 Wilshire near Centinela, ever since they opened in 2014. My favorite class is Sound Bath, where vibrations provided by a crystal didgeridoo and other ancient instruments wash over the meditators and guide them to higher states of consciousness.
Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, meditation is a useful tool to tune out the distracting noise of our busy lives, and focus on our inner self.

Studio managers T.R. Shepard, Deborah Brock

See list of available classes and workshops at this link.
New students may try 2-weeks of unlimited classes for $35.

Unplug Meditation. West Hollywood.

I recommend you also try DEN Meditation, on LaBrea at 3rd St.
They offer 21 days of unlimited Classes and 3 Workshops for $50
For more info read my article QiGong at DEN Meditation.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Movie Studios-Culver City

After the news that Amazon Studios will be moving into Culver Studios at 9336 Washington Blvd, we looked into the history of this movie studio.

Culver Studios (c) Elisa Leonelli

It was built by silent movie producer-director Thomas Ince in 1918 on a lot acquired from Harry Culver, who founded Culver City in 1917. It was owned by director Cecil B. De Mille from 1925 to 1928, then by RKO-Pathé from 1933 to 1950. For several years it was leased by David O’ Selznick, producer of Gone with the Wind (1939). In 1950 it was purchased Howard Hughes, who continued to lease it. In 1956 it was bought by Lucille and Desi Arnaz for their Desilu Studios; they renamed it Culver Studios in 1970. It was acquired by Sony Pictures in 1991 and its 13 sound stages have housed the production of countless movies. See list and history at this link.

MGM Studios Colonnade (c) Elisa Leonelli

And here’s the history of the most legendary movie studio, MGM, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, that was not located in Hollywood but in Culver City, which in 1936 was dubbed “The Heart of Screenland.” It was built in 1915 as Triangle Studios by Thomas Ince, who moved its Inceville here from the Pacific Coast Highway at Sunset, then sold the lot to Samuel Goldwyn in 1918. Its original colonnade entrance along Washington Blvd in Greek-revival style is still standing. In 1924 it became MGM Studios, after the merger of three companies: Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Studios, Louis B. Mayer Productions. In 1981 it merged with United Artists into MGM-UA, it was sold to Lorimar in 1986. In 1989 Warner Bros, who had bought Lorimar, sold the lot to Columbia Pictures, that had been acquired by Sony, the Japanese tech giant. Sony Pictures spent $100 million to completely renovate the historic studio to its former glory, including the 1938 Thalberg building.

Culver Hotel (c) Elisa Leonelli

Harry Culver built the Culver Hotel in 1924 in Renaissance revival style, renovated in 2013, with 46 rooms and a lively restaurant.

The Helms Bakery was built as the official bakery of the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

No longer standing is another movie studio in Culver City, the Hal Roach Studios (1919-1963)

In the parking lot in front of Culver Studios, construction has started for a retail and restaurant complex called The Culver Steps. It is scheduled to open in 2019 like the giant 500,000 square feet Ivy Station in the parking lot of the Expo station that closed in February.

Sony Studios, Culver gate (c) Elisa Leonelli

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Chocolate on Robertson

At the September 27 SORONC Townhall meeting about the Robertson Great Streets plans, I was impressed by the heartfelt speech of a young man, David, who introduced his handcrafted chocolate to the neighbors. They are open to the public on Saturdays from 11am to 4pm, and offer free samples. So yesterday I went to visit their factory, Letterpress Chocolate, at 2835 Robertson, the same storefront where Sue Leedom used to sell her Mollie’s Cookies, next to Fred’s Bakery, recently remodeled by new owner by Avi Kadmon.

David Menkes with a tray of cacao beans

Letterpress is a technique of relief printing from plates. David used to be a graphic artist, and does all the designs for his artisan chocolate packaging. The logo is inspired by an old US airmail stamp. It means that he comes from the mountains, flies all over the world and brings back chocolate beans.
His wife and daughter work at the family business, where they manufacture small batch, bean to bar, chocolate in different flavors, single sourced from small farms in Belize, Tanzania, Trinidad, Ecuador, etc.

David Menkes with wife Corey and their daughter

This reminds me of the Lavazza coffee that I have been drinking since moving to the US in 1972, to make sure that every morning as I wake up I smell and taste the same flavor I am used to, having grown up in Italy. I buy Lavazza at Bay Cities, World Market and Vons. It comes in cans and in 12oz bags in several flavors, plus 2 single origin coffees: Santa Marta, Columbia and Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. A couple of years ago I received a Nespresso machine as a birthday gift, but I load refillable pods with Lavazza. To me this Italian coffee beats the taste of the Swiss brand by far.

Stop by to meet David on Saturdays, taste the various samples, ask him to introduce you to his wife and daughter, who are busy in the back making and packaging the award-winning chocolate they ship all over the world. And if you wish to buy some bars of your favorite flavor, they cost $10 to $12 each.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

For more blog posts on Robertson businesses click here

Food markets

The Santa Monica Coop, at 1525 Broadway since 1995, opened another location in Culver City. It’s called Coopportunity Market & Deli, it’s located at 8770 Washington Blvd and National.

Coop, Culver City

I went to check it out today and found a wide variety of choices, organic fruits and vegetables, grown without pesticides, grass-fed beef raised without antibiotics, cage free chicken wings, crusted wild salmon, hot pizza, poke bowls and much more. It has free underground parking and tables to sit and eat from their salad bar and cooked food selections.

Sprouts, Culver City

It is a welcome addition to the nearby Sprouts that opened last September at 8985 Venice Blvd and to Trader Joe’s at 9290 Culver Blvd.
The Coop is planning a Grand Opening celebration on September 9, don’t miss it.

