Tradition With a Twist

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There’s so much history wrapped up in our 2022 Food and Drink issue! We didn’t plan it that way; it’s purely a happy accident. But as I read the stories, it strikes me that there’s a certain regard for tradition to be found in all the food and beverage purveyors being featuring this month. 

On our cover is Kodi Kitchen Berg, a native of Ojai who loved visiting Ojai Ice Cream as a kid, and worked at the parlor when she was in high school. One day in 2021, bringing her own family in for some cold, creamy confections, she learned that her former bosses were going to retire and sell the business. Before long, the Bergs had taken over ownership and the one-time teen scooper found herself running the Downtown Ojai institution…and delighting a new generation of customers with familiar favorites (and some specialty concoctions as well). 

Opening in 1959, Tony’s Pizzaria quickly established itself as a fixture in Downtown Ventura, famous for its handmade pies as well as its beloved founder, Johnny “Tony” Barrios. When he died in 2013, his sons, Bruce and Tony Jr., took up the pizza peel. They have continued to follow Tony’s own recipe for success — delicious pizza and fantastic customer service — but added a few touches of their own, such as a remodeled outdoor patio. Tony’s has always been one of the best places in town for a drink and a slice. Now it’s a popular hangout for family and friends, too.

Hard cider has a long and storied history in the United States. It is experiencing a renaissance locally thanks to new enterprises such as Pier City Cider, owned by Gary and Karen Stewart of Ventura’s Four Brix Winery. Up the road, the even newer Trois le Fou Winery is specializing in varietals from the great French wine regions of Rhone and Bordeaux…albeit with grapes sourced from Paso Robles. And then there’s Santa Paula’s newest gastropub, the Craft House, where “mom and pop quality” and a lack of pretension meet upscale bar food…in a building filled with Santa Paula heritage.

In the culinary world, as in anything else, there’s wisdom to be gained from studying history. And while an unwavering commitment to tradition can stifle progress, using the tried and true as a foundation for the new and innovative frequently yields delicious results. If it’s not broke, you don’t necessarily need to “fix” it…but you can still play with the recipe.

– Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

nancy@ventanamonthly.com