A VIP Lunch at Cucina Nina Clemente

  • Against a backdrop work featuring Basquiat, a stack of Nina's favorite tomato tins inside the gold Twitable Birdcage by Alessandro Dubini for Seletti.

  • In front of a colorful series of cafeteria trays, all hand carved and colored by artist Matt Michaelsen: (left to right) the Themis Mono Mobile by Clara von Zweigbergk for Artecnica; the Tripod Bowl by Eno; and the Pig Bank by Harry Allen.

  • In the entryway before the main event hangs Nina's navy chef's jacket.

  • The table was set with the Fold Unfold Tablecloth by Margrethe Odgaard for Hay; a Si Glass Bottle by Seletti; and the Gelo Cork Ice Bucket by Filipe Alarcão for Materia. Around the table are the About A Chair by Hee Welling for Hay in a handful of colors.

  • Two Domsai Terrarium by Matteo Cibic next to a Droplet Planter by POD.

  • A snapshot from Nina's Instagram with her gorgeous godmom Lauren Hutton. Nina wrote: "While planning the most important tasting of my life, had to squeeze in quick photo shoot with gmama Hutton still best model out there! #townandcountry shot by amaze Brigitte Lacombe hair styling by my French genius @christianmarc"

Will work for food. That might as well be my motto. Andy can certainly have his way when he puts his extensive cooking talents to work (which, admittedly, is nightly…OK, the cooking—not having his way!). And so it came, with the promise of dinner, that one of our favorite people, Nina Clemente, came calling one fine Spring day not too long ago, hoping we could pitch in on a project.

“It’s the most important tasting of my life,” she described the lunch at her home, a bungalow with a tiny bedroom-office and bathroom as afterthoughts and a main room dominated by an open kitchen and an art collection punctuated with work by family pals such as Keith Haring, Basquiat, Kenny Scharf and her pops, Francesco.

Nina had just come off a successful three-night pop-up restaurant at The Standard Hollywood, conceived to raise awareness on the perils of genetically modified crops (commonly known as GMOs). The “Reclaim Real Food” event was a partnership among Clemente, her co-chef Michael Reed of Root of All Food and co-hosts Marisa Tomei, Shiva Rose, Adrian Grenier and Peter Glatzer.

We’d supped at Nina’s home before. But the pop-up meal, each ingredient meticulously chosen, each course meticulously plated, was on another level. Apparently, a VIP thought so, too. Within the week, Nina received his call requesting a tasting lunch for he and his executive team in order to consider her for a post in some capacity.

My role? To bring in chairs and a few things to dress up her space. Nina is an ardent champion of A+R. We met her some years ago as a client in our Abbot Kinney store, and she subsequently turned two gorgeous women in her life, her godmother Lauren Hutton and mother Alma Clemente, into customers.

With her personality and art in mind, I decided on not just one pop of hot color and quirky accessory, but many. Fortunately, I was able to pull most all of it from my own home (as Andy likes to tease, I am our best customer!). The special guests would sit in a different color About A Chair around the table, which I covered in Margrethe Odgaard’s Fold Unfold Tablecloth for Hay. Filtered water filled a Si Glass Water Bottle, the wine was kept chilled inside a Gelo Cork Ice Bucket for Materia and they would all drink wine, water and pressed juice from a trio of Orskov glasses.

We stacked Nina’s favorite vintage tomato tins inside a Twitable Cage and propped next to it an antique tin toy of a bird on a bike next. A couple of Domsai Terrariums provided a kooky accent to a poetic panting. I hung her other paintings, photographs and posters on the wall, and moved one—a graphic of a young Nina with a gun—into the nonworking fireplace. On the mantle, in front of a colorful series of cafeteria trays, all hand carved and brightly painted by artist Matt Michaelsen, I placed a Themis Mono Mobile by Clara von Zweigbergk for Artecnica; a Tripod Bowl by Eno; and the Pig Bank by Harry Allen.

I was back at my La Brea location of A+R when Nina called me. I’d scarcely gotten out of her place before the noon lunch, and it was now well after 3 p.m. When I asked her what the favorite course was among her VIP guests, she howled: “not a scrap was left! And you should see what they did to your tablecloth!” They did a number alright. But it washed right up. It’s now ready for our own dinner at Cucina Nina.

As for the gig? Suffice it to say, Nina wowed them. Stay tuned…

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Rose Apodaca