Trader Joe’s, Culver City

I frequent many other food markets that offer salad bars, hot soups and prepared meals, such as Whole Foods at 11666 National Blvd and Barrington. Amazon already started lowering the prices today, after their recent acquisition.
Gelson’s in Century City, Bristol Farms at 3105 Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica, Erewhon at 7660 Beverly Blvd and Fairfax LA 90036, Lassens at 710 S LaBrea and Wilshire.

I do love cooking my favorite recipes at home, and I constantly experiment with new dishes, but I also enjoy the quick satisfaction of trying different tasty and healthy foods prepared by others, while shopping for groceries at these markets.

Coop, Culver City

Click on all the red links for more info, please write your comments.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Reynier Park regulations

Reynier Park. Wooden pergolas

Loud and drunken parties have occasionally taken place at Reynier Park for years, however, since Nextdoor has made it possible for neighbors to communicate directly with each other on the Internet, the posts about the weekend invasion of our park have been numbering in the hundreds. It is also true that the size and frequency of these large gatherings in our small park has increased, and some of these events have been professionally catered.
Last year SORONC took notice and revived their Park Committee, RVNA members and residents attended several meetings and expressed their concerns. In October 2016 I was present as RVNA Co-President, when 6 LA Park and Recreation representatives promised new signage would be posted, in English and Spanish, so existing regulations would be made clear to park users, and enforceable. No amplified sound, no smoking, no alcohol, no bouncy houses, no catered events, no open flames, no tents, etc.
9 months later these signs have not yet been posted, but SORONC and RVNA are still committed to finding solutions and are organizing a ice-cream party Sunday July 30 at 2pm. Residents are invited to come and share ideas about the park.  SORONC (South Robertson Neighborhood Council) posted yard signs about “reimagining” Reynier Park, with weblink to a survey.

Reynier Park. Picnic, July 16

Actually many of us residents feel Reynier Park is great the way it is, and it is enjoyed daily by dozens of children and adults, with no improvements necessary. It is the invasion of hundreds of people on weekends that should be regulated. We have proposed that only 2 parties be allowed per day, of no more than 30 people each, under the wooden pergolas that provide shade and seating. No need to set up tents that occupy park space. A Park Ranger should be on call to enforce these regulations, allowing LAPD to respond to real crimes such as burglaries, robberies and murders.
See our earlier post on this blog.

RVNA Park Night, July 12

On the bright side, there were no large parties this past weekend, only a baby shower set up under a white tent with seating for less than 30 people. And last Wednesday RVNA, our Reynier Village Neighborhood Association, held a summer park night, a tradition that started in 2005. More than 30 residents walked over to one of the lovely pergolas and talked to each other face to face. What a concept in this era of Social Media…

We love our Reynier Park.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli


Enjoy South Robertson

Ivan Gallery. Art by Barbara Mendes

Sunday June 4, I walked 3 blocks from my home to South Robertson to experience the SORO Fest, a joyous community event in its 20th year, when this usually busy street between Cadillac and Cattaraugus is closed to traffic and SORO residents enjoy walking to the many restaurants and shops in our neighborhood.

I greeted my friends, at the booths for RVNA, SORONC, Hami Garden, and said hello to Barbara Mendes, who was teaching kids how to do chalk drawing on the sidewalk in from of Ivan Gallery.

Fred’s Bakery-Avi Kadmon.

I spoke with Avi, who bought Fred’s Bakery two years ago and recently completed a thorough remodel. This neighborhood favorite was opened in 1949 by Fred and Harriet; when Fred passed away in 1992, his children (Bob, Steve and Cecilia) ran it for 12 year, then sold it in 2005 when Cecilia (Cissy Klein) moved to Las Vegas.

Wonders Kids World. Julia, Natalie

I looked into the window of Wonders Kids World. They were closed today, but a couple of weeks ago I had met with Natalie, from Paris, France and Julia, from Yucatan, Mexico. They are devoted to teaching pre-school children French and Spanish in a fun way, through music and games.

Barbara Mendes painting Angel Wall. July 2012

You don’t have to wait another year to enjoy South Robertson, now dubbed the Great Emerald Blvd. These businesses are open most days of the week. Go have breakfast at Undergrind Cafe, lunch at Dolce Isola, dessert at Monaco Gelato, take home tasty Argentinian Empanadas or a heavenly green chile burrito from Campos. Check out the many programs the Relational Center has to offer. Enjoy art at the Ivan Gallery, decorated with the colorful and intricate murals painted by Barbara Mendes through the years. Explore all the places that she included in the map below.

For a list of our favorites click on the Robertson page of the RVNA website.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Reynier Park

During the past couple of weeks, we noticed several workers in orange vests and hard hats working on our Reynier Park, so we went to check and talk to them. They removed the old sidewalk and poured cement to build a new one all around the park, along Olin, Reynier and Hargis. They completed the job Friday April 28. They were employed by a private company called John S. Meek, hired by the Los Angeles Department of Street Services.

We are grateful for such improvement, however many Reynier Village resident wish that the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks would require permits for large picnics on weekends, catered affairs that bring over 200 people to our neighborhood, and would limit the parties to 2, to take place under the lovely wooden pergolas, and the number of party-goers to 20 for each party.

Also the erection of tents and bouncy houses are not allowed by existing park regulations, which should be enforced. In October 2016 the SORONC Board approved a resolution asking for new signs, in English and Spanish, spelling out all the regulations. We’ve been waiting 6 months, so we hope these signs will be posted soon.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

New Restaurants-Culver City

Baco Shop 17awWe were curious about several new restaurants that opened recently in downtown Culver City, replacing others that closed, so we took a walk, looked at their menus and sampled some of their food. We favored inexpensive and unpretentious establishments, offering healthy choices.
For example the baby kale salad at BACO SHOP (424) 258 6301, 9552 Washington Blvd, the grain bowl with black lentils at CAVA (23) 230 5027 , 9343 Culver Blvd, the Angry Avocado roll at RAMEN ROLL (310) 426 8926, 9900 Culver Blvd.
Ramen Roll 17-2awWe also indulged with the Chicken Karaage at TENTENYU (424) 603 4803, 3849 Main St. It was yummi (and boneless), much better (if not comparable) than HONEY KETTLE’S FRIED CHICKEN, rated number one in Los Angeles by LAist, Thrillist and Los Angeles Magazine (if you don’t mind waiting 30 minutes or more).

