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Dan Gualdoni

Mengesha Yohannes reflects on reopening Bar Italia

Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Shop News  Menghesha Johannes Dan Gualdoni Bar Italia

Bar Italia’s patio, 13 Maryland Plaza, is finally back in operation and open for dinner service. Mengesha Yohannes—”chief of everything”— said that while he initiated curbside pickup shortly after the COVID 19 shutdown, he wasn’t in a hurry to reopen the outdoor dining area until he had thoroughly considered what the “near future would look like.”

Mengesha was preaching to the choir when he said, “This has been a worldwide disaster caused by a tiny little virus, and we are never going back to where we were before.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Shop News  Menghesha Johannes Dan Gualdoni Bar Italia

“My plans reflect reduced capacity as well as fewer events and parties—that’s the reality,” Mengesha continued. “We’re using the side panels from the tent as partitions to socially-distance diners according to the new guidelines, which has reduced our seating to 1/3 of what it was.”

He added that another reason for the delay in reopening was that it took time to get the core staff “in the groove.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Shop News  Menghesha Johannes Dan Gualdoni Bar Italia

When fall comes, the tent will be reassembled and used as before, although with fewer tables.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Shop News  Menghesha Johannes Dan Gualdoni Bar Italia

Mengesha jokingly said, when describing the single-use menus which promote the wearing of masks, “Maybe I should change the name of the restaurant to “Mask, Mask, Mask.” Maybe not. After 37 years in the CWE, the name Bar Italia conjures up many memorable meals and great times starting when Dan Gualdoni and Joe Pirone opened the espresso bar/cafe where Starbucks is now located (Mengesha became a partner in 1985, two years after it opened), and later at the current location with its beautiful patio which is truly magical on a summer’s night.

With reduced seating the best nights to stop by for dinner are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays & Sundays. Friday and Saturdays are busier. Reservations are available, but walk-ins are welcome.

Bar Italia, 13 Maryland Plaza, open from 4 p.m. to 9-9:30 p.m., 314-361-7010. Curbside pick up is available too.

The Buena Suerte Social Club puts on a show

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Wesley Forduce Jon Cournoyer John Nunley John Marlow HorsleyArts Glenn Stone Dan Gualdoni Buena Suerte Social Club  As the eleven members of the Buena Suerte Social Club gathered for one of their monthly meetings over drinks and Chinese food  several months ago, the newest member of the group, CWE-based artist Milo Duke, above, had what he called a “Mickey Rooney” moment. When he realized that all the members were artists—and prominent ones at that—Duke said to the group: “With all this talent, we should put on a show!”

His proposal was realized last Saturday, March 7, when about 250 people attended the Buena Suerte Social Club’s opening, Of Gods and Men, at HorsleyArts, 4374 Olive Street.

Duke is photographed with Fermi’s Question,a self-portrait which was a semi-finalist in a 2004 portrait contest at the Smithsonian.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Wesley Forduce Jon Cournoyer John Nunley John Marlow HorsleyArts Glenn Stone Dan Gualdoni Buena Suerte Social Club

Photographer Glenn Stone, a Professor of Anthropology & Environmental Studies at Washington University, is shown in front of his photographs taken during his travels around the world.Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Wesley Forduce Jon Cournoyer John Nunley John Marlow HorsleyArts Glenn Stone Dan Gualdoni Buena Suerte Social Club

Wesley Fordyce, above, one of the founders of Buena Suerte Social Club, is photographed with his sculptures made from Indiana limestone. Meant to recall forgotten civilizations, they include from left: Pet Dog Coco, Empowered Woman, and his favorite piece shown far right and below, Beautiful Woman, “I will share it all with you.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Wesley Forduce Jon Cournoyer John Nunley John Marlow HorsleyArts Glenn Stone Dan Gualdoni Buena Suerte Social Club

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Wesley Forduce Jon Cournoyer John Nunley John Marlow HorsleyArts Glenn Stone Dan Gualdoni Buena Suerte Social Club

CWEnder John Marlow displayed cartoons he creates for family and friend occasions. He told Linda Horsley, the gallery’s proprietor, that he starts his drawings with a “big nose.” Marlow is a founder of the Great Forest Park Balloon Race.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Wesley Forduce Jon Cournoyer John Nunley John Marlow HorsleyArts Glenn Stone Dan Gualdoni Buena Suerte Social Club

CWEnder Dan Gualdoni uses brushes, rollers and print-making techniques to create landscapes which are figments of his imagination, above. Gualdoni is known to many St. Louisans as a co-founder of Bar Italia, which opened almost forty years ago in the Hill Building on Maryland Avenue where Starbucks is now located.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Wesley Forduce Jon Cournoyer John Nunley John Marlow HorsleyArts Glenn Stone Dan Gualdoni Buena Suerte Social Club

Artist Jon Cournoyer, Head of Design at St. Louis Art Museum, exhibited his silkscreen, ink and collage piece  Birds, top left, and top right and below, mUSIc, oil, encaustic and found objects on wood. Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Wesley Forduce Jon Cournoyer John Nunley John Marlow HorsleyArts Glenn Stone Dan Gualdoni Buena Suerte Social Club

John Nunley, above, curated Of Gods and Men. He is an honorary member of the Buena Suerte Social Club and is retired from St. Louis Art Museum where he was curator of the Morton May Collection of African and Oceanic Art.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings  Wesley Forduce Jon Cournoyer John Nunley John Marlow HorsleyArts Glenn Stone Dan Gualdoni Buena Suerte Social Club

Other Buena Suerte members whose works were exhibited are Francisco Benavides, Kevin Barks, Joe Chesla, Harry Weber, and Wiktor Szostalo.

