Share this story

Antonio Torres, long-time Gina’s Pizza manager, faces family struggle


Those who frequent Gina’s Pizza on Oak Street know Antonio Torres. As manager for more than 20 years, Torres has made this restaurant such a warm gathering place for everyone – with of course, really good food. While delivery is always a treat, often customers opt to pick up just to chat with Torres and enjoy the familiar and welcoming vibe.

“I’m from Mexico, and I came to United States in the 1980s,” Torres said. “I've been employed by Gina’s Pizza for over 35 years now. I’m also a father and have been married for almost 30 years. My daughter, Audrey, after working her way up at Gina’s Newport, works at this location too.”

At this point in time, his role as father is what brings Torres to the attention of readers. His family is struggling with an unbearable tragedy. Torres just lost his 28-year-old son, Eros, to a fentanyl overdose, and the family is working through paying the funeral bills and raising Eros’ son, Sonny, who is 6 years old.

Antonio Torres Gina sign

Click on photo for a larger image

Photos by Paula Olson

Antonio Torres has been manager of Gina’s Pizza for 20 years

“I’m just a normal guy and have never been in a position like this,” he said. Clearly talking about his family is not something he’s used to doing. However, Torres feels he needs to speak up to raise awareness about the dangers of Fentanyl.

“Eros turned 28 years old last month,” Torres said. “He started working with me here at Gina’s when he was 12. It was a really nice experience and customers thought it was kind of cute, so they were tipping him. When he was 15, I felt like I was doing the right thing for him, because he was already showing responsibility with money. Eros was a nice and giving guy, he would take his food from his mouth to feed somebody else who needed it. He was there to help, and he always tried to make me proud of him.

“He started choosing a different type of way to live, and it wasn't going to take him anywhere.

Antonio Torres with menu

Click on photo for a larger image

Torres fills Gina’s Pizza with a warm and inviting atmosphere

“The main reason I decided to talk about it is that I want parents and their kids to be aware of the dangers of the drug fentanyl. I don’t say we can stop it, but at least we need to have more control of what’s going right now. Before my son passed away, we tried rehabs. We’d call 911. We’d have heart-to-heart conversations, but once kids get connected with this type of drug, it’s so hard to get out.

“What I’m hoping is to make people conscious of how we all need to come together and try to do something about it – how we can handle it in such a way so that our kids can be drug free – especially of this type of drug, which often is lethally laced with substances that our kids never intended to take, never intended to get involved with. And because this is happening multiple times every day in our communities.

“My family and I already have to deal with this bad experience, but it’s heartbreaking to know there are more many other families who are going to go through this.”

The Torres family is so grateful for the support they have receiving. Their road ahead is a tough one.

Perhaps the next time pizza is on the menu at your house, you’ll opt to stop by to pick up your order and share a hello with Antonio and Audrey.

As Antonio said, “Life is precious; hug your loved ones.”

To donate, go to

For more information on CHOC’s website about “What parents should know about fentanyl,” go here.

Share this story

Rum Social creates Maui Love Cocktail to benefit Kokua Restaurant & Hospitality Fund

Known for its island-inspired menu, Rum Social in Laguna Beach is now offering a specialty cocktail benefitting victims of the devastating Maui wildfire.

Rum Social cocktail

Courtesy of Rum Social

Maui Love Cocktail will be available until August 30

Proceeds from their Maui Love cocktail will benefit the Kokua Restaurant & Hospitality Fund, an organization providing immediate assistance to restaurant, bar and hospitality workers, displaced by the devastating wildfires that have impacted West Maui communities. The cocktail is made with Rum Social’s signature black tea-infused rum, housemade hibiscus syrup, lemon, elderflower liqueur and cucumber. The cocktail will be available until August 30.

Rum Social is located at 448 S. Pacific Coast Highway, Laguna Beach.

Share this story

Everyone’s up for a slice of the pie

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

The community came out earlier this week to meet up with the new Laguna Beach Park Rangers and enjoy some slices at Z Pizza. Residents were encouraged to come out and meet the new team, ask questions and say hello.

Everyone's up for a slice ranger talking with resident in green SNL

Click on photo for a larger image

(L-R) Park Ranger Carter converses with Design Review Board member and local REALTOR® Don Sheridan

Everyone s up for a slice of 2 cops and one man in blue

Click on photo for a larger image

(L-R) Police Chief Calvert, former City Councilmember Peter Blake and Lt. Ashton make an appearance to support the new rangers

Everyone s up for a slice cop 2 kids and mom

Click on photo for a larger image

LBPD Community Outreach officers even showed up with the goods to keep the kids happy

There are now a total of six Park Rangers and they’re all a part of the Neighborhood Enhancement Team (N.E.T.).

