Friday, September 26, 2008

Client work: Gourmet Magazine, October 2008 / Tosca Café

Client work: Gourmet Magazine, October 2008 / Tosca Café, San Francisco, CA.

I’m extremely excited to post my first publication in Conde Nast’s Gourmet magazine. Pick up the October issue and check out the Drinks section to see it live and smell the ink.

Gourmet Magazine October 2008

About the client – Duh, it’s Gourmet. The magazine of good living.

With a readership of over one million, it’s the de-facto publication for food, wine, and well… good living.

About the shoot – I was driving down Highway 101 making my way to Tosca Café, the historic prohibition-era bar located in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. It was a Tuesday evening, and I had yet to actually receive permission to photograph at the bar. Details. Details. A call to the bar 30 minutes prior resulted in Ernie, the barman, telling me to call back in an hour to speak to Jeanette, the owner. Not knowing if I’d be allowed, I decided to make the hour drive anyway to get there early enough to beat any potential bar-scene crowd. I figured the worst that could happen was they say no and I sit and have a drink.

As soon as an hour was up, I called back. A raspy voice on the other end of the line announced herself as Jeanette. Just hearing the voice made me feel as though this was going to be a tough sell. She was not the least bit phased by the fact that I’d be shooting for Gourmet. I, on the other hand, was near giddy to actually be saying that I was shooting for Gourmet. I got to work.

Using a fine blend of New York attitude laced with Southern gentility, and with promises of being a fly-on-the-wall, she finally agreed to let me shoot.

"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world…"
Jeanette has owned Tosca for the last 28 years. All preconceptions of the woman on the phone were immediately squashed once I met her in person; she was completely sweet. It was like meeting the Wizard of Oz or like a Tootsie Roll pop – hard crunchy exterior, soft and sweet on the inside. I found her sitting in the office reading and enjoying a smoke and a cocktail, legs propped on a red vinyl chair. We chatted for a few before she let me run loose in the bar.

When one steps into Tosca, you’re instantly transported to another era. Yes, I know that sounds utterly cliché, but it’s true. Only the current-day fashions worn by patrons would provide any clue that it wasn’t 1940. Even Ernie’s white tux jacket is a 6 decade throwback.

The bar is massive and beautiful - deep mahogany with edges worn from resting elbows during bartender confessions and private chats with martinis. Glasses line the bar awaiting the next confidant, celebrity regular, or thirsty tourist.

Evenings bring the place to life; it’s simultaneously a hovel or Hollywood movie set. The jukebox is to thank as it casts a golden glow across the checkered floor and either backlighting customers sitting on the red vinyl stools making them sullen or glamorous if the light falls across their faces.

The jukebox is a dominant feature in here. You won’t find any titles newer than Puccini’s Tosca or Sinatra’s Capitol years recordings from the 50’s and 60’s playing. In my opinion, it’s the soul of the bar, a catalyst for emotion, and depending on the tune, can bring out the conductor, crooner or Gene Kelly/ Ginger Rogers in many whom over indulge in the sauce.

I witnessed all three in one night.

Being a fly-on-the-wall in Tosca was pretty easy. Everyone seemed invested in something other than what was going on around them, like their drinks, Ernie, their mistress (flies can hear a lot- careful!), the juke… I didn’t mind though, because for my mission at hand, it was perfect. There was no waiting for subjects to avert their gaze from the camera this night...

Thanks, Gourmet, for the opportunity. And thank, Jeanette, for letting me be a fly-on-the-wall.

Enjoy the photos!

View the outtakes at:

Or check out some of my faves (click for larger view):

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Client work: Mondo

Hey gang,

I'd like to introduce you all to Mondo, Sonoma's new beer garden.

About the client:
Owner Dean Castelli opened the doors on this great American-style beer and food joint a few months ago. Let me tell you, it's good stuff - 20 beers on tap, a bunch more in the bottle, fine wines, awesome gourmet pub grub, and a patio to dine al fresco too.

The ambiance is minimalist, yet comfortable. Black and white 1950's photos of Dean's family members, especially his grandfather, Armondo, adorn the walls (Mondo was his gramp's nickname), while an eclectic mix of tunes pipe from the speakers above.

Check it out next time you're in downtown Sonoma.

About the shoot:
Given full creative license to shoot the delectable treats Mondo serves up, I veered away from making traditional food-styled photos, and decided on a more simple approach. Shot on a brushed stainless steel table, I composed each shot leaving lots of clear space. They almost feel a bit industrial, kinda like the restaurant itself with its high, open beam ceiling and modern décor.

What do you think? Don’t you want to chow down on this grub with a frosty brewsky?

String beans and olives Dry-rubbed ribs
Onion rings Coffee ice cream Dean the owner 19 beers on tap Mondo interior Table setting
Photography (c)2008 Jason Tinacci /

Check out for more info.