For a list of our favorite restaurants in Culver City check the RVNA website.

Please go explore and comment with YOUR favorite choices. Thanks!

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Native Gardens

Yes, Southern California experienced lots of rain this winter and the long drought may be ending, but that does not mean you should keep that water-thirsty lawn in front of your house.

Gibson garden (c) Elisa Leonelli

In 2009, when we started this blog, we were amazed at how many Reynier Village residents had replaced their turf with drought tolerant grasses and native plants in their front yard and parkway.
Many more residents took that step during the past few years, since LADWP (Los Angeles Department of Water and Power) started their cash for grass program in 2009 and raised the rebate amount in 2014. So many people applied that those funds were quickly exhausted, and the Turf Removal Program waitlist was closed in November 2015.

Check SoCal Water $mart for available rebates on sprinkler nozzles, rain barrels, weather based Irrigation controllers, etc. or call 800-506 9073

Gibson garden (c) Elisa Leonelli

To get inspired about the kinds of landscape and plants you may choose to grow in your garden, take a look at the photos of the Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour
Saturday and Sunday April 1 & 2, 10am to 5pm.

Search the LADWP Interactive database: California Friendly Landscaping in Los Angeles

Or take a walk around Reynier Village and see what your neighbors have done.

Gibson parkway (c) Elisa Leonelli

We admired this front yard and parkway on Gibson, so we asked Lauren how she did it.
“The yard used to be all grass. A couple of years ago I applied for the turf removal rebate and was accepted. I spoke to a few landscape artists, but they were asking far more than I was willing to pay, so happily my gardener Ernesto agreed to remove the grass and replace it with California native/drought tolerant plants: Blue Finger, Fire Sticks, Aloe, Aeonium, Variegatum, etc. He did everything himself with his crew, I just gave him the specifications from LADWP’s rebate program (must be CA native, no rocks/gravel, sprinkler-drip system, etc). It really has come in quite nicely this Spring after the recent rains.”

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Freeway Garden

Blue Lupines

This warm sunny morning, only one week away from the beginning of spring, I took a walk from my house to meet up with my neighbor Steven, who wanted to show me the colorful flowers blooming in his freeway garden.  For years now he has been planting a variety of native flowers, such as orange California poppies and blue lupines, inside the fence of the Santa Monica freeway next to his house. In 2003 our local journalist Martha Groves saw him engaged in this labor of love and wrote an article about him for the Los Angeles Times: Splendor blooms on the inhospitable ground next to Santa Monica Freeway.

10 Freeway: Bottlebrush

More often than not in our neighborhood the embankment along the 10 Fwy is littered with beer bottles thrown over the fence or illegally dumped bulky items. Several times during the past few years the dedicated volunteers of the Reynier Village (RVNA) and Helms Neighborhood Associations (Helms NA) have organized community clean-ups of this fenced area that is maintained by Caltrans. Click here to read a post on this blog.

Morning Glory

Steven says: “I hope people realize that, like the L.A. River before it was rediscovered, the freeway borders can be much more than an unused byproduct of a transportation system.  It’s valuable land that most people ignore.”
Take a walk along Regent Street between Cattaraugus and National, bring the kids for  a botany lesson, enjoy the super bloom of our Southern California spring after the heavy rains.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Freeway Garden: Lavatera bi-color

Mansionization in Reynier Village

On March 1 the Los Angeles City Council approved new regulations, backed by Paul Koretz of Council District 5, to control the size of Mcmansions, large modern 2-story houses built on small lots, replacing quainter older homes in single-family neighborhoods.

8921 Hargis-2017 house, photo by Elisa Leonelli

8921 Hargis-2017 house, photo by Elisa Leonelli

The first of these mansions was recently built in Reynier Village at 8921 Hargis, in place of a small wooden home, that was sold on May 12, 2016 for $750,000.  The asking price of the new house is $1,750,000.  A tidy profit for this developer.
I actually like the architectural style of this modern structure, in comparison to the old 1,346 square feet house built in 1947.  However we have to be watchful so that massive houses towering over your homes are not built to change the character of our lovely village.

8921 Hargis-1947 home

8921 Hargis-1947 home

Here’s a message from local realtor Laura Anderson, president of the Faircrest Heights Neighborhood Association: “Our beloved neighborhood, with the charm of its architecture, is a hidden jewel, much like Reynier Village. Concerned residents rallied together to go to City Hall for the hearings on a regular basis. I encourage you to join forces and keep the integrity of your neighborhood.  I support change but we need to have guidelines in place.”
Check out the Facebook page of ‘No More Mcmansions in Los Angeles’ and sign the petition. Contact the SORONC Board and our District 10 Councilman Herb Wesson, so they may put pressure on City Hall to protect Reynier Village from mansionization.

To understand the changes in city regulations, you may read an article posted by Deni Mosser on Nextdoor.

Robertson-Great Street

Tommy's Express Car Wash

Tommy’s Express Car Wash

Many residents were disappointed two years ago when South Robertson Boulevard was NOT included among the 15 “Great Streets” chosen by Mayor Eric Garcetti for transformation.  Last November SORONC (South Robertson Neighborhood Council) leaders applied for a $13,000 matching grant, with letters of support from RVNA (Reynier Village Neighborhood Association) and other community organizations, and on February 3, 2017 the Mayor confirmed that South Robertson (from Cadillac to Kincardine) is one of 7 additional Los Angeles Great Streets 2016.

