Magical mystery tour
On California’s Monterey Peninsula, wildflowers growing along the coast have found their way inside.
Just past the bright pink door that opens onto natural hardwood the sounds of the 1960’s float and painted flowers bedeck the walls. It’s a sensory bomb experience at Julia’s Vegetarian Restaurant.
Chef/owner Anthony Gerbino, a self-taught cook and artisan of beautifully plated vegetarian and vegan cuisine, is a chef of few words. But his patrons aren’t. And in social media review sites, they speak of their experience at the location as “magical”, extraordinary and “a gem”.
When pressed to better explain his concept, which is still pulling in the crowds, as if supply chain problems and inflation exist in another world, Gerbino offers a glimpse into his world.
In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, Gerbino talks mushrooms, music, and art – all elements that make Julia’s Vegetarian Restaurant unique.
Boxerbrand: Reviewers call Julia’s magical. Can you please describe the experience at your restaurant?
Gerbino: It’s in our ambience, food, quality, culture and music.
Boxerbrand: Could you say a little more? What is the musical experience? Is it live or do you have a playlist?
Gerbino: Both. Our music is old 1960s stuff. We have a playlist that we’ve spent months curating. We had a brand ambassador help us with this, and she interviewed all the staff to get their top artists. And then went further and found the best examples of their work. So it isn’t just that we’re playing the Grateful Dead, for example, but, we’ll have the one song, the live version, that epitomizes what they do. Other artists we feature are Van Morrison, Johnny Cash, Moby, Taj Mahal and Ziggy Marley.
Boxerbrand: And the artwork on your walls is also unique to your restaurant.
Gerbino: We worked with one artist, Laura Tryon. She’s a local artist and customer whose passion is recreating cave art. She’s done a bunch of recreations of cave art from around the world for us, including our bathrooms. They look like caves! Our bathrooms are their own advertisement. People see them, tell their friends, and the friends come in because they have to see them!
Boxerbrand: Your platings also look artistic. How do you make them so beautiful?
Gerbino: It’s just color. The more color on the plate the more appetizing it is. Everything is served on black dishes so we have a very clean and simple look.
Boxerbrand: What is your favorite vegan/vegetarian dish?
Gerbino: Whatever new dish I just created. In this case, we’ve just started doing a watermelon toast. The idea was to simulate smoked salmon with grilled watermelon, and we serve it with capers and red onion on a griddled French bread. It was a happy accident. We were trying to do something else when we created it.
Boxerbrand: What is your cooking background?
Gerbino: I’m entirely self-taught. I studied different cuisine through cookbooks and would work my way through until I mastered it. I once picked up a Mexican cookbook and worked exclusively from it for a year.
Boxerbrand: Mushrooms are big for you.
Gerbino: I’m into foraging for mushrooms, and I’ve introduced 17 platings featuring mushrooms. They’re a great ingredient for vegetarian and vegan dishes, they’re great for plate design, and are also healthy, tasty and sustainable.
Boxerbrand: How did events of the last couple years impact Julia’s?
Gerbino: We did very well. When covid hit, an adjacent business closed its doors, and presented us with the opportunity to expand our footprint. Prior to covid, we had a two-hour waiting list on a Tuesday night because demand was so high. We were able to easily knock through walls and double our footprint, going from 1,100 square feet to 2,000. Our renovations took place simultaneously to moving our business outdoors for covid measures. As for supply chain, we have not yet had issues with it because we have our own supply chain and stocked up six months ago. — Julia’s Vegetarian Restaurant of Monterey Peninsula, Calif. uses Boxerbrand’s Shimmer line in its table presentation. Thank you!