The moment I set eyes on Pizza Man Tony I knew I wanted to paint him for my Face of Ventura Project which continues with The Ventura Breeze newspaper. Not only does he make the best pizza in town and has done for some 40 odd years, he has one of THOSE faces that us artists love. He turned up in his baking apron and shirt full of pizazz. We had the best time together, chatting and singing along to Frank Sinatra while I painted him.
To read Full Breeze go here: http://www.venturabreeze.com/ Thanks as always to publisher Sheldon Brown.
Portrait by Johanna Spinks
Tony Barrios is indeed a Face Of Ventura.
Born and raised in Ventura in a home about one block from his res- taurant, Tony’s Pizzeria located at 186 Thompson Boulevard, he has had an exciting, rewarding and suc- cessful life.
While at Ventura High School he was a 16-year-old exercise boy and rider at several race tracks including Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. In fact (at 102 pounds) he was grooming to become a jockey when World War II interrupted his plans when he went into the Army at 17.
World War II also presented him with something that he didn’t want – a Purple Heart. While in action in France, with the 106 Cavalry Recon Squadron he was wounded when a land mine blew up a few feet from him. He was 19 at the time. He has been with wife Jerrie for 30 years and has 3 sons, 3 daughters and 11 grand kids.
Among the many things that he has done: for 10 years he was a rodeo clown, in 1955 he was the Ventura County hard pitch softball batting champ, he was a Kempo black belt, and he once raced Jesse Owens except that he was on a horse (he won).
He also plays the guitar and sings just like Frank Sinatra. But he says, “The difference is when Sinatra sings it’s sad and when I sing it’s pitiful”.
But he is best known as the creator of Tony’s Pizzeria which he opened first where the present Knights of Columbus is located, and in 1968 he moved to his present loca- tion on Thompson. His mentor was a New York pizza man.
Today he still works part time and his 2 sons, Tony Jr. and Johnny, run the place most of the time with occa- sional help from daughter Linda who comes in from Visalia.
He still loves being with his cus-
tomers and socializing with them, some of whom have been eating his pizzas for over 50 years, and playing the Keno machines at local casinos.
The next time that you drive by the Tortilla Flats Murals (right next to the Pizzeria) you will find him be- tween the two images of Jesse Owens and do stop and say hi.
We asked him what he likes most about liv- ing in Ventura?
We have so much to enjoy here, especially along our south-facing shoreline.
Surfing, fishing, cycling, strolling along the promenade and pier, and often the thrill of spectacular sunsets, Seaside Park, Ventura Harbor, Grant Park all with backgrounds of rolling green hills and distant mountains. We are truly blessed.
Over the years the people of Ven- tura have been so good to me, and those who visit from out of town of- ten express a wish of wanting to live here--notsurprising, as most would agree, our weather is hard to beat. To me, its 100% enjoyable!
And how was the experience of having your portrait painted by Johanna?
One day I walked into my business and waiting for me was a lady by the name of Johanna Spinks who told me she was an artist, and wanted to paint my portrait.
The experience was such a pleasure because of the way she paints. She asked me what kind of music I liked, and I told her I loved to listen to Frank Sinatra. She turns on her tape player, takes her long handled brush, and starts to paint at her easel in rhythm with the music, showing signs of real happiness! It’s a great pleasure to know her. Also while in her studio I met Sheldon Brown, publisher of the Breeze, an- other great person.
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