Sometimes, maybe just maybe, it’s okay to have a little bit of hope. That’s certainly true for Gabriel Paredes and Corissa Hernandez, the new owners of Nativo in Highland Park, debuting this weekend. They hope, among other things, to fit in nicely to the neighborhood where Paredes grew up, selling boots from a beat up old white truck with his grandfather along York and Figueroa. They hope, too, to draw in a new crowd of locals, be they longtime Eastsiders or those from the new crop of neighbors that have dramatically reshaped the community in the past decade. But mostly, they hope that Nativo is a hit, the kind of place with longstanding appeal, quality food and drink, and a good reputation among many in the area. It’s a lofty dream given this uncertain time, but there’s always hope.
“It’s definitely special, for many reasons,” says Paredes of the Saturday opening of Nativo. “We are taking over a beloved space, so I know we’ve got some big shoes to fill.” That former space, Sonny’s Hideaway, stood in for more than seven years as a mellow hangout for all of York, the kind of place offering late-night food, classic cocktails, and deep booths for hanging out closely with friends. Nativo will be different, particularly because all of the 80 or so seats at opening will be outdoors, and the food now carries a Mexican-Italian focus with a Guadalajara backbone, but the intention is the same, says Paredes. “One of my dreams has always been to come back to the neighborhood that has meant so much to me.”
Now he’s here, along with Hernandez and a team that includes Danielle Duran-Zecca, who previously ran Union in Pasadena and has been doing her own Mexican-Italian pop-ups across town and on Instagram. In addition to owning the place, Hernandez acts as the cultural liaison for Nativo and for her other spot, Xelas in Boyle Heights, where online, interactive gatherings and live events have kept fans connected to their brand.
“We want to create a platform for people of color, for women,” says Hernandez, who will be curating Instagram events and live music and other interactive setups as Nativo rolls along. most of the talent will be local, and all of it will be upbeat. “We’re strong with our programming,” she says, “and we love using social media spaces to stay in front of our audiences. If they don’t feel comfortable having a drink with us on the premises, we want to make sure they feel like they can do it at home too, and still feel that ambiance.”
Duran-Zecca’s connection point comes through her food, a blend of her family’s Guadalajara sensibilities and her love of Italian cooking. Dishes like elote agnolotti speak directly to that intersection, as does a “noprese” salad with cured catcus, stracciatella, and tomatoes. There’s brunch too, a staple for Duran-Zecca that she perfected from her time popping up at Xelas, plus cocktails and wine galore.
As for the space, Paredes and Hernandez have form-fit their exterior footage to match the moment, meaning lots of open-air, shaded seating and colorful green and blue touches. There’s room for around 80 people safely at a time, and — hopefully — space for bar drinkers inside soon enough. For now, Nativo’s hours at 5137 York Blvd kick off this weekend, and run 4 p.m. to midnight (with a limited food menu starting after 10 p.m.). Sunday hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., to help with weekend brunch needs.