Share this story

Art Party and Exhibition at Mozambique to support Laguna Beach artists on April 30

Art party girl

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Join the fun at Mozambique from 5-10 p.m. on Sunday, April 30, for an Art Party and Exhibition to support Laguna Beach artists headed to Florence, Italy. Meet top local artists and purchase work up to 60% off gallery pricing. Free to the public. Enjoy wine, South African food and music by High in the ‘80s. Mozambique is located at 1740 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach.

Share this story

Finney’s Crafthouse celebrates grand opening with ribbon cutting

On Monday, March 13 at 11:30 a.m., the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce had a grand opening ceremony with a ribbon cutting in celebration of Finney’s Crafthouse.

The Chamber of Commerce drives economic prosperity and quality of life for the City of Laguna Beach by being the voice of business, promoting collaboration and helping members grow their business.

Finney's Crafthouse group

Click on photo for a larger image

Photos courtesy of LB Chamber of Commerce

(L-R) Brian See, representing Senator David Min’s Office, Greg Finefrock, Corporate Executive Chef Eric BosRau and Brad Finefrock

“Finney’s is very proud to introduce the next chapter of the famed White House restaurant to the great City of Laguna Beach. We were extremely fortunate to have been selected by Jules Marine and his family to be the tenant of such an important historic landmark. Our Finney’s team looks forward to welcoming the public on Monday, March 20, on our first day of business,” said Brad Finefrock, one of the owners.

“Laguna Beach is very fortunate to have this new gem,” said Erin Slattery, CEO of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce. “Finney’s Crafthouse is a family-owned business, and they have created the atmosphere of a friendly local pub with a fun and vibrant energy!”

Finney's Crafthouse ribbon cutting

Click on photo for a larger image

Corporate Executive Chef Eric BosRau cuts ribbon at ceremony, as Laguna Beach Councilmember Mark Orgill holds the ribbon (on the far right)

Guests included Anthony Falcone from Congresswoman Katie Porter’s office, Brian See from Senator David Min’s Office and Cooper Strull from Assemblywoman Diane Dixon’s office.

 Finney’s Crafthouse is located at 230 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach. Finney’s Crafthouse is now open to the public and does not take reservations. They seat guests on a first-come, first-served basis and maintain a waitlist at the door if all tables are occupied. 

For menus and hours of operation, go to

Share this story

The Ranch at Laguna Beach hosted first responder golf tournament, dinner reception

In appreciation of the unparalleled excellence of both the Laguna Beach Police and Fire Associations, The Ranch at Laguna Beach hosted their second annual golf tournament and dinner reception on Monday, March 13, to showcase gratitude for the selfless commitment and ongoing support of local first responders. 

The Ranch group 1

Click on photo for a larger image

Photos courtesy of The Ranch at Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach first responders from the fire and police associations participated in a Best Ball competition at The Ranch at Laguna Beach. Here they are gathered on the Ben Brown course, located in the picturesque canyon.

The Ranch police winners 2

Click on photo for a larger image

Team Police took home the trophy this year, after Team Fire won in 2022

The resort was honored to welcome 24 first responders (14 firefighters and 10 police officers) for a fun, Laguna-style day of canyon golf which was then followed by a barbecue in the ballroom, as a thank you from the residents of Laguna Beach with 60 people in attendance, including family and friends. Friendly rivalry and a good amount of smack talk was also in attendance, as first responders competed in the event. And although last year the fire department won, it’s the police department that came out winning this year!

The Ranch, fairway hitter 3

Click on photo for a larger image

A member of Team Police watches his shot head down the fairway on the Par 4 5th hole

The Ranch putter with the red ball 4

Click on photo for a larger image

Is this member of Team Fire’s lucky red ball going to find the hole on the Par 4 3rd hole?

The day’s festivities:

The event took place at Ben Brown’s – the only golf course in Laguna Beach – at 2:30 p.m. Situated in the Aliso and Wood Canyons, the nine-hole course offered the ultimate playing experience with stunning views and elevation changes on each fairway. First responders were invited to participate in a two-person scramble involving a team score. Three clubs were recommended throughout the tournament, and if played barefoot, golfers received a mulligan.

