He’s giv­ing Mom’s home cooking to the world

Los Angeles Times - - SATURDAY - By Jenn Har­ris Cerveteca DTLA, 923 E. 3rd St. #109, Los An­ge­les, (213) 805-5862, www.cervetecadtla.com. jenn.har­ris@la­times.com

Os­car Her­mosillo de­cided to quit his job — as a so­cial worker — 10 years ago. He says he loved the work, but hos­pi­tal­ity has been in his blood for as long as he can re­mem­ber. So he opened Venice Beach Wines with his then-girl­friend, now wife and part­ner Norma Al­varado. The two started out by at­tempt­ing to make their own char­cu­terie and spend­ing most of their money on wine. While tast­ing wines to build their own list, they bought bot­tles from re­tail shops, not know­ing they could sam­ple them for free at trade wine tast­ings. Now Her­mosillo is con­sid­ered an L.A. restau­rant vet­eran with the wine bar, Cerveteca lo­ca­tions in Venice, the down­town arts dis­trict and Cul­ver City — and a new taco joint called Clutch in Venice. And he’s do­ing it all with the help of his fam­ily, in­clud­ing his mother Con­suelo, who does most of the cooking. Her­mosillo took a break from build­ing his restau­rant em­pire to dis­cuss why he left so­cial work and what he’d eat for din­ner with John Bon­ham.

How did you get into the food busi­ness? I ab­so­lutely en­joyed my job as a so­cial worker. I went through my school­ing; I was an ad­min­is­tra­tor; I was pretty suc­cess­ful. If you drive your par­ents and the direc­tor of your agency to a beat-up liquor store and say, “I’m quit­ting my job be­cause I want to open a wine bar,” you bet­ter love what you’re do­ing. They thought I was ab­so­lutely nuts.

Af­ter be­ing a restau­rant owner for 10 years, what have you seen hap­pen to the food scene in L.A.? With the Food Net­work and kids drop­ping their gui­tars and pick­ing up knives, this whole kind of cul­tural thing go­ing around food — it mys­ti­fies it. Restau­rants talk about how much they’re build­ing a brand; I talk about it too. But I say, “First, I’m a restau­rant.” Peo­ple are a lot more open to dif­fer­ent foods. Now I’m serv­ing peri­win­kle and tongue — all stuff that, back then, peo­ple in their 20s were like, “Whoa, hold on.” Now they are like, “Give me more; I had this at a truck.” Guilty plea­sure late-night food? There’s a woman that you have to fol­low in High­land Park. If I’m here and I leave, you never know where she is at. She has about five cor­ners. And she makes steamed head tacos. Kore­atown, I’ll hit that at 2 a.m.

If I’m … with my fam­ily I’ll just head over to the San Gabriel Val­ley. I’m eat­ing pick­led feet; it’s just amaz­ing. What did you grow up eat­ing? When I was grow­ing up in Boyle Heights there was a lit­tle bit of a Jewish com­mu­nity. I re­mem­ber go­ing to delis around there. I re­mem­ber sell­ing tamales when I was a kid and I re­mem­ber my mom and my grandma mak­ing trips to the Grand Cen­tral Mar­ket. Most of what I sell in the restau­rants is what I grew up eat­ing. If you could eat din­ner with any­one, who would it be and what would you eat? [The late] John Bon­ham of Led Zep­pelin. Be­cause he’d prob­a­bly have a bunch of hot rods around and a big drum set. And I’d prob­a­bly be mak­ing some pretty mean Santa Maria tri-tip, good smoked dirty beans and stuff like that. He’d like that be­cause it goes well with whiskey — he used to drink a lot of whiskey.

Ge­naro Molina Los An­ge­les Times

OS­CAR HER­MOSILLO says Led Zep­pelin’s John Bon­ham would have liked his tri-tip.

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