2512 Robertson

2512 Robertson

I took a walk up and down Robertson a few days ago to see what’s new.  I spoke with Ari Cohen, the new owner of Fred’s Bakery who took over the  business 2 years ago, I checked out Tommy’s Express Car Wash, and I looked at the gated parking lot of 2512-2516 Robertson, a building left vacant for 30 years by an absentee landlady.  We wish she and her son would sell it already and allow a restaurant to open there. It would be a great addition to the existing eateries: Dolce Isola, Argentinian Empanadas, Campos, Monaco Gelato, Undergrind Cafe.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

P.S. For other posts about our “Great Street” click on Robertson under Categories

Pizza Pop Up

Roberta's Pizza

Roberta’s Pizza (c) Elisa Leonelli

I was checking their website to see if Sweetgreen had opened at Platform in Culver City (it has), and saw a page about Roberta’s Pizza. I was born in Italy, so I’m always on the lookout for authentic Neapolitan pizza restaurants in LA, and the photos of these pizzas looked promising. So today I went for lunch with a friend, we ordered one pizza to share, the Bee Sting with spicy soppressata, and after the first bite we had to immediately order a second. To be fair, these pies are quite small. They had set up a shack under the Expo line bridge, with wooden tables in front, and placed their awesome clay pizza oven outdoors.  I asked how long they were going to be there and they said they are leaving in 10 days, February 12, drive the pizza oven back to the original Roberta’s in Brooklyn. I told them that the parking lot for the Expo across the street would close on February 14, for construction of a commercial and residential complex, and they said, “We’re leaving just in time, then.”

Sweetgreen (c) Elisa Leonelli

Sweetgreen (c) Elisa Leonelli

We also did check out Sweetgreen, where you can get healthy salads, warm bowls, and fruit juices, made from local organic ingredients.
Platform is at 8840 Washington Blvd, Culver City 90232. See post on this blog.

P.S. Roberta’s Pizza did end up opening a restaurant at Platform, with an extended menu and a full bar.  We had lunch there in December 2018.  It was crowded and noisy, but still good pizza.

Roberta’s Pizza at Platform 2018

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Romantic Bookstore

It was only a few days ago, while reading an article in Los Angeles Magazine about the 14 Best Mom and Pop bookstores in L.A., that I discovered The Ripped Bodice, A Romantic Bookstore, in downtown Culver City.  It opened March 4, 2016, after a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $90,000.  It’s the dream project of two sisters, Bea, 27, and Leah, 25, smart and accomplished young women. Leah graduated from USC in Visual and Performing Arts, Bea studied Fashion History at NYU, her master thesis was titled “Mending the Ripped Bodice.”

Bea, photo (c) Elisa Leonelli

Bea (c) Elisa Leonelli

I was so intrigued that I immediately contacted the sisters. Bea graciously received me and answered my questions. “Bodice Rippers” is a term used for erotic romance novels of the 1970s and 80s. Bea said they wanted to poke fun at that popular perception, and immediately communicate to their fans, “This store is for you.” “Sex is not something that we should be ashamed or embarrassed about, we all come from sex. It’s completely insane to me the way sex is discussed in this country, and all these issues that women are facing right now.  We’ve reverted into this dark age.”
Their store carries all sub-genres in the romance novels category, from paranormal to LGBTQ, and they host community events. “Thursday December 15, 8pm, is our monthly romantic comedy night, and this month we are collecting travel size toiletries to donate to women shelters in Los Angeles.”

The Ripped Bodice (c) Elisa Leonelli

The Ripped Bodice (c) Elisa Leonelli

The store is huge and bright, decorated like a comfortable home, with armchairs and couches for reading, books are piled up everywhere. Get over there, it’s well worth a visit.

The Ripped Bodice: 424-603 4776
3806 Main St. Culver City, CA 90232

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli


Bedford St (c) Elisa leonelli

Bedford St (c) Elisa Leonelli


Reynier Village celebrated Halloween with many neighborhood activities. Residents decorated their homes with pumpkins, skeletons and graves, kids went out trick or treating dressed in scary costumes.  The Relational Center on Robertson held a party for the community. RVNA (Reynier Village Neighborhood Association) organized a costume parade in Reynier Park on Sunday morning.

RVNA parade © Kimberly Villatoro

RVNA parade © Kimberly Villatoro

The history of this celebration is rooted in the Celtic tradition of Samhain, which marked the end of the harvest season. People dressed in costumes to disguise themselves from spirits, who they believed came back to life to kill their crops. They went door to door to ask for food to offer the ghouls in exchange for mercy.” (watch video in Time online)
October 31 is the night before All Saints Day, a Catholic holiday set by the Church for November 1 to discourage this pagan belief, thereby the name Halloween is short for All Hallows Eve.  All Souls Day is November 2, when Catholics visit the tombs of their dearly departed.  In Mexico and Latin America the Day of the Dead is a huge 3-day festival.

Text by Elisa Leonelli

Sprouts is here!


I have been shopping at Sprouts for years, ever since they opened their first Los Angeles area store on Sepulveda at Jefferson in 2010. I was glad when they took over a location on Westwood Blvd, since that is closer to my regular routes. Recently I tried their new LaBrea store at Willoughby.  So I was very excited today to finally shop at their latest store on Venice Blvd, so close to my neighborhood.  It’s a place where I already go often, to shop at Trader Joe’s, or the sadly departed Office Max, to watch movies at the new Arclight Cinemas, to eat at my favorite restaurants in downtown Culver City, like EnjoyEat.


I did my regular shopping, I love their Strouds brand of gelato, their heirloom tomatoes, their nuts, lentils and beans in bulk, their salad bar, their home-made sausages. But this was a special day.  The atmosphere was festive, with frequent buzzing sounds, just like at the slot machines in Las Vegas, when every 15th customer won a booklet of coupons.  They were giving away green recyclable bags and passing out sushi tastings.  You can also see the discounts on their website.

