One of the great weekend getaways from Las Vegas and Los Angeles is Santa Catalina Island. Often referred to as Catalina Island, it is a rocky island off the coast of Southern California in the Gulf of Santa Catalina. The island is a short one hour fifteen minute boat ride from Newport Beach. There, locals and tourists, especially Asians and Europeans, ride the Catalina Flyer, the largest catamaran available in Southern California.
Catalina was originally settled by Native Americans who called the island Pimugna or Pima and referred to themselves as Pimugnans or Pimuvit. The first Europeans to arrive on Catalina claimed it for the Spanish Empire. Over the years, territorial claims to the island transferred to Mexico and then to the United States. It was then developed as a tourist destination by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. in the 1920’s. Since the 1970’s most of the island has been administered by Catalina Island Conservancy and the rest of the island by Santa Catalina Island Company.
Throughout the years, this reporter has enjoyed the tranquility Catalina has to offer and has enjoyed the business of real estate values there. Clarence Hunt of Hunt Reality has been a mainstay for over 30 years, providing homes, condominiums for sale and lease. According to Mr. Hunt, who has been selling real estate for over one half century, the time to buy on Catalina has never been more affordable. Rich with knowledge about the island and its locations, Hunt Reality can be reached at 1-310-510-2721.
On Catalina, there are businessmen who really understand the value of vacationing. One such gentlemen is Jack Tusey, who owns 5 restaurants on the island. Mr. Tusey was very successful with the majority of his business ventures, which included Girardes salad dressing, the glass bottle shaped in a pyramid style .In speaking with Jack, my associate and I learned some of his business accruements. He owned restaurants in Las Vegas in the early part of his career. Understanding the popularity of the Rat Pack and the music of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, Jack and his lovely wife Nora believe in romanticism. His Antonio’s Pizzeria and Cabaret and Original Country Kitchen bring out that feeling, as do the El Galleon Restaurant and Mama Cita’s Mexican Restaurant.
All these restaurants, together with his Catalina Hotel, a historical landmark, which has accommodations for everyone’s taste, Jack employs approximately 200 people. That makes Jack the third largest employer in Avalon. Looking – and eating – through the menu, we were surprised by the wonderful breakfast for vegetarians and the pizzas. For more information on this historic and beautiful hotel call 1800-540-0184.
Another gentlemen who has been in Catalina for many years is Russ Armstrong. Russ is an incredible chef, and an excellent restaurateur. He owned Armstrong’s Seafood for 29 years, before buying Restaurante Villa Portofino. According to Mr. Armstrong, Vincent Scaraouchi built the restaurant in 1940, where he also built the Vicente Hotel, and enjoyed playing host to celebrities who would stay there, for a quick getaway from Hollywood. Jennifer Armstrong and her daughter work alongside chef Eric, adding a wonderful family touch to this landmark. Everything here is authentic, including the imported Buffalo Mozzarella.
In understanding the tourism industry, The Santa Catalina Company has upgraded their facilities with restaurants such as The Avalon Grille, which has somewhat of a Hampton’s feel in an open setting. I was greeted by Markus Mrakovcich, the General Manager. Mr. Mrakovcich is part of the team created by Lubos Pech, the Senior Vice President of Hospitality. Mr. Pech, who was instrumental in building hospitality in Dubai, has plans to restructure the Catalina experience with new upgraded state of the art convention areas in the Descanso Beach area, as well as other areas of Catalina.
According to Ben Villalobos, the Food and Beverage Director, the romance and attractions of Catalina will stay in their original state. The company only wants to enhance the vacation and convention experience with updated facilities. The Avalon Grille, for one, not only is a good example of the updated dining experience, there is also one of the top chefs in today’s culinary experience. Executive Chef Nadir Sherwani is in charge of all the food areas for The Santa Catalina Company. For more information on vacationing in Catalina or corporate conventions, call 510-2000.