Of Gods and Men at HorsleyArts, 4374 Olive Street, will remain on view until April 14. Open by appointment: contact Linda Horsley, (314) 243-3879.

A visit to the Boyle Laclede Community Garden

Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Urban Gardens  St. Louis Composting Gateway Greening Diana Gualdoni Dan Gualdoni Boyle Laclede Community Garden

Earlier this month I stopped to visit Diana Gualdoni, a resident of Laclede Avenue whose been managing the Boyle Laclede Community Garden for the past few years. She and 8 other volunteers were in the process of expanding the community garden's footprint from 16 to 20 beds to accommodate a long-standing wait list of residents anxious to lease a plot. Once funds for the expansion were approved by the West Pine Laclede Neighborhood Association, the group got to work.

Funds were used to purchase lumber to construct the additional beds and a special blend of soil made for raised beds by St. Louis Composting. When the garden started approximately 6 years ago, both Gateway Greening and the City of St. Louis were valuable resources. The city tapped into a main in the street and provided a source of water for the garden which is turned on in the spring and off in late fall.  Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Urban Gardens  St. Louis Composting Gateway Greening Diana Gualdoni Dan Gualdoni Boyle Laclede Community Garden

The garden, located in a cul-de-sac at the intersection of Laclede and Boyle, is perfectly aligned with the Arch, visible in the distance above.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Urban Gardens  St. Louis Composting Gateway Greening Diana Gualdoni Dan Gualdoni Boyle Laclede Community Garden  T

The east side of the garden is filled with perennials, mostly Missouri natives. Since the group's interest is focused on vegetables and herbs, Diana is actively looking for someone to help maintain the perennial garden. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Diana (see end of post for info). Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Urban Gardens  St. Louis Composting Gateway Greening Diana Gualdoni Dan Gualdoni Boyle Laclede Community Garden

Diana, in grey hat above right, assumed the leadership role from Liz Wright-Jin, who started the garden and managed it for 3 years until she became too busy with her first baby and defending her thesis. Diana had just retired from the business office of the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology at W. U. and had the time and passion to take over. Since the system was already set up and working well, she said it was easy to step into the role. 

Another resident that has had an immense impact on the design of the garden is realtor Erv Janko, a talented woodworker who built the gazebo, the arbor, picnic tables, trellis entries, fencing, and with the recent funding from the association, wood frames for the new beds.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Urban Gardens  St. Louis Composting Gateway Greening Diana Gualdoni Dan Gualdoni Boyle Laclede Community Garden

Plots are 4 x 4 or 4 x 8' and lease for $15 or $30 a year. Garden rules are posted at the entry and include the line, "If you didn't plant it, don't pick it." Diana said that people seem to respect the rules and they haven't had much problem with poachers, of the two-legged variety anyway.

Members also planted an herb garden that is located outside the fenced area and is available for everyone in the immediate neighborhood to enjoy. 

Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Urban Gardens  St. Louis Composting Gateway Greening Diana Gualdoni Dan Gualdoni Boyle Laclede Community Garden   

There is an extensive composting system, partially visible to the left.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Urban Gardens  St. Louis Composting Gateway Greening Diana Gualdoni Dan Gualdoni Boyle Laclede Community Garden   

Not surprising that tomatoes are the most popular plant, followed by Swiss chard, carrots, garlic, and in cooler weather, lettuce.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Urban Gardens  St. Louis Composting Gateway Greening Diana Gualdoni Dan Gualdoni Boyle Laclede Community Garden

Dan Gualdoni is the resident arborist and tends the nectarine, peach, and cherry trees as well as the grapevines growing on the arbor. He is currently devising a strategy to deal with whatever critter stripped the trees bearing almost-ripened fruit one night last summer. 

Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Urban Gardens  St. Louis Composting Gateway Greening Diana Gualdoni Dan Gualdoni Boyle Laclede Community Garden

This is a view of the expanded garden a few weeks after work was completed. Newer gardeners learn how many vegetables will fit in their plot by using the square-foot gardening system (see strings in top garden). The temptation at first is to crowd the plot, and laying out the grid helps. 

At the end of August there is a community pot luck featuring bounty from the garden. By October the garden is winding down. The last work day takes place in November. At the end of January current members are asked to reserve spots, and then, if there are  vacancies, word goes out to the neighbors.

Diana says that the garden is many things to many people. Members, of course, have the satisfaction of growing their own vegetables, but in addition, people walking by will stop and rest in the garden. Last summer she met a woman who came there every day while her husband was undergoing treatment at the Siteman Cancer Center. She told Diana the setting brought her peace and tranquility at an extremely difficult time.

If you have questions about the garden, or would like to help with the perennials, please contact Diana Gualdoni at digualdo@gmail.com.