Sprouts. 8985 Venice Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90034 (424) 361-6611

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Gelato on Robertson

Luca Monaco 1w

Monaco- Fabbrica di Gelato finally opened on Friday September 2 at 2633 Robertson Blvd. 203-979 6346.  Their hours are Thursday to Sunday from 12 noon to 8pm.
Residents of Reynier Village and Castle Heights already love walking over there to taste this delicious ice-cream freshly made Italian style, in flavors like Cappuccino, Hazelnut, Tiramisu, Gianduia, etc.
Many neighbors contributed to the Kickstarter campaign that by May 2 had reached the $10,000 goal in only 2 weeks. The work to refurbish the old store was completed 4 months later.
This is a labor of love from a passionate young man, Luca Monaco. He was raised in Montreal by his French mother and Italian father, and now lives in Santa Monica.

Welcome Luca. Benvenuto.

Text and photo by Elisa Leonelli
P.S. Winter Hours: Thursday to Sunday from 1pm to 5pm

Dolce Isola is Capri

Dolce Isola 4sWe enjoy having Dolce Isola on Robertson, the bakery of the Ivy restaurant; they serve breakfast, sandwiches, salads and ice-cream.  The downstairs space is way too small, but they do have a few more quiet tables upstairs. Ever since they opened in 2007 we sometimes order their pricey food for the summer park nights organized by our Reynier Village Neighborhood Association, where neighbors get together to eat, chat and have fun.  This week I wanted to get cookies from Dolce Isola for the last park night of 2016, since we had bought them from Fred’s Bakery on Robertson and Grand Casino in Culver City for the other park nights.  But I was unhappy that they only had one choice: chocolate chip cookies, so I bought Tiramisu instead.  I adore this delicious Italian custard, that literally means “pick me up” and I make it myself with soft mascarpone cheese.  The Dolce Isola version was so fabulous that many people attending the social evening asked for seconds.  Only after I got home I noticed the green design on the paper bag.  The Isola=island that is so sweet=dolce, is Capri, off the coast of Naples.  The descriptions read in Italian: the island of Love, the island of Sun, Arrivederci a Capri=let’s meet again in Capri.

Isola-Capri 1sDolce Isola 3s

So if you can’t travel to the real place in Italy, you should go to our local Dolce Isola at 2869 Robertson and have a leisurely good time, Italian style.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Culver City summer

Kirk Douglas Theatre (c) Elisa Leonelli

Kirk Douglas Theatre (c) Elisa Leonelli

Yesterday I checked out the Summertini event in Culver City. I discovered that the name means small tastings of martinis, vodka mixed with different fruit juices.  They were served in tiny (tini) plastic cups, not only at restaurants, but also at art galleries (The Whole 9) and a gift shop (Lundeen).  My favorite place turned out to be Grilliant, because they offered me a full size Winetini in a real glass.  The best location was the Kirk Douglas Theater lobby, where tea, not alcohol, was available and a platter of assorted cheeses and fruit.  I had seen an amusing play there in April, Women Laughing Alone with Salad, and I loved the atmosphere.  They had a backdrop set up where photographs of audience members were taken holding fake salad bowls in front of virtual scenery. Very cool. Take a look at their fall/winter season.
The Third Wednesday event for August 17 is called Tropical Staycation.  It’s the 5th annual Spiked Tropical Punch Tasting, so check it out.
Free summer concerts have been taking place for years in the courtyard at City Hall. Tonight July 21 it’s Latin Salsa dancing rhythms.  See program for the upcoming Thursdays: July 28, August 4 and 11.  Our favorite way to enjoy these evenings is to sit at Hikari across the street and listen to the music, while eating sushi and drinking sake.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Culver City Hall (c) Elisa Leonelli

Culver City Hall (c) Elisa Leonelli

Platform on Washington



Last week, after picking up the delicious Gazpacho soup from Smart Simple Gourmet at 3731 Robertson, I took a walk on Washington Blvd going East. This used to be a long stretch of road with no shops, mostly occupied by car dealerships, but recently a fancy shopping mall called Platform has been constructed and opened in March. A desirable location, especially now that the Expo Line has been extended to Santa Monica. The Culver City station is right across the street.



Some of the shops have yet to open, but there are quite enough interesting places to warrant a visit. So I went back the following day to explore and take some pictures. I watched families with small children play in the numerous sitting areas bordered by drought tolerant landscaping, I saw customers with their laptops lounge on various terraces, I noticed an event organized by the LA Film Festival at the photo studio Lightbox, I walked into SoulCycle and thought I might like to try this type of exercise, I chatted with the salespeople at Aesop, skin care products, and they offered me a cup of tea.



I had a tasty lunch at Loqui, Mexican tacos and quesadillas wrapped in their home-made flour tortillas.

Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue Bottle Coffee

I asked the girls at Blue Bottle Coffee if they could make me a cappuccino Italian style, all milk foam with espresso poured on top, and they did. I was pleased.

Juices Served Here

Juices Served Here

So I went back again the following day with a friend, we had dinner and drinks at Cannibal, ice cream at Van Leeuwen. We walked into some of the shops. At IDV (Ilan Dei Venice), we learnt that all the outdoor furniture at Platform is made by them.

Mural by Jen Stark

Mural by Jen Stark

The Platform is in walking or bicycling distance from Reynier Village, but they also have a parking structure on Landmark Street, first 2 hours free. It’s in the building with the rainbow murals by artist Jen Stark, that also houses São Açaí, smoothies and bowls, and Cannibal, butcher shop and restaurant.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Tommy’s Express Car Wash now open


Yes, I was a bit hesitant to take the plunge, so to speak, since I had mixed feelings about this new establishment. You may recall that the old car wash closed quite some time ago and this one has been “under construction” for what seems like a very long time… and has been a source of friction to the neighborhood due to the amount of work and associated noise coming out of that corner of our neighborhood. During this car wash hiatus, I was really appreciating just how quiet my street (W 25th) could be. That is, when there is no car wash AND no school in session, but that’s another story.

