2442 Hyperion Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027 (Silverlake Neighborhood)
Yelp: 4 stars
Interview Date: Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Claudio Blotta and Adria Tennor Blotta, owners of Barbrix in Silverlake, had two major obstacles to overcome right from the beginning: 1) it took two years for the city permitting process to be completed, during which time they were paying rent on their location and steadily accumulating debt; 2) they opened in the trough of the current economic recession. Luckily, years of experience in restaurant operations and a powerful drive, they made it, and have become a fixture in Silverlake.
Adria is an actress who worked at numerous restaurants to support her acting career. “After acting school, I became a cappuccino waitress and got to know the food at the upscale restaurant where I was working,” says Adria. “Then I noticed that I actually got a lot of acting work from making friends with people at the restaurant.”
After working at numerous Los Angeles restaurants, Adria began working at Campanille restaurant, where she first met Claudio. “I never thought I would end up marrying him and opening a restaurant with him,” laughs Adria. “He was just my hard-ass boss at the time!
Claudio was born and raised in Argentina; he moved to Los Angeles in 1981 with the goal of becoming a commercial pilot. He lived with his uncle, who was the General Manager of the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Sherman Oaks, and although he had no restaurant experience, he got a job as a waiter.
“I was learning to fly and working at the restaurant, and then I realized that I wasn’t going to become a commercial pilot,” says Claudio. When Princess Cruise Lines opened a restaurant, Princess, in Century City, Claudio joined as a busboy and left three years later as a Dining Room Captain. He repeated that process at Bistro Garden in Beverly Hills, where he joined as a waiter and left as a captain.
“Then in 1989 I got the best job of my life – a waiter at Campanille,” says Claudio. Again he rose up the ranks and became a managing partner at the restaurant. He was there for 11 years, at the end of which Adria joined his team and worked as a waitress.
Claudio and Adria were no longer working together when they met at a funeral in 2001, and that’s when Claudio asked Adria out on a date. “We went on a few dates, but I said I wasn’t ready to be dating anyone, which I thought was a nice way to get rid of him,” says Adria with a smile. “Then I took a pole dancing class, called him, and asked him out.” Adria ended up writing a one-woman show about the experience, called Strip Search, which she performs a few times per year.
The inspiration for Barbrix came over dinner with friends. “We were talking about how many great wines there are that are very reasonably-priced, and we had the idea to open a casual, fun, homey-looking restaurant,” says Adria. “We wanted a neighborhood place where people would come a few times per week – not just a few times per year.”
“Our goal was to find smaller producers, hand-crafted wines,” says Claudio. “We enjoy exposing our guests to different varietals, different wines than they are used to drinking.” The pairing of high-quality foods and wines were the foundation of Barbrix … as long as they were presented in a non-threatening manner. “We want people to feel like they are in their living room here,” says Claudio.
“There were times when we wanted to give up,” says Adria. “That would have meant losing everything, but as an actress I’m used to banking on a dream – pushing through the “nos” and turning them into yeses.” It was Adria’s optimism that kept the pair driving towards their goal despite the endless curveballs they encountered. “We realize now that we had to go through this to be truly grateful for what we have here,” says Adria.
The restaurant opened in May, 2009. “A few days before we opened, we went to the Rose Bowl swap meet to get all of our furniture,” says Claudio. “When we got back, we turned on the music and cried like babies. That was when we realized that this was really going to happen. It was the highlight of my career.”