Tuesday, March 27, 2018

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Smartphone, No Service? PB's Cafe'-Bar Europa Debuts Innovative Phone-to-Table Ordering System

On a sun-drenched afternoon in Spain in 1982, Basilio Ceravolo happened upon a charming café in Madrid called Museo del Jamon (“The Ham Museum”), where whole, aging hams hung from the bar with the pigs’ cleft foot still intact.

A closer look revealed the grease from each ham dripping into cups strategically hung from a hook at the bottom. The grease was then spread on delicious homemade bread and served on request to customers who entered the café.

“I’ll never forget the feeling I got when I walked into that place,” Basilio says. “It was special. The people were so warm and friendly, they were talking to each other in a civil manner about the issues of the day, and just really enjoying themselves and celebrating life.”

Basilio recalls that customers would eat “delicious food and drink beer and wine, but more slowly and in smaller doses than what we are used to seeing in America, and everyone was smiling and laughing."

Two decades later, when Basilio opened his own restaurant/bar in Pacific Beach, he sought to recreate the joie de vivre of those Western Mediterranean bars and eateries he so enjoyed in Southern Europe.

And he's succeeded. Basilio’s Café-Bar Europa, an ultra-hip but super-chill tapas restaurant (and much more), is pure joy.

No hams hang from the bar, but the café offers gourmet dining, drinking and nightly live-music (jazz, blues, bossa nova, folk) in a happy, laid-back atmosphere unlike anything else you’ll find in San Diego.

Basilio, a longtime respected tax accountant in San Diego, has reinvented himself as a bold, creative and customer-friendly restaurateur. A foodie and natural and cordial host, he believes his eatery is popular in large part because it fills an unmet need in the American dining landscape.

The European tradition – specifically the way they literally just stop what they are doing to enjoy the passage of time and enjoy each other -- is gaining favor for many Americans who are stressed out over bitter politics, gun violence and so much more.

Since ancient times, the Western Mediterranean has been described by those who frequent its shores as the “Turquoise Sea.” How appropriate that Basilio’s cafe is located on Turquoise Street, just a couple blocks from the ocean.

There was a time not so long ago when Pacific Beach, known by the locals simply as PB, was not anyone’s idea of a restaurant destination -- unless you consider breakfasts at Kono’s Cafe on the beach fine dining (which on some Sunday mornings I actually do).

But PB has grown up. It has come into its own, especially when it comes to dining. I’ve written about a handful of the fun and funky beach town’s coolest eateries, including Costa Brava, The Patio on Lamont, Ambrogio15 and Izakaya.

But to date I’ve neglected to mention my personal favorite, Café-Bar Europa, which reflects Basilio’s electric and eclectic personality. The café, like Basilio, is one of a kind!

Basilio Forging Another New Restaurant Trend

Already a San Diego restaurant trend-setter, Basilio is at the forefront of a new trend that I think inevitably will catch on in restaurants nationwide.

His latest innovation is called phone-to-table ordering. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is. That’s the point. It’s a no-brainer, actually, but surprisingly hard to find.

Ceravolo rolled this idea out in July 2017, he says, and has worked out the kinks. It’s streamlined now.

Basilio says he brought the system to life because of the unique atmosphere and style of his place.

“It can get quite busy and difficult to take everyone's orders. With this simple technology, our customers can order what they want and they get it right away. We also offer ordering from a cashier for people who don't have smartphones, but we offer 20% off for everyone using our phone-to-table system,” he says.

Basilio explains that about 95% of all his customers now use Phone-to-table and it’s working well for them. “We are able to get everyone served and everyone happy,” he says.

How does it work? It’s actually very simple. You simply walk into the café, pick a table (each table is numbered), then go to CafeBarEuropa.com and click on the “ORDER HERE – PHONE-TO-TABLE” icon, and do your thing.

On the site, you can view the entire extensive menu of Tapas, paellas and entrees, soups and salads, gourmet foods, craft beers, wines and sangrias, veggie and vegan options, and much more.

But no rush, remember? Take your time. Look over the entire menu, because the food is superb and the selections are many. The mushroom soup is the best I have ever had. In my life. It’s amazing. And my wife loves the handcrafted Red Sangria.

Once you've made your choices, just click on each one, kind of like when you’re buying clothes online, and then go to the check out page. they will be delivered to your table.

Online Orders are 20% OFF! That is: 10% off Menu Prices AND half off service charges (10% online vs 20% at the register). The friendly staff will assist you if you have any questions.

The phone-to-table idea is really convenient, and evidently a big hit. “It seems to be taking off,” Basilio says. “People really like it. They also appreciate the fact that they don't have anyone bugging them to order if they don't want to."

Customers are evidently all in.

Says Carina Fleckner, “I can't believe I've been in San Diego for almost three years and had never been there until recently. I heard about it through Mario [Marauak], the Brazilian musician who plays there on Fridays and Saturdays. It's a super cozy place with very chilled atmosphere. When I opened the menu, I couldn't help but smile.”

Fleckner says she especially enjoys the Spanish and Italian dishes.

“Having lived in Spain for five years, I was pleasantly surprised,” she says. “Everything I had was delicious, including the sangria. Yum. I must have spent around five hours there... eating, chatting and enjoying the music.”

Fleckner says she also met Basilio and they talked about the new system of ordering and paying online.

“I loved it,” she says. “It saves you money, since you get a discount, and you don't get interrupted. Not that I would mind it that much because all the staff I met were lovely people. I highly recommend it. Kudos.”

