CONCEPT / HISTORY
Cuchi Cuchi opened on July 26, 2001. We were attracted by the 40-foot long bar, the high ceilings and the intimacy of the dining space. The entire space had to be remodeled from ceiling to floor. When we took off the horrible corrugated tin from the bars we discovered beautiful wood bead-board and knew that we had a little gem on our hands. We invited 2 friends from Argentina who were superb Finish Carpenters and they spent 3 months building the bar back and other pieces of furniture. We decided that our color scheme would be burgundy, mustard yellow, lime green and black for accent. Co-owners Fernanda da Silva, Barbara Dollar and Tamara Bourso worked for 6 months lovingly renovating this space. (note: Barbara is no longer with CC and is pursuing other personal projects, but her presence is always here.)
We wanted to personify the age of Old World Beauty (la belle epoch) and Early Hollywood, the time of luxury, glamour, gaiety, jewels and furs, lipstick on silk collars, dramatic little trysts, tinkling champagne and martini glasses, and we had to do all this without proper candle light, cigarettes or tapestries over the doors (all the things that the Fire Dept. and the Board of Health determined would cause our imminent death).
The food is International, small “straight-up” dishes and the drinks are fresh fruit and herb muddled signature drinks and classic vintage cocktails. Please don’t refer to CC’s dishes as “tapas” which are from Spain. We’re trying to coin a new phrase of “straight-up”, meaning dishes to be paired and shared and that can stand alone, because reviewers often mistakingly report that we serve Spanish food only. However, we’ve chosen to “globe-trot”. Tamara Bourso and Mario León are owners of Dalí in Somerville, and the concept of “small dishes” was borrowed from Dalí but this is where the resemblance ends. Visit the website at www.dalirestaurant.com for information and visit Dalí for an authentic Spanish experience.
- The 3 stained glass windows behind the bar are from the 1890’s and were formally housed in a Chicago restaurant. They are mounted on chains and can be pulled forward for easy light bulb replacement. They were purchased through an antique dealer.
- Flanking the stained glass windows are 3 columns of Lime Green Glass Blocks that were made in Italy. We used them also on the standing bar and in the back room as dividers.
- The lamps on the bar have Pairpoint Puffy Reverse-painted Lampshades which are reproductions. The original glassmaking company was established in New Bedford, MA in 1890 by Thomas J. Pairpoint. The company made a variety of blown and molded glassware from utilitarian to ornamental presentation pieces. In 1907 they started making lampshades known today as “puffy” or “blown out” shades. In today’s market, original pieces can fetch from $4,500 to $7,000. A combination of changing taste and the Great Depression finally caused the firm to close in 1937.
- The classic “Egg & Dart” pattern of the zinc borders surrounds the 2 bars. The carpenters made grooves in the side edges so that the zinc pieces would simply slide into them.
- Behind the bar hangs the portrait of “Salome”, painted by French artist Henri G. Regnault. Salome is based on a biblical story of the death of John the Baptist. Herodias married her uncle Herod “Phillip” by whom she had a daughter, Salome (the infamous dancer of the 7 veils). Herodias left her husband to have an incestuous affair with another uncle, Herod “Antipas”, who was ruler of Judea and Tetrarch (governor) of all Galilee (4 B.C. – 40 A. D). John the Baptist would publicly humiliate both of them because of this affair and Herodias came to hate him. Herod Antipas loved to watch Salome dance and offered her anything if she would dance for him on his birthday. Salome conferred with her mother who asked for the head of John the Baptist in exchange for Salome to dance for Herod Antipas. Immediately after the dance the deed was done and the head was served on a platter to Salome who laid it at her mother’s feet.
- In the front dining room there is a triptych of 3 personally signed photographs of Dita Von Teese, sometimes referred to as the “ultimate retro pin-up girl”. Dita was always fascinated with the Golden Age of Hollywood, the pin-ups from the 30’s and 40’s and the grand musicals of the 40’s and at an early age developed her interests in fashion with a somewhat risque old world image (which ended her modeling career). She proceeded to invent erotic stage shows in burlesque style and with provocative costumes. She’s also known as the Fetish Queen and has done numerous shoots for Playboy. She was in and out of a marriage to ghoulish rocker, Marilyn Manson, has published a book “The Art of the Teese” and lives in Paris during the winter because she says “I love its beauty, history and the Parisians’ appreciation of elegance, art and fashion, and their pride in their city.”
- In the back dining room hangs a photo of Carmen Miranda, the Brazilian samba singer and motion picture star and highest paid female performer in the 40’s. She was nicknamed “The Brazilian Bombshell”. In homage to the Brazilian women who sold prepared food in the streets and would display their fruits and vegetables and wear wraps around their heads, she designed towering headdresses made of fruit and called them the “tutti-frutti hats”. They eventually became her trademark. She was an unstoppable and hard-working performer and the rejection from Brazilians because of her “Americanization” led her to depression and addictions of alcohol, tobacco, amphetamines and barbituates during her last 10 years. Her untimely death in 1955 at age 46 from a heart attack while doing the Jimmy Durante show was mourned by millions in Brazil.