In any case, I was pleasantly surprised about the whole experience. The noise, that I thought would thunder-through the neighborhood upon the opening of the new car wash,  was really a non-issue as the whole thing is self-enclosed except for the vacuums. But, I do live in the middle of the block, away from most of the noise. I am interested to hear how the neighbors, living right  next to it, feel about the whole thing.

This is a self-service car wash as opposed to the previous incarnation which was a hand wash type of business. So those jobs all just disappeared, sorry to say. But it does keep the cost of operating down and translates into a $7 basic car wash and free vacuuming, not a bad deal at all. In fact, I challenge anyone to find a better deal anywhere close by.

As far as the actual experience, it is a bit tricky to get your left front tire into the small track when pulling in. There is a mirror directly in front and above you to help with that. The other thing is that you need to have the car in neutral for it to engage properly. But after that “wonky” entrance, the rest was a breeze. Speaking of breezes, my only issue so far is the lackluster dryer. It leaves quite a bit of water on your car. I brought that up to the friendly attendant and she said “not to worry” they use spot-free additives to the soft water. The car should dry spotless, so she says.

Now, I am hoping that this does not cause any traffic issues during their busy time and all has been smooth, as far as I am concerned, these last 2 days. Hoping for the best.

Oh, and they are open until 8 pm every day.


– By Joseph Martinez

New Palms Station Expo Line beach extension now open




My wife and I recently got a chance to see what all the fuss was about. It turns out, it’s pretty darned momentous! For all of you that haven’t turned on the news lately, commuter light rail is now extended across metropolitan Los Angeles to the Pacific on Friday for the first time since the 1950s.

So the grand opening of the widely anticipated Palms  Light Rail Station has come and gone and it was a time for celebration with the official ribbon cutting ceremonies. Mayor Garcetti and other city officials were on hand for the event held on National Blvd. between Palms Blvd. and Clarington Ave. from 10- 4 on Saturday. Of course there was music, food trucks, pony rides, face painting, wall climbing…pretty much “The Works.” Free rides for all on the Expo line were offered for free from 10-4.

The opening of the 6.6-mile final leg of the Expo Line now connects seaside Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles and Metro lines stretching as far inland as suburban Azusa, some 40 miles from the coast.

As you can imagine, this milestone fulfills a decades-long dream of public officials and Angelenos. Its true test, however, will be whether it can help our quality of life by removing cars from the road.

Metro Expo Line Phase 2 extension stretches the line from its previous terminus near Venice and Robertson boulevards in Culver City to a station at Colorado Boulevard and Fourth Street in downtown Santa Monica. The extension includes seven new stations, with stops in Palms, West Los Angeles and the area just north of Santa Monica College.

With the extension, which was officially open to the public around noon on Friday (5/20), the Expo Line will stretch from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles, ending at the Seventh Street/Metro Center Station at Seventh and Flower Streets. Riders at that station can connect with the Blue, Red and Purple lines to Long Beach, Union Station, North Hollywood or the mid-Wilshire area.

Officials said the ride from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles is expected to take 46-48 minutes and they expect the line to be one of the Metro system’s most popular, far exceeding the anticipated passenger count of 30,000 riders a day.

The extension will also help introduce a new feature for Metro — paid parking. Three stations on the Expo Line Phase 2 extension will have parking lots costing $2 a day as part of a two-year pilot program.

Transit riders with monthly parking permits will have access to select spaces on a first-come, first-served basis from 4 to 9 a.m. on weekdays. After 9 a.m., the permit spaces will be available to the general public. People without permits will pay the $2 daily parking rate, with parking attendants on hand to collect money and ensure motorists have Transit Access Pass cards to use the rail line. When an attendant is not on duty, payments must be made by phone or with a smart phone app that was made available Friday, according to Metro.

Metro officials said payment kiosks will be installed at the lots later this year, and technology is also being installed that will allow riders to check parking availability online.

The new tracks to the sea are the first of their kind since the Pacific Electric Red Cars stopped going there in 1953. Construction of Phase 2, from Culver City to downtown Santa Monica began in 2011. The project cost $1.5-billion and completes a project that has been under construction for a decade and has been in planning since 2003, when the Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority was given the authority to plan, design, and construct the line.

Funding was provided by Measure R, the half-cent tax measure approved by voters in 2008. Construction began in early 2006 and most stations opened to the public on April 28, 2012. The Culver City and Farmdale stations opened on June 20, 2012.

Oh and by the way, if this new rail line wasn’t enough, the new Expo Line bike way parallels the route of the light rail line and includes a mixture of bike lanes on Exposition Boulevard and off-street paths alongside the rail tracks.

We paid for it, now…how ’bout we use it!

For more information visit Metro’s website


By Joseph Martinez

Expo to Santa Monica

Expo train to Santa Monica

Expo train leaves Culver City to Santa Monica

We have been waiting anxiously for four years, since the Expo Line from Robertson and Venice to Downtown LA opened in June 2012, and now the opening day (announced February 29) of the Expo Metro line to Santa Monica is finally here:  Friday May 20.  The celebration and free rides continue on Saturday May 21.
We have been watching test trains pass by for months, with the crossing bars going down and the lights flashing, on Bagley and National. But soon we will actually be ON the train on our way to the beach.  We can’t wait.

Culver City Expo Station

Culver City Expo Station

So today I went to explore the Culver City station, took some photos, spoke with a guard.  I noticed that the bridge over Venice Blvd is divided in the middle, with the train tracks running in opposite directions separately.  I saw, then asked to confirm, that trains already travel all the way from here to Santa Monica and back, except they carry no passengers. The signage still indicates only the Eastbound direction to downtown LA, but will soon read: Westbound to Santa Monica.