The Ranch barefoot team 5

Click on photo for a larger image

Team Fire on the Par 4 9th green earned a mulligan for playing shoeless

Following the golf tournament, The Ranch at Laguna Beach hosted a barbecue dinner reception at 5 p.m. for first responders located in the resort’s ballroom. The menu featured a Santa Maria Tri Tip with Fresno chimichurri, peach BBQ ribs, sweet chili glazed sea bass, and of course, baked mac & cheese and butter-braised corn on the cob. The menu focused on locally sourced and sustainable ingredients. Musician Zach Churchill provided the entertainment. The perfect ending to a great day of golf and camaraderie.

The Ranch ribs 6

Click on photo for a larger image

The golfers worked up an appetite for these tasty peach barbecue ribs

The Ranch salad buffet 7

Click on photo for a larger image

Players stopped along the buffet line for this chopped salad with all the fixings

For more information on The Ranch at Laguna Beach, visit

Share this story

Acai bowl takeout coming to Downtown Food Village following commission approval


Plans for a fruit-focused franchise restaurant with design elements unique to Laguna Beach was unanimously approved by a city board this week for the Food Village in Downtown.

The Planning Commission voted 5-0 Wednesday (Feb. 15) in support of a conditional use permit to convert an existing take-out restaurant at 217 Broadway St. (previously Slapfish) to an Acai Republic, a Brazilian bowl and juice bar with 10 other Orange County locations.

Plans call for several special design features that make the new location one-of-a-kind, including a showcase of then-and-now photos of Laguna Beach from a Brazilian artist and his great-grandniece taken several decades apart.

There was some discussion about what acai is (including staff jokingly guessing how to say the name of the often-mispronounced berry – the correct way is ah-sigh-ee) and whether or not the food would be considered a dessert use. Ultimately, commissioners agreed it wasn’t a dessert and included an amendment to the resolution in their motion for approval to reclassify it as takeout use.

Commissioner Steve Kellenberg was excited to see the project come to the Downtown.

“This is exactly what we need in town. It is distinctive, it is unique,” he said. “I don’t even know what it is, actually, so I’m kind of looking forward to figuring it out.” 

Commissioners also agreed that the new store will be a good addition to the Food Village, although its interior location is a challenge.

It’s a tough spot, said Commission Chair Pro Tem Ken Sadler, but Carmelita’s is a now a successful anchor and the recently approved plans for a fresh look and improved patio will help. Acai Republic can hopefully complement the area and do better than some of the other smaller restaurants that have previously tried, he added. 

“Based on what’s been in that courtyard in the past, I see it as a step up, an upgrade, in terms of character,” he added. 

They ask formula-based businesses to do something to make it a little bit different from the other locations and the applicants did that in this case, Sadler said. 

The applicants made it stand out, agreed Commissioner Steve Goldman. It can be a difficult site, but they are going into it with their eyes open, he added. 

“It is technically formula-based, but I see this as something a little bit more unique and a little bit different,” he said. “It’s nice to have young couples, starting entrepreneurs, coming in and opening things in Laguna.”

Acai bowl takeout coming to Downtown rendering interior menu

Click on photo for a larger image

Rendering by Acai Republic/courtesy of City of Laguna Beach

A rendering of the interior menu and counter of the Acai Republic proposed for Downtown

They are also active in the community and both volunteer their time, Goldman added. 

A few of the commissioners also commented on the fun and trendy vibe of the restaurant.

“I like all the energy around it, it feels new and energetic,” said Commissioner Susan McLintock Whitin.

The highway-fronting site is developed with a Mediterranean revival commercial building (Food Village) consisting of three restaurant tenant spaces: A full service Mexican restaurant Carmelita’s; a vacant take-out establishment space most recently occupied by a seafood restaurant Slapfish and a vacant space most recently occupied by Chinese restaurant Kaowok Asian Bistro. The Food Village restaurants flank an outdoor patio area with 60 seats shared by all three tenants. The new restaurant will provide seating for 15 people.

Associate Planner Arlen Beck explained that Acai Republic’s proposed hours of operation are 7 a.m.-9 p.m., seven days per week, which are similar to other restaurants in the vicinity. Staff included an option for the restaurant to extend the hours until 10 p.m. in the approved resolution. 

There will not be any exterior modifications to the building, except for new signage.

The menu includes bowls that feature acai blended with other fruits and granola, coconut or other fruit toppings. They range in price from about $9 to $14. The shop also offers various fruit smoothies, juices, breads and Brazilian pastries. 

Staff initially suggested the “dessert” use classification based on the high sugar content of the menu items and because of the offerings of Brazilian pastries. The Downtown Specific Plan allows for up to 15 dessert uses (there are currently seven).

“The classification of this business is up for debate,” Beck said. 

After some discussion with the applicant noting that the bowls are often full meals and clarification that the pastries are empanadas that often include meat and cheese, the commission decided to change the use to “takeout.”