- The inner decor of her frame includes vintage lucite fruits and buttons; metal figures from a charm bracelet (she was the inspiration for fruit jewelry and turbans that Saks Fifth Avenue developed in 1939). The fruit jewelry of today is still popular and is fondly called “Carmen Miranda jewelry”.
- The Host Desk was designed by Tamara to look like an evening dress. It has a lacy design out of wood where the shoulders are and the dress tapers in and then flares out at the bottom – creating a “wiggle dress” design. She also designed “Big Boy” – the large hutch for holding things located near the service station.
- The pale yellow/green iron coat rack next to the host desk came from France from the same foundry where Napoleon had his cannons made and it’s dated circa early 1800’s.
- The Kabuki Kimono on the wall in the first dining room is an original piece and is a gorgeous display of workmanship and beauty. It is a garment traditionally worn only by men dressed as women in the Japanese Kabuki Theater (although, at first, women dominated Kabuki). It is a “museum quality” piece.
- The low black couch in Alcove #2 (LED table) comes from the Aesthetic Movement, a modern style of Victorian design, largely running parallel with the Arts and Crafts movement (1860-1880) in England. The Japanese influence can be seen in the black woods used to replace the traditional mahogany and dark oak. Some woods were also painted black for less expensive furniture.
- In front of the couches is the Chico Chica Boom table – New England’s first interactive LED light dining table. The LED (light-emitting diode) lights come to life when they sense motion. This table combines art, theatre and dining for a memorable customer experience. It can be reserved during the week for 6 to 10 people.
BOTTOMS UP SHOT GLASSES: We serve before or after-dinner cocktail shots in these provocative little glasses. Cocktail accessories in women’s form became the rage starting in the 30’s. The Shake a Leg cocktail shaker was in the form of a lady’s leg. The old toast, “Bottoms Up” had its share of variations from a naked woman’s lovely behind on top of a swizzle stick to a Bottoms Up glass with a woman’s torso molded and draped over it (the rare ones have the legs spread). The point of the latter was that you couldn’t put the drink down until it was gone. Sexual innuendoes and jokes were imprinted on glassware, napkins, and other bar-ware. These glasses are reproductions and originals are hard to find and are very expensive. Cuchi Cuchi is the only restaurant in this area (to our knowledge) that features these unique glasses.
TILES: The crackle glaze tiles that cover the broader surfaces in both bathrooms and the columns in the standing bar are from Ann Sacks Tile and Stone. They’re a light yellow/green crackle glaze. The other tiles with gorgeous designs are antique and were made mostly in England during the Art Nouveau period (a style of decoration and architecture of the late 19th and early 20th century, marked by the use of flowing, sinuous lines) and obtained from various collectors. Notice how lovely the tiles are across from you when you sit on the commode in the rest rooms – they were chosen for your extended pleasure.
- The bar floor was laid with Travertine marble and a glass tile design.
CURTAINS: We (not all of us) (OK, I) wanted to do gold-veined mirrors in the back room (dubbed Route 66 because of its length) but because that would be too expensive we found the gold and black lace fabric which works just as well. However, Versailles it isn’t. Gold-veined mirrors were originally popular in palaces and affluent homes and, much later on, in nightclubs in the days of Hollywood glamour. In spite of the awkward geography of the back room it looks very rich with the lace, glass block walls and chandeliers.
CHAIRS: The 2 large chairs in the back room are Flemish, richly carved walnut, high back arm chairs, circa 1880, are very rare and cost close to $1,000 each. They’re from Belgium. Flemish artifacts come from Flanders, the region of northwest Europe including part of northern France and western Belgium and bordered by the North Sea. It was a hotbed of artistic activity in 17 and 1800’s. They were often used in dining rooms, and in halls and vestibules where people had to wait. Customers who use them should be honored to sit in such a treasure, even though they’re near the kitchen door. The idea behind them was to make a less desirable table more desirable.
LIGHTING: Most of the pieces were collected (squirreled away) over time and were found in antique shops. The “thrill of the hunt” couldn’t have been more exciting. The shades above the standing bar and the shade on the wall above Table #7 are called “Vaseline Glass”. They get their unique color from uranium which was a common source of yellow and green coloring for over 100 years. If you apply a geiger-counter you will get a positive reading. However, the levels are not harmful and now there are other chemicals which can be used to produce the same colors. If you shine an ultra-violet (or black) light onto it, as we have done, you will get a fluorescent green glow.
- The 3 Wall Shades on Tables #11, 12 & 13 (the other side of the standing bar) and the shade near Table #1, were hand made by www.vintageshades.com, an extraordinary website that sells the most breathtaking custom-made lamp shades. These are called Bed Lamps because the wiring in the back allows the shade to be hung from the bed’s head-board. In the early part of the last century, shade makers used a printing technique that could transfer any image onto fabric. The images on our shades were copied from old postcards we found in Madrid. We also chose the fabric, wire design, the fringe and