Train from downtown LA continues empty to Santa Monica

Train from downtown LA continues empty to Santa Monica

When you do ride the train, for free, on May 20 and 21, and stop at some of the 7 new Expo stations: Palms, Westwood/Rancho Park, Sepulveda, Bundy, 26th St/Bergamot, 17th St/S Monica College, to Downtown Santa Monica, at 4th and Colorado, please email photos and comments to reyniervillage@earthlink.net and we’ll post then here.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli



1920s Jazz club

Cotton Club, Culver City

Cotton Club, Culver City – Los Angeles Library Photo

While reading the online newspaper LAist, we learned about the Cotton Club by Frank Sebastian, that opened in 1926 in Culver City, during the Prohibition era (1919 to 1933), and operated until 1938.  Located at 6500 Washington, it offered valet parking, three dance floors, full orchestras, dinner and breakfast, plus secret gambling rooms.  Modeled after the jazz club by the same name in Harlem, New York, it catered to white customers only and featured bands of black musicians. Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Cab Calloway, and Louis Armstrong played there often.
Culver City was a neighborhood popular with movie stars, because it housed M-G-M, the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, from 1924 to 1986, and the Thomas Ince Studios, built in 1918, that became the Cecil De Mille studios in 1925, RKO-Pathé Studios in 1928, and Selznick Pictures in 1935. Renamed Culver Studios in 1970, it’s located at 9336 Washington Blvd. The MGM studios at 10202 Washington Blvd were bought by Sony Pictures in 1990, and beautifully restored.

Cotton Club by Francis Coppola

Cotton Club by Francis Coppola

Cotton Club, the 1984 movie by Francis Coppola, starring Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Gregory Hines and Lonette McKee, is set in the New York City’s Cotton Club. Duke Ellington’s was the orchestra in residency there from 1927 to 1930, then Cub Calloway’s band played from 1931 to 1934.  The jazz club and speakeasy operated in Harlem from 1923 to 1936, then it was moved downtown to Broadway and 48th St (from 1936 to 1940), after the Harlem Race Riot of 1935, because that neighborhood no longer felt safe for whites.

Cotton Club, New York

Cotton Club, New York

Why the name cotton?  Because the club decor was designed to evoke a plantation environment.  In Culver City silent movie star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle built his Plantation Cafe, at 11700 Washington Blvd, in 1928.

Text by Elisa Leonelli

Smart Food


After my first juice cleanse in June 2014, I started incorporating cold pressed vegetable juices into my daily diet, which I found an easy way to add nutrients. There are SO many places selling these juices all over town now, that I must not be the only one devoted to this kind of healthy eating.
The closest to Reynier Village is a small window at 3731 Robertson, south of Venice, across from FEDEX. Juices Served Here had their production facility there and I would stop by often. Then one day, a couple of months ago, I had to do a double-take, because the juice menu had changed. A new company had moved into this location, Renew Juicery.  Shortly after that, I received an email from Linda, the chef-owner of Smart Simple Gourmet, that they started selling their healthy menu items out of this same window.  I had discovered the delicious food cooked by Linda at the Culver City Farmers Market on Tuesdays, where she had stand for years, but for the past couple of years she only sells at the Mar Vista Farmers Market on Sundays.  So now I can get juices and gourmet meals from the same place nearby.  Very convenient. Check it out!


Text by Elisa Leonelli

Beware of ‘Porch Pirates’


It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…for thieves and for nefarious activity that is.

This is a busy time of year for UPS, FedEx, and USPS. But beware, porch pirates are watching those deliveries. It is up to all of us to be especially watchful if there is suspicious activity in the
neighborhood. People driving-by slowly or perhaps cars following delivery trucks are just some of the things to watch for.

Videos on the evening news of incidents across the country show suspects brazenly making off with  other people’s packages.

At the end of October it was reported that the LAPD busted a sophisticated package-theft ring that preyed on homeowners in the San Fernando Valley. But as we all know, ANYTHING, can happen anywhere. Authorities said the thieves used a delivery service’s smartphone app to follow trucks delivering packages. The thieves would wait for the packages to be delivered and then scoop them up moments later. Thieves were so brazen that according to KCAL 9, the LAPD came up with a name for them: “porch pirates.”

Police offer the following tips to protect residents from Porch Pirates:

Have packages delivered to locations where a person is home
Have packages delivered to the vendor’s local store for pick up
Have packages held by the delivery company for personal pick up
Ask for notification when package is delivered so you can have a trusted neighbor pick up for you
Add delivery instructions like, requiring a signature upon delivery
Get to know your delivery people, if you can, and ask them to place packages behind fences or in patios, anywhere less obvious than by front doors

Police warn that most porch pirating occurs during the day when residents are away, and the thieves are often involved in identify theft in addition to taking parcels. Neighbors working together can harden the target against porch pirates.

Anonymous tips can be called into Crimestoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477), or by texting 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Online tips may be placed at http://www.LAPDOnline.org, click on “webtips” and follow the prompts.

About 10 percent of Americans say they’ve been a victim of package theft, according to the website  InsuranceQuotes.com. Dont’ be a victim.

– By Joseph Martinez

Arcana-Helms Bakery

Aline Smithson

Last Saturday afternoon I attended an event at the Arcana bookstore in the Helms Bakery District. I was intrigued by the photographer, Aline Smithson, who was signing her new book, Self & Others: Portrait as Autobiography. My curiosity was rewarded, because Aline turned out to be an interesting woman, and her book is amazing.
“Beginning with her earliest black and white silver gelatin prints, she photographs the world around her considering the poignancy of childhood and the pathos of aging and relationships. The photographer considers all her portraits a reflection of herself and the stories she wants to tell, and in that way, has created a visual language that is her own unique autobiography.”

Helms Bakery, murals

Helms Bakery, murals

I then walked around and discovered something I had not noticed before, murals reproducing old photographs of the bread delivery trucks, on the wall by the valet parking. And that the furniture store Plummers is now called Scandinavian Designs.

