As tradition holds, when venerable restaurateur Tony Vallone creates a casual restaurant, he infuses the environment with color and visual chicanery. No exception is his relatively new Ciao Bello, where abstract artist John Palmer has just finished a vibrant mural depicting, in an impressionistic style, an Italian plaza.
The project has been one of the most challenging in Palmer's 11-year career. He's had to paint from 3 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., picking up his paint pots and wrapping up his brushes just in time for the arrival of luncheon guests at the Tanglewood area eatery. No mixing marinara and golden acrylics, thank you.
At 22-feet long and 10-feet high, "La Piazza" is one of the largest canvasses that Palmer has tackled and as he said recently, while covered in splashes of deep red and blue paint, the strangest hours he has ever had to work.
Palmer and Vallone first hooked up a few years ago when Vallone, who has long had an eye for popular artwork, purchased some of Palmer's paintings for his signature restaurant Tony's. The artist was then the logical choice when Vallone decided to brighten the previously dark location of Jimmy Wilson's Seafood and Chop House which he and son Jeff Vallone took over in late October and re-opened as Ciao Bello.
Palmer's first commission at Ciao Bello was to create paintings for the dark interior walls of the restaurant.
When Vallone decided to enclose the patio with glass doors and air-condition the space, he felt the back wall, a dark charcoal gray, needed livening up. He called on Palmer.
"I did four studies for Mr. Vallone," Palmer recalled as he rushed to finish the mural in just a few days, in time for a chichi engagement dinner party on the patio. "There were challenges. He is tough and he knows exactly what he wants."
Eventually, they agreed on "La Piazza" and Palmer scrambled to finish it not only in time for the dinner party but also in time for his flight to Berlin where he will spend two weeks working with a painter there.