The name Chiarini was associated with highquality workmanship long before George Sr. and his sons George and Richard decided to move their operations from Brooklyn, New York to Santa Ana in 1978. Richard was given the task of finding a new location, and he discovered a site in the Santa Ana Station District within the first industrial park ever established in Orange County. Chiarini Marble & Stone became an increasingly successful fullservice provider of marble and stone throughout Orange County. Their reputation soon spread up and down the coast of California and as far as the Pacific Northwest.
In the 1990s when an arts movement began in Santa Ana, the Chiarini brothers designed a breathtaking Italian courtyard fountain to serve as a centerpiece for the new 10block urban arts district in Santa Ana called The Artists Village. The fountain is dedicated to George Chiarini Sr., myself Don Cribb, founder of the Village, and the artists whose contributions helped bring a creative spirit of relevance, energy and optimism to the future of downtown Santa Ana.
Over the years, Richard and George also took an interest in acquiring other Santa Ana properties, including those that could help support the growth of the arts in Santa Ana. One property was a fourunit complex called The West Village. There, Bohemian units were given highquality accents that created individualized artist housing opportunities. The Chiarinis have also developed innovative living and work space Art House properties that cater to postgraduate and emerging artists, and they have purchased and redesigned North Santa Ana residential properties. They acquired a 1919 twostory property at 3rd and Olive and began using it as a gallery to showcase material applications such as bathrooms, fireplaces and staircase treatments. As they hosted special events at the site, which included a brick patio plaza, custom slateshrouded pizza oven, dripping fountains and plants such as an olive tree, it soon became clear how appropriate the site was for an eatery.
Café Chiarini opened at the site two months ago with the same attention to taste, dedication and detail represented in all Chiarini projects. Set inside a twostory, ivycovered brick structure in the West Village west of the Artists Village at 3rd and Olive directly behind County buildings, the location is quite a surprise! A large wooden door is located on 3rd and opens to polished stone floors, metal frame windows, Greek cotton curtains and handtroweled Venetian plaster interior walls.
Pulled pork is prepared fresh daily at Café Chiarini, and the tritip sandwich is fast becoming famous. The artisan breads are marvelous creations, as beautiful for their shape and color as for their texture and flavorwith crispyedged crusts and chewy interiors. The yogurt parfait has a light honey flavor with freshmade granola, unusually light and crisp. The summer salad contains strawberries, walnuts and goat cheese in a light tumble of leafy lettuce and blueberries. Flavored iced teas and fresh lemonade stand by in shapely glass decanters, and enclosed cases feature special freshbaked items like chocolate chip cookies and bubble bunschewy and mouthwatering!
The staff is everfriendly with a EuroItalianGreek style. Judy Fleener, a partner, is the magic and soul of the kitchen, overseeing all menu and cooked items, and Iliana Chiarini, Georges wife, is also a partner and brings her lively personality and style to every facet of the food servicefrom kitchen to patio.
Not unlike some European cafes tucked into stonewalled courtyards with potted flowers and dripping fountains, Café Chiarini has Old World charm. Every café should make guests feel so welcome!
Published in the Sep/Oct 2011 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review
Written by Don Cribb, Photograph by Jeanine Hill
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