Neighborhood Flavor profiles the people behind the familiar restaurants, bars and food businesses of the Eastside
Claudio Blotta is the owner of Barbrix in Silver Lake and All'Acqua in Atwater Village. Born and raised in an Italian immigrant family in Buenos Aires, Blotta came to the U.S. in 1981. He went to school to become a commercial pilot but instead decided to work in the restaurant industry.
In addition to working his way up from a waiter at the Sportsman Lodge to general manager of Campanile Restaurant, Blotta also helped open the first La Brea Bakery Cafe in Downtown Disney and worked with Gino Angelini, one of L.A.'s most noted Italian chefs.
In a Q&A, Claudio shares his experience owning his first restaurant and his favorite pasta dish to make.
How did you decide to change career paths?
I got into the restaurant business in 1983, long time ago. I was going to school at Van Nuys airport -- I wanted to be an airline pilot -- and my uncle was the general manager of the Sportsman Lodge, which back then was real famous [for its] catering prowess. I was going to school during the week, and in the weekends I was working in the banquet department. Soon after that, I started to work more and more. I dropped out of school, and I took on becoming a full time waiter and then [rose] through the ranks. The rest is history, like they say. We've been in business for over 30-some years.
What's the story of the first restaurant you owned?
The first restaurant that I've owned was a collaboration with Gino Angelini. The restaurant was called La Terza. We opened that restaurant after my ten years at La Brea Bakery in 2004. It was on Beverly Boulevard. It was an Italian restaurant.
I started working on Barbrix around 2007. I wanted to open a restaurant. I had a lot of friends here [in Silver Lake] and everybody kept telling me, 'when are you going to do something on this side of town?' So, in 2007 I started looking and found what is now the Barbrix location on Hyperion. Barbrix opened two years after that.
Barbrix became sort of like that home-away-from home place for our regulars. When we opened up 11 years ago in Silver Lake, there was nothing like that.
I love sitting in bars when I go to restaurants, so I wanted to make an impression with a bar. The first thing you see when you come into the Barbrix is a square bar. For some reason, the shape of the bar makes it comfortable for people to sit.
How did All'Acqua's come about?
One day I was driving to the bank in Glendale, and I saw the building for lease sign. There was a car in the parking lot and the front door was open. I figured that's the real estate guy. So I came in, looked around and asked a few questions and, you know, soon after that we started negotiating the lease.
What is the best part of owning your own business?
I think everybody wants to own. I love the restaurant business thing and, you know, part of owning your own business gives you such a great satisfaction because the restaurant businesses is one of those things that you're creating art all the time.
An artist that paints something waits years to get recognition, [but] in the restaurant business you get recognition every day. That's the best part of the restaurant business. People come to your restaurant, you recommend a bottle wine or a tray of food, and they say, 'Wow I love it! Great combination.' You create something and then you get rewarded right away.
What's the hardest part?
You know, it's difficult. Besides what we're going through now, sometimes you have obstacles from the city. Sometimes it's hard to build things the way you want to, so you always have to be adapting. In the restaurant business, it changes constantly. Years ago when we opened Barbrix, the business was totally different. Today is a lot much faster paced. You have to constantly innovate, upgrade the menus, the wine program. It's a great challenge to have, in a way, because we love the business, you know? You have to stay always a little above the pace to be innovating.
How have you been adapting to COVID?
We're lucky. We have huge parking lots in our restaurants, so we converted the parking lots into outdoor dining. We've got string lights in both places, chairs, umbrellas, heaters, trying to cope and adapt. Our parking lots are so huge that we're really distancing the tables. Everybody feels very comfortable when they come in. That's the first thing they say. It feels a lot like Europe. In Europe you eat outside all the time, which for some reason you don't do that here, even though our weather is much better.
What is your favorite item on the menu?
I love the spaghetti with clams. That's my favorite pasta to make. It has a little bit of chili, like the chili butter. We make the pasta, fresh daily. And, you know, clams for the show. And usually, when they pop open, voila! They're almost ready, ready to eat. You pour the pasta in, mix it up and serve it on the plate.
I love the texture of the homemade pasta with the flavors and it has a little bit of heat, so that makes it great for me.
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