Click on our previous post about the Helms Bakery and go there to explore yourselves, then please comment on your favorite places.

Text  and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook in Culver City

In all of my years living in Reynier Village, I always recognize and  appreciate just how central our neighborhood is to many of LA’s great things to do. Not far from our cozy enclave is a great way to exercise (for free) while taking-in some amazing views of the city … and all practically a stone’s throw away. Well, maybe not that close, but close enough that it is super convenient. I am talking about the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook California State Park in Culver City. It’s roughly 2.8 miles away and, on a weekend at 7:30 am, 5-10 minutes by car.

This relatively unassuming little patch of earth is a wonderful recreation space as evidenced by the sheer number of cars parked along Jefferson Blvd. that ferry Angelenos to the State Park.
Like everyone else, park on Jefferson Blvd. and start climbing the 282 concrete stairs that make up the steep half mile climb to the top. Once you  catch your breath, enjoy the panoramic views of downtown, the Hollywood sign, and the Pacific Ocean. Alternately, you can hike on the dirt trail that winds around the 58 acre park. You will be rewarded with glimpses of birds, native wildflowers and other native plants.

For my wife and I, it’s not just the exercise from the trail that we relish (we skip the steps as they are a little advanced for us at this point) but also the therapeutic calming effect of the area. Just being in those surroundings helps to clear our minds and is a peaceful departure from the routine of work and daily life in the city.

After your hike, walk past the overlook and find the visitor’s center near the top of the hill. Opened in 2009, the visitor’s center provides a primer on many topics in Los Angeles history including how community activism saved the park from development in 2000. Inside the building, you can rest a bit while watching a 12-minute video about the park and the surrounding region. When you eventually make your way back into the hubbub of Culver City, you’ll be thankful that a group of residents had the gumption to save this beautiful patch of nature from further development.

Park Hours: 8 am to Sunset daily
Visitor Center generally open Fri-Sun. Call ahead: 310-558-5547

Information about the Native Plants of the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook can be found here.

– By Joseph Martinez

Helms Bakery

The Helms Bakery District

The Helms Bakery District (Photo: © 2015 Joe Martinez- All Rights Reserved.)

Living so close to Culver city, it seems a shame not to take advantage of some of the areas that practically border our neighborhood. One area that I like to frequent, and is well within walking distance, is The Helm’s Bakery District just south of Venice Blvd.

Once upon a time, it was an actual bakery. The family owned and operated Helms Bakery supplied local residents with its fresh-baked bread for over four decades. Now it is a local landmark and home to a variety of restaurants and businesses. From Father’s Office Gastro Pub, with its 36 beers on tap, to LA Dijonaise Cafe’, with it’s offerings of fresh baguettes, croissants and desserts…there is something here for everyone.

After a bite to eat, I like to make my way over to Arcana Bookstore, one of the world’s premier visual arts bookstores. It is unique in that its primary focus is Photography, Art, Fashion, Design, Architecture, Cinema and Music. It’s been in business since 1984. Originally in Santa Monica, it moved here in 2012.

Or perhaps you need to freshen up your decor? You can head-on over to a number of establishments that cater to home decor furnishings like HD Buttercup or Room & Board.

In any case, it is a nice way to spend an afternoon browsing or shopping…and it’s “right next door.”

Oh and be sure to catch the 6th annual free Helms Sunset Cinema series returning to Helms Walk – the pedestrian plaza on Helms Avenue. The Outdoor film screenings kick-off on September 5 with the Disney animated film “The Princess and the Frog”

For more info, check out the Helms Bakery Website.

Helms Bakery District
8800 Venice Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90034 *

* In a strange zoning configuration, part of Helms Bakery District is in Los Angeles and part in Culver City

– Joseph Martinez

Wilde Thistle

Wilde ThistleWilde Thistle












This Sunday afternoon we visited a lovely Irish-Scottish Cafe and Pub (for Artists, Writers, Thinkers & Lovers), at the corner of Motor and Palms, named after Oscar Wilde, the national poet of Ireland, and the Thistle, the national flower of Scotland.  Inside we found the most pleasant atmosphere (they also have an outdoor table), with a trio of musicians playing Irish music (two women on the fiddle, a man alternating between a flute and a concertina). Behind the bar a small TV was playing the FIFA World Cup football game between US and Japan.
It’s a family place run by Caite Wallace, daughter Ciara, sons Liam and Brennan.  They have Happy Hour from 3 to 7pm from Tuesday to Sunday (closed Monday), with draft beers at $5, soup+grilled cheese at $5, a trio of sliders for $7.  The art on the walls is by Steve O’Loughlin and it’s inspired by Celtic designs.

The Wilde Thistle Cafe: 310-730 6208
3456 Motor Ave, Los Angeles CA 90034

Please check it our and write your comments!

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli


Fire truck

Today we participated in one of our neighborhood’s most popular events, the 18th annual street festival on South Robertson Blvd.
The LA Fire Department was out in force with 2 giant firetrucks parked on Beverlywood, and numerous firemen talking to people and distributing information about their free CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) classes.

We bought some plants from the HAMI Garden booth.

We talked to the many volunteers from the Relational Center, that recently moved to 2717 Robertson: 323-935 1807.  You should definitely check out the many programs they offer, counseling, yoga, mediation, etc.

We had a healthy bowl of superfood like kale and quinoa from the Green Truck: 310-204 0477.  At last year SORO Fest they received the Outstanding Green Citizenship Award, from SORONC Green Team.

Check the Art Map below and support the businesses on South Robertson all year round!

Text and photo by Elisa Leonelli


Robertson map

SoRo Art Map-s

We just received this lovely map of the businesses on South Robertson Blvd, designed by our local artist, Barbara Mendes.

Check out the alphabetical listing in the Robertson page of our Reynier Village Neighborhood Association website.

Patronize these shops, galleries, eateries, in walking distance of our home.

Email us your comments.


Elisa Leonelli