Janine Holman says Café Bar Europa “is truly amazing. I loved spending my evening here. The staff was very attentive and courteous. It was fantastic meeting Basilio. What he and his staff have created truly provides for a magnificent night. Cafe-Bar Europa is my new favorite place.”

Casey Maslakow wholeheartedly agrees, saying the eatery has a “great atmosphere” and “an interesting ordering system that works. It’s an overall great experience.”

Everything Works, But the Live Music is Tops

A big thumbs up for what Ceravolo has done here. He's a very creative guy, and he knows what people like. The food, of course, is the thing. And for my money Cafe'-Bar Europa has the tastiest selection of fine food in Pacific Beach.

But as much as I love the food and the kick-back vibe of the place, the live music is what keeps me coming back for more. There is music ever night (they're closed Mondays).

Legendary San Diego blues man Tomcat Courtney is one of the many regulars, and he never disappoints.

Cafe-Bar Europa is located at 873 Turquoise Street in North Pacific Beach. Reservations are not required for parties of 6 or less, and large party arrangements can be made on the restaurant’s phone-to-table system.

Any more questions? Call 858-488-4200.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Reasonable Gun Control Measures: Reagan Wanted It, Obama Wanted It, Most Americans Want It, But Will We Get It?

Did you know that President Ronald Reagan wanted reasonable, common-sense gun control? So did President Barack Obama. And so do most Americans. President Donald Trump said he wanted it, too, after the unthinkable shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., left 17 people dead and 17 more were wounded. 

But Trump subsequently caved after meeting with representatives of the National Rifle Association (NRA). 

Ironically, even most NRA members support the idea of a nationwide database to track gun sales (which we don't have), universal background checks (which we don't have), a ban on high-capacity gun magazines (which we don’t have), and a ban on assault-style weapons of war (which we don't have).

Back in 2012, just weeks after after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., left 20 young children and six adults dead, Obama introduced a moderate, relatively inexpensive and easy-to-initiate gun control package that included a new assault-weapons ban. 

But the NRA-backed weasels in Congress did not have the stuffing to support it. 

When the original assault-rifles ban was enacted in 1994, Reagan, who was shot in an assassination attempt in 1981, said, "While we recognize that assault weapon legislation will not stop all assault weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals."

But that ban supported by Reagan expired in 2004. And despite the horror of Sandy Hook, Obama’s efforts to initiate a new ban was quashed by a lily-livered Congress that has been bought by the gun lobby.

But this is a new day. Even Obama didn't enjoy the far-reaching and politically invaluable power of a national young adult movement calling for real gun-control, which the nation witnessed in full bloom on Saturday

Virtually every high school senior who participated in these emotion-packed, oh-so-American marches over the weekend will be old enough to vote in November. And they are registering, and they will vote, as will millions more who were inspired by these marches and by the passion of our kids.

So now that the people of this country really have the attention of the spineless pols, which is precisely how this country is supposed to work, here's what we all can and must do, as a nation, to address these horrific mass shootings and reduce gun violence:

* Protect the Second Amendment, and never take handguns or shotguns away from law-abiding Americans who own them for protection and/or for hunting, but break up and expose the NRA, which is a dangerous, anti-American organization that does not care about human life but only about gun sales.

* Re-commit to President Reagan’s plan to get weapons of war off America’s streets once and for all. Limit high-powered weapons of war to members of the military. Period. 

* Ban all high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. They serve no purpose other than to kill a large group of humans in a short period of time. They are not for hunting or protecting one’s family in the home. They gotta go.

* Adopt federal legislation to mandate background checks, which is supported by 95 percent of all Americans, on all gun buys. No exceptions. No private-sale exceptions. No gun show loopholes. You buy a gun, you need to wait until a legit federal background check clears you. Got it? Good.

* Improve national access to mental health services and intervening in schools and beyond to prevent people with mental illness people from purchasing a gun. Aggressively address the nation's mounting mental health epidemic with free or low-coat mental health clinics in every city.

* Re-establish ambitious national gun buyback programs. No questions asked. 

* Fund and design national gun violence research and prevention/intervention programs and take the reins off of the Centers for Disease Control and let them do their job.

* If a school chooses to have armed security on campus, institute a federal standard of mandatory intense training. Being a member or former member of the military is not a qualification to be a security guard at a school.  The person must pass rigorous shooting tests and also must pass rigorous psychological tests. Anyone who has been diagnosed with PTSD or any psychological issue would be disqualified.

* Do not arm teachers. Preposterous idea. A gun in a classroom puts kids in greater danger on a day-to-day basis. Study after study after study overwhelming shows that more guns mean more gun deaths.

* Modernize ATF and give it some teeth. Get rid of the restrictions on the agency, which at present can't even keep up on gun sales or require gun dealers to make sure no guns are missing. 

* Fund and federally support such responsible, pro-American groups as Every Town and Gabby Giffords' Courage to Fight Gun Violence group.

Let's face it: this country will not likely enact any truly meaningful gun control measures or any aggressive licensing of all guns in America or get rid of weapons of war unless and until Congress and the White House change. There are presently too many wimps on the Hill, mostly red-state republicans such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who are bought by and beholden to the NRA.

There've been some 1,600 mass shootings in America since the tragedy at Sandy Hook. And yet the cowards in Washington have done nothing. Those days are over. What we saw in America this weekend was real, and these “kids” are not going away. 
This is their moment. This is their cause. And it should be the cause of every American who cares about the safety not only of our kids, but all of us.