There are currently no other businesses in the Downtown area that offer acai bowls.

“Staff believes that adding acai bowls to the Downtown area will help enhance and diversify the offerings available,” Beck said.

A typical Acai Republic interior includes a purple accent wall, subway tile, mural and reclaimed wood.

“Each of these elements have been altered to make the Laguna Beach location unique,” Beck said. 

The proposed indoor wall artwork is “quite different” from the murals in every other location, Beck explained. At the Downtown location, the mural will show Acai Republic’s path to Laguna Beach. All subway tile be eliminated. The typical purple wall will be a brick façade and the reclaimed wood look will be changed to a natural finished wood. The exterior sign will also be a circular logo rather than the standard spelled out name.

Acai bowl takeout coming to Downtown rendering interior gallery

Click on photo for a larger image

Rendering by Acai Republic/courtesy of City of Laguna Beach

A rendering of the interior of the Acai Republic proposed for Downtown showcasing then-and-now photos of Laguna Beach by a Brazilian artist and his great-grandniece

There will also be a gallery of images from Cesar Papa, a Laguna Beach artist and Brazilian native who took photos of the city in the 1980s. They will be displayed alongside photos of the same locations taken by his great-grandniece, Laura Papa. Over the course of six years, she assembled a collection of nearly 800 documents (artwork, letters and more) from her great-uncle’s life. They’ve guided her on a project as she retraced his steps on her own journey.

The applicants for the new restaurant, Mo and Topher Reynoso, a local husband and wife team, wanted to make the Downtown location special and different compared to other Acai Republic stores. 

Click open story button to continue reading…

Share this story

Return of Lumberyard Chef Challenge serves up support for SchoolPower

On January 23 at the Lumberyard restaurant, LBUSD school principals dueled as guest “chefs,” serving up competing three-course meals to a cheering, full-house crowd of SchoolPower supporters. No, the Monday evening event wasn’t the kickoff of a new reality series, but the comeback of a beloved event called the SchoolPower Lumberyard Chef Challenge.

The event was conceived by Lumberyard owners Suzanne and Cary Redfearn, who generously donate their restaurant, including all of the food and staff. According to Cary, “We were so fortunate to have our kids attend school in Laguna and receive such a fabulous education – Chef Challenge is our way of giving back. We opened Lumberyard to be a community restaurant, and this event so epitomizes that goal.”

Return of Lumberyard Jason Viloria group

Click on photo for a larger image

Photos by Candice Dartez Photographer

(L-R) LBUSD Superintendent Jason Viloria, Laguna Beach High School Principal Jason Allemann, Thurston Principal Joe Vidal, Lumberyard owner Cary Redfearn, Top of the World Principal Meghan Schooler and El Morro Principal Julie Hatchel 

Supporters were especially enthusiastic about Monday’s event because of its pause due to COVID. “This year’s challenge was a welcome homecoming after a three-year hiatus,” said Harpal Sadhal, last year’s SchoolPower president. “It’s always a great way to unite the community – dueling bartender-presidents, competing principal-chefs – and all to support students of the LBUSD schools!”

Return of Lumberyard Thurston Principal group

Click on photo for a larger image

(L-R) Thurston Principal Joe Vidal, Laguna Beach High School Principal Jason Allemann, El Morro Principal Julie Hatchel and Top of the World Principal Meghan Schooler

The principals select items and serve guests, but the dishes are actually conceived and prepared by Chef Primo and the Lumberyard staff. This year, the LBHS-Thurston Middle School principal duo of Dr. Jason Allemann and Joe Vidal took home the coveted Golden Spatula award with their entrée – grilled branzino on a bed of sundried tomatoes and couscous. Admittedly, they narrowly beat the delicious short ribs with horseradish potato puree devised by the elementary school team of El Morro’s Dr. Julie Hatchel and Top of the World Elementary’s Megan Schooler.

“I am always appreciative of the profound support of parents and our greater school community at these one-of-a-kind events,” said Dr. Allemann. “The Chef Challenge exemplifies a great message to our young adults at the high school when they can see and hear about a function that brings local businesses, family, friends and educators together to support our schools.”

Return of Lumberyard Dechary and Sadhal

Click on photo for a larger image

SchoolPower President Amy Dechary serves up her signature cocktail “Bad Apple” while former President Harpal Sadhal mixes up his “Bees Knees” for the Bartender Competition

Guests also sampled signature cocktail concoctions handcrafted at the bar by current SchoolPower President Amy Dechary and last year’s SchoolPower President Harpal Sadhal. Sadhal’s Bee’s Knees cocktail narrowly beat Dechary’s Bad Apple. “It was my first time tending bar,” she said, “and I’m so grateful to Lumberyard’s expert mixologists Jeannie Simons and Amber Nyson for showing us the ropes. I’m eagerly awaiting another shot at a win next year.”

Return of Lumberyard Livel Real Estate

Click on photo for a larger image

(L-R) Livel Real Estate team members Tiffany Frey, Elaine Brashier, Jill Lockhart and Meital Taub

Return of Lumberyard Katie and Nicole

Click on photo for a larger image

(L-R) SchoolPower supporters Katie MacGillivray and Nicole Anderson

“The partnership of SchoolPower and Lumberyard was incredible, sponsoring an event filled with high energy, fun, and good-hearted competition and, of course, great food,” said Dr. Hatchel. “I was honored to be a part of it and have the opportunity to get to know and interact with our parents in a different environment.”

Return of Lumberyard Resslers

Click on photo for a larger image

SchoolPower supporters Barron and Kim Ressler

The event raised more than $9,000 which will support SchoolPower’s grant program and family support services offered through the Family Resource Center.

Return of Lumberyard Vidal and Alleman

Click on photo for a larger image

(L-R) Thurston Principal Joe Vidal and Laguna Beach High School Principal Jason Alleman are named as the winners and presented with the “Golden Spatula” 

SchoolPower is the parent volunteer-based, non-profit education foundation that has raised money for Laguna Beach public schools since 1981. SchoolPower’s mission is to enrich the education and support the well-being of all children in the Laguna Beach Unified School District. Through SchoolPower grants, the Family Resource Center and the After School Program, SchoolPower supports academics, athletics, visual and performing arts, music, student experiences, social and emotional wellness and community connections. For more information about SchoolPower, visit

Share this story

Wine Craft opens with a wine tasting and craft room, locals night

Wine Craft is an exciting new concept in Laguna Beach. It offers a unique collection of wines to taste along with fun craft experiences for friends and family to enjoy.

They host a locals night on Wednesdays for half-off tastings and 10% off bottles, have painting and art classes, and have provided free craft kits to the Boys & Girls Club during the holidays.

Wine Craft staff

Click on photo for a larger image

Photos courtesy of Wine Craft

The Wine Craft staff sharing free craft kits

Wine Craft kit

Click on photo for a larger image

A close-up of the Wine Craft’s kid’s craft kit

Wine Craft is located at 662 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach. For more information, visit, or call 949.376.0007.

Share this story

Slice Pizza & Beer releases fifth Laguna Beach artist-designed pizza box

Slice Pizza & Beer just announced the release of their fifth Laguna Beach artist-designed pizza box. 

“In keeping with the concept of promoting community, we decided when we opened to have local artists design our boxes,” said Suzanne Redfearn, who owns Slice Pizza & Beer with her husband, Cary. 

slice pizza Larry Stewart

Click on photo for a larger image

Photos courtesy of Slice Pizza & Beer

Local artist Larry Stewart with the pizza box he designed

“Our fifth pizza box features the work of local artist Larry Stewart, and he chose the quote on the inside flap, which was written by Paul McCartney: ‘And, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make,’” said Suzanne.

Stewart is a Laguna Beach artist, born and raised. As he stated on, “I have been honing my craft in contemporary styled artwork for the last decade. Initially a full-time athlete, my notebooks overflowed with artistic creations. Eventually, it came time to hang up the cleats; with my old identity gone, I committed to something new.” 

slice pizza Larry and Lance

Click on photo for a larger image

Larry Stewart (left) with his brother Lance display the five artist-designed pizza boxes – (L-R) Fifth design by Larry, fourth design by Lauren Howell, third design by Lisa Mansour and her daughter Chloe Mansour, second design by Sharon Hardy and the inaugural box was designed by Cynthia Fletcher.

Stewart continued, “Soon the hours in the studio surpassed the hours in the ocean, and I knew that it would be this way forever. Years of athletics created an addictive passion for mastering every detail of my creation and finding new sources of inspiration. The only difference is that art is a game I cannot win, so it looks like I have a lifetime of competition ahead of me.”

Follow Larry Stewart on Instagram @larrydiditt.

Slice Pizza & Beer is located at 477 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach. For more information, visit

Shaena Stabler, President & CEO -

Lana Johnson, Editor -

Tom Johnson, Publisher -

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Suzie Harrison and Theresa Keegan are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

Email: with news releases, letters, etc.


Email: for questions about advertising


*The content and ads in this publication do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the publisher.

© 2023 2S Publishing, LLC - All Rights Reserved.