restaurant art

Angelico La Pizzeria New Neon

Bill's pizza

Mustafa Misirci, owner of Angelico La Pizzeria, attended a conference of small business owners. One of the speakers mentioned that a store should be "refreshed" every three years to stimulate the interest of the customer... That's where I came in! I had just finished up the Max's Best Ice Cream project and I was eager to share the images with ANYONE willing to look. It was just then that I received a call from Mustafa saying it was time to spruce up the place. Angelico La Pizzeria is a returning customer so I had to give it my all.

At the meeting we discussed a variety of ideas and I plugged hard for the addition of a neon sign. Turns out I didn't need to because he was already considering just that! He wanted his logo in the window in neon. Now, while his logo is attractive, I thought it could be punched up by adding a pizza rather that the red oval that encompassed the name ANGELICO. Mustafa was dubious, afraid it would be too busy. I went out on a limb and offered to design AND paint MY version for free. If he wasn't pleased we could always paint over it with a solid red. More on that later...

After transposing the logo to paper, I travelled out to see my neon guy, Bill Miller, to get his feedback. He thought the pattern was fine but explained that, for him, it needed to all be backwards! Turns out they create these things with all the letters flat - returns, etc need to be behind the visible neon. Love to learn new stuff. Bill is truly a craftsman and was eager to show me the beautiful pizzeria he created. If you ever get a chance to see these folks at work definitely do it and remember, like many things in this life, IT'S WAY MORE DIFFICULT than it looks. I left Bill to his work as I had things to do myself.

So, back to the board. Start with cutting it out. The shape had to be just right to accommodate the neon being created. Too small or too big and I'd need to do it again. I took my time remembering a saying I love - WHY IS THERE NEVER ENOUGH TIME TO DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME BUT ALWAYS ENOUGH TIME TO DO IT AGAIN?

Cut and primed it was time to start the fun part (actually, all of it is fun - If you have a job that you love, you never WORK a day in your life!) by painting in the details. I began with "la pizzeria" and after some hours I found my efforts good. Then a call from Bill, "Neon is ready!"

For the pizza pie oval I decided that to simplify the design and stay away from a cluttered look I would stick with a pepperoni 'za. After a little sketching it was time to pull out the trusty airbrush! This proved to be the right way to go as it softened the image and did not detract from the text. I snapped a photo, texted it to Mustafa, and received a thumbs up! Whew! I really liked the look and definitely did NOT want to cover it all up with a solid RED.

After carefully installing the neon (another fun part I'll have you know) it was time to try it out. It's like a Dr. Frankenstein moment - IT'S ALIVE! IT'S ALIVE!

Along with a helping hand from Mustafa I installed the piece and the smile on his face could not be wiped away - he said it was beautiful. For me, making others dreams come true is just about the best thing in the world. I wrapped the glass with printed vinyl promoting his fare and called it a day.

So, looking back to that conference he attended, he did as was suggested and we "spruced up" the facade of Angelico La Pizzeria in Tenleytown, Washington, D.C.. By the way, the pizza is DELICIOUS there. The signs may draw you in but the food will keep you coming back!

To improve the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. - Henry David Thoreau

Max's Best Ice Cream Lives On

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It was, after 20 years, give or take a few days, the end of a Glover Park landmark - MAX'S BEST ICE CREAM. Max, and his wife Marsha, ran a true "mom & pop" store (yes, in THIS century) that was maybe as well know for it's photos as it's delicious ice cream. I don't know exactly how it started, but apparently they began taking photos of the customers who came in to enjoy a special treat. These photos ended up as collages of hundreds of smiling faces. Not only youngsters I'll have you know. Included there too was Al Gore, Joe Biden, Former Secretary of State James Baker, Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Former Attorney General Janet Reno and tennis player Andre Agassi and others! Among Max's avid customers were Laurie Stongin and Allen Goldberg. They would take the boys in for ice cream and they'd stick around to converse with Max and Marsha. They, along with so many others were saddened to discover that Max would be closing his doors. Allen and Laurie wanted to somehow, in some way, keep the spirit of Max's Ice Cream alive and, in the end, they succeeded.

They later explained to me it was an awkward moment... They believed that welcoming warm glow of the neon sign that hung in the window could SOMEHOW be saved. They mustered up the courage to inquire what Max was planning to do with the sign. After finding out he had no plan they tactfully asked if they could buy it from him. Max refused any money but asked them to "give it a good home". That's where I came in!

Laurie, a friend and neighbor, asked me to come by to take a look to see if I had any ideas. I had a true love and recent curiosity about neon though I had never ventured into that world - here was my chance. Allen, Laurie and I worked together to design the sign's new look. We used all but two pieces of the neon that Allen and his son, Jack, had carefully disassembled in the store. With the help of Bill Miller, a man of forty plus years in the business, we learned how to go about the technical aspect of the final product.

The piece would have a retro feel with a painted board behind it. After I applied appropriate retro colors I took a palm sander to it to really age it along but not past it's prime! Max's Best Ice Cream opened in 1992 so I hand painted "Since 1992" in the bottom right hand corner. Laurie and Allen have indeed given it a good home as it brightens their day, and their neighbors walking by, as it hangs proudly in their living room right above the couch. Max's Best Ice Cream lives on!

Carolina Kitchen

carolina kitchen_mural

Lance London does it again with his newest Carolina Kitchen! He explains: “I took low-country cooking—Southern cuisine, if you will—and I infused it with a Vegas flair.”  We approached him with this new concept of a jazz themed light box that subtly changes colors.  After seeing a mock up he told us to go for it and "THE C.K. ALL STAR BAND" was formed!  Go check out the piece and enjoy lunch or dinner at his newest restaurant at Rhode Island Row in Brentwood.  

Tropicalia DC

Tropicalia is an awesome dance club on the bustling U St. in northwest Washington, D.C.. People would love the decor, the vibe and the live world music that pumped through it's state-of-the-art sound system. Only one little problem... How would they find the place where you need to go down from street level to even discover it? That's where I came in!

Brian Liu, who I've known for years, was one of the main creators of the concept. He knew I created mosaics and had to get me in the picture. He and I worked tirelessly with the owner to devise a plan to draw people in. A unique blending of colorful Mexican tiles and carefully selected domestic pieces came together to adorn the riser part of the stairs. Now whether it's day or night, one's curiosity is piqued by this beautiful design inspired by steps in Rio de Janeiro.

But wait, THERE'S MORE! Even before we designed the steps I knew the window was another point to attract attention. I devised a way to create the name in a faux stained glass piece. With inside lights subtly flooding the stained glass their color emits a glow that fills the stairwell. It is in this way that I helped to make TROPICALIA the success story that it is today. Put on your dancing shoes and head down to U St. tonight. Check out my work and dance the night away - you'll be glad you did!