Mark McDermott

Still life with Chef Guidone: Mangiamo’s longtime owner turns his attention to painting

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Mangiamo chef and owner Ron Guidone turns his attention to painting. Photo courtesy the artist

 

Still life by Ron Guidone.

 

by Mark McDermott

Ron Guidone has always been practical about art.

Guidone owned, operated, and cooked at two downtown Manhattan Beach restaurants for four decades —  Talia’s, which closed four years ago, for 36 years, and Mangiamo, which he recently turned over to his wife, Lisa, for 34 years.

While other high concept restaurants came and went, Guidone’s little culinary empire endured.

Two of the secrets to his success have Guidone’s naturally creative bent and his opportunistic nature —  that is,  some of his signature dishes were invented because those ingredients are what happened to be in the refrigerator, while others came to him in a dream.

“I’ve woke from a sound sleep thinking, ‘I’ve got to go write this down, this is going to be a killer recipe.’ So I’d get up and jot it down,” Guidone said. “I’d forget about it then look at it in the morning and realize, ‘Oh yeah, that would be good. Let’s try that.’”

A third not-so-secret part of his success is that he was able to balance creativity with doability. His restaurants didn’t lose themselves so deeply in concept that a plate would arrive at a diner’s plate stylish-looking but skimpy-eating.

“You’ve got to know the community,” he said. “People in Manhattan Beach have money, but they want to get value for what they are spending money on.”

After Guidone sold Talia’s and turned day-to-day operations of Mangiamo over to his wife —  “She’s amazing,” he said —  he found himself a little bit bored and suddenly with a lot of pent-up creativity. And so he decided to start painting.

“Anything creative,” he said. “It’s all creative.”

Thus at the age of 76, Guidone will be exhibiting his art for the first time next week at {pages} bookstore, just down the street from his restaurant locations. He is mostly an oil painter and unsurprisingly given his experience in the kitchen, it turns out he has a bent towards still life.

“I’m still fooling around with a little plein air painting,” Guidone said. “And I’ve got photographs and copied photos of different things, buildings and stuff like that, different scenes…But primarily I think I am better at doing still lifes.”

As a painter, Guidone finds himself transported to his childhood days in Indianapolis, Indiana. He says he always had a fondness for “arts and crafts” and got so into building and painting model planes that it went somewhat beyond mere hobby. His childhood friend, C.W. Mundy, likewise had a broad artistic bent. Mundy became a nationally renowned painter and bluegrass banjo player. Mundy lived in Manhattan Beach for a while in the 1970s and Guidone picked up bluegrass fiddle to accompany his friend.

“Of course, I had to pick the hardest instrument as the one to play,” Guidone said.

When Guidone decided to pick up a paintbrush, Mundy became one of his instructors.

“I went back to Indiana, which is where C.W. lives, and had a lesson from him for three days on oil painting,” Guidone said. “Then I just got started on my own. So I’ve been doing it a couple years….I think some of my paintings are pretty good, at least according to my teacher, C.W. A lot of it is junk, but some of it is pretty.”

He’s also studied under Brian Bomeisler, the painter son of artist Betty Edwards, author of “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.” And he took classes at the PV Art Center.

All in all, the artistic education of Chef Guidone has been a bit like his cooking career. It’s defined by a no-nonsense creativity. He also, years back, taught himself woodworking, and some of the signature wood fixtures in his restaurants he crafted himself. He likes to make usable art.

“The painting is interesting because you never know how it’s going to turn out,” he said. “You start doing it, and in the end, when it’s done —  if it’s good, you like it…Like in cooking, you are hungry, and you have this [ingredient] and don’t have this, and next thing you know you’ve made a dish. I’ve done that plenty of times. Painting has been a lot of fun. I started kind of late but I was hoping that I could keep improving. It’s tough. It takes a long time. As my instructor says, you’ve just got to keep putting mileage on the brush. Just keep doing it.”

Ron Guidone will be showing his latest oil paintings at {pages} a bookstore (904 Manhattan Ave.) on Sunday from 3 to 5. Proceeds will benefit the JJ Watts Hurricane Relief Fund. Books, art, wine, and nibbles will be served.  RSVP to rsvp@pagesabookstore.com.

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