Colombo’s: the Melting Pot of Eagle Rock

This is a story I did for the Highland Park News.

Colorado Boulevard has the spot for good food, friendly smiles and amazing entertainment. Colombo’s bar and restaurant, open 7 days a week, has been around since 1954. It has become an Eagle Rock institution. Regular Mary Duffy-Petersen says, “It’s almost like a party every Friday night.” Autumn Hays, who works in Glendale, comes in with her co-workers for lunch several times a week. She says her favorite night is Monday. There is a lot of excitement about coming in to Colombo’s any time.

It is true; Colombo’s has great food. The original owner Sam Colombo is the one who developed their hand-rolled lasagna recipe, along with the other Sicilian-inspired Italian dishes. Chef Raul Villasenor has been serving the people’s favorites for 16 years. But Colombo’s is more than just food.

When entering the restaurant, the smoky-mirrored walls and romantic gold-framed paintings on the wall invite pleasant relaxation. The red overstuffed upholstery and crisp white tablecloths bring to mind the glamour of Hollywood. Pretty beaded lamps light the booths, and management makes sure to put fresh flowers on every table.

The evenings are filled with music—jazz music. Every night features a talented line-up. As manager Vic Parrino said, “One of the things we are trying to offer is entertainment that you don’t have to pay for. We don’t have a cover…We hope people will be willing to drive a little farther than they would otherwise just for dinner.”

They have live music every night of the week. On Thursdays, the Fiaumara Armbrewster Quartet takes the floor. Friday and Saturday nights Linda Lopez tickles the ivories. Eric Exstrand’s trio plays Sunday and Monday, and Wednesday is the performer wildcard, featuring various local talent.

Customers love to hear the band play, and often join right in. Linda Lopez has a steady stream of vocalists coming to the mike stand at the piano. Eric Exstrand leads his band in a jam session, with all kinds of drop-in musicians joining. As one patron said: “You don’t have to be a great singer. You don’t even have to be a good singer. Everybody’s part of the party at Colombo’s.”

For those who might not be swept away into the music, or those who just want a place to talk and laugh with friends, the bar has a lot to offer. Separate from the dining area, it is a place to belly up and socialize. Tony the bartender is generous with the liquor; he makes a mean key lime martini. The TV at the end plays sports, and the painting of a lounging female nude behind the bar reminds everyone to get flirty.

Mrs. Ann Colombo still comes to the restaurant every day. When her husband Sam passed on about 5 years ago, nephew Vic Parrino took over the business. He is proud to be part of it: “It’s a tradition my aunt and uncle worked very hard to establish. There aren’t a lot of family owned businesses.” His pride is evident in the way things are done.

When Vic came to Colombo’s he brought Yolanda Nagueira in to assist. She is the one who started the entertainment line up. She made a lot of nice touches to the décor, and her friendly smile really lights up the place. More than one person can tell how Vic and Yolanda have done great things at Colombo’s.

Colombo’s is located at 1833 Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock. They are open 7 days a week. Monday through Friday, they are open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. On Saturdays, they open at noon and close at 11 p.m., and Sundays they are open from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.


“A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect, as in I could sleep for a year or This book weighs a ton.

I finally figured out what’s wrong with L.A.

I’ve been here six months, and I’ve been having a little trouble making friends. I have gone out and systematically met with people. I take advantage of the opportunities that are out there.

But somehow, it’s been falling flat. A lot of people don’t really want to get together again, and I’m not that disappointed.

I haven’t really met anyone that I made a connection with.

I went swing dancing a few weeks ago for the first time at a place called the Derby. I was worried about going alone, I thought people wouldn’t be friendly.

I couldn’t have been more wrong! Lots of people were there, lots of nice men asked me to dance. Some people even sat and talked with me.

But I came away feeling a little flat. At the time I was thinking, “L.A. boys are too nice.”

Boy that is not something I would imagine myself thinking. I’m not the “bad boy” type. I really enjoy respectful, intelligent well-dressed men.

Something was wrong.

My brother Chris came to visit me yesterday. He just got back from a world tour of Orthodox monasteries.

I was really worried that our conversation would be really heavy.

I did not want to spend the evening being very serious.

So I made a point of poking fun. There is a hell of a lot that is funny about monasteries, once you stop and look at it.

And my brother has a great sense of humor! There were times when I had him cracking up. And he made me laugh, too.

I woke up this morning, and I figured it out.


That’s the “too nice” I’ve been running up against.

I love to laugh and make fun of things. The aforementioned “Hyperbole” is one of my favorites…To exaggerate something to show how ridiculous it is..I toss those little hyperboles off all the time.

And I’ve been met with blank stares and nods.

“No! It’s funny! I didn’t mean it literally!”

You can’t explain a joke. Everyone knows that. I couldn’t defend myself.

Things that are bust-my-gut funny are taken totally seriously by everyone I’ve met.

It’s starting to make me feel like a crazy person. Stupid little jokes at work, like “Boy, this coffee is so strong I think it just walked out the room and asked the boss for a promotion” don’t even illicit a groan or an eye-roll.

When you say outrageous things, and laugh uproariously ALONE, you look imbalanced.

But I suppose it’s not a surprise. Being funny is a career in Los Angeles.

Anyone that can crack a half-funny joke is locked in some dungeon somewhere churning out one-liners for That 70s Show or The Simpsons

All we are left with here in the main populace are incredibly earnest and serious peace activists, vegan animal rights people, weight lifters, motivational coaches, yoga instructors and failed actors.

Anyone that wants to laugh has to watch reruns.

A Very Neat Open Letter

I have a job, and I am pleased that I have a job.

But there are times in any job that are less than pleasant. Times when you are faced on all sides with a Catch 22.

So today, I had a lot of those.

But the thing that took the cake…My Own Personal Point of Pride…Yesterday, a local deity asked me to write some instructions.

I lay aside the fact that to create these instructions is to create and distribute a sharp pointy stick than is meant for poking me.

It had to be done, and I understood why. A global deity needed appeasement, and it took this sharp pointy stick distribution plan.


BUT! When I carefully WROTE the instructions, the local deity carefully took the beautiful succinct clear phrases and instructions and made them longer, more confusing and ugly…hoh..

it is one thing to write something badly, and never get around to finishing making the writing better.

I do that practically every day on this blog.

but to take pretty, crafted words and MAKE THEM WORSE ON PURPOSE!

it wounds me.

It wounds me more that I must send them out as if they were my own. It’s like wearing a sign that says “i’m stoopid”


In desperation, I was avoiding the situation. I was surfing.

I found this letter.

I think it’s a very beautiful thought. Beautiful thoughts are good. And I wanted to share it.

High Noon

Got this DVD out of the library recently. It’s on the AFI list of recommended movies.

I’m not a fan of Westerns. They are such GUY movies. Usually there is no woman in the movie that acts in any way resembling what I might do.
Or even what any female I know might do.

But I thought I would give it a try.

I am pleased to say that this Western was not that kind of movie. There are some kick-ass females in it!

One, played by Grace Kelly, was a really strong female. She was the sugar one, but she had some real backbone.

You know the kind of woman in a movie who just can’t seem to do ANYTHING? During the fight scene, her hero will get his gun kicked away from him, and it will land right at the woman’s feet.


Stupid female.

But this chicky was not like that. She had some strong convictions. She did stuff. She even grabs the gun at the end.

The other female was the spice. She was actress Katy Jurado, and a latina. BEAUTIFUL, and in total control. She is the one I would want to be, much as I admired Little Bo-Peep Grace Kelly. She had everybody in the palm of her hand, doing what she had to do, and doing it better than anybody else.

The story was good, very suspenseful. I like that the story hinged on the relationships between the characters.

I might even buy this one!

Brotherly Wisdom

This COULD be giving fuel to the argument that he’s forgotten more than I ever knew.

But my brother once spent a good hour, explaining to me that raw sugar was in need of enhancement in order to reach it’s taste potential. His examples were that while things like cotton candy and rock candy were good, the sugar was barely altered and therefore not reaching it’s highest taste potential.

But CHOCOLATE was more substantially enhanced and therefore the sugar could achieve the a higher level of deliciousness.

Now, he claims it was my theory all along.

I just don’t suffer from early senility, and I reMEMber this conversation.

As I recall, it took place in 1993, and was the first dialogue of the Candy Traditions.

The results of which will be published here at a later date.

Unless Bryan beats me to it.

The Portrait of Dorian Gray

My wonderfully intelligent book club voted on this book for February. I’d read a lot of Oscar Wilde, but not this one.

As far as I know, it’s his only novel.

It had all kinds of interesting philosophical propositions in it. Like, what is the value of physical beauty when compared to beauty of the soul?
And, how much of our motivation to do the right things stems from whether we will be caught?

But one of the things that made this book delightful to read was the razor wit of Oscar Wilde.

Those late Victorians were just fabulous at turning a phrase on a pin. Gilbert & Sullivan spring to mind.

So wicked and most of the time, so true!

The book was a lot of fun, but it was weighty too. It was a good book to have a discussion about.

Bargain bin Paradise

I was supposed to meet someone at the Barnes and Noble in Pasadena. He didn’t show.

I didn’t really expect him to.

But I didn’t want to miss a chance of checking out a new book store. And the meeting supplied a justification for the 6 dollars I had to fork out for parking.

In the bargain bin, for ONE dollar, I found a hardback of Molly Peacock’s Paradise, Piece by Piece.

I’d never heard of her before, but the back of the book said, “By exploring her choice not to have children, Molly Peacock discovers what has made her herself.”

That seemed worth a buck.

As it turns out, Molly Peacock is a poet of sonnets, and someone I should perhaps be aware of, since I aspire to be a literature snob.

Well, the book is supposed to be about her choice not to have children.

She’s from an earlier time than I; to me the choice not to have children does not seem so amazing. This is due in a large part to the battle that 60s and later feminists did to change American culture. Women now are not defined entirely by the female capacity of hatching eggs and lactating.

Not so much anyway.

So for me, the thrust and thread of the stories was how Molly learned to deal with others’ expectations for her.

Her mother expected things from her.
Her father expected things.
Her sister expected.

Her lovers, her husbands, her employers and her students expected things.
Random strangers expected things.

But she also expected things from herself.
She had to learn to listen to herself and screen out other people.

It’s a very hard thing to do, to choose and shape your own destiny. Deciding on the shape of your life, what you will and won’t do, based fundamentally on your own desires and needs takes courage. It is not accomplished in one moment.

I like how she continues to revisit her choices and decisions–sometimes because others challenge her, but sometimes because she herself is completely unsure of what she’s doing.

I relate to that.

The books is on sale on Amazon, too. It’s definitely worth it.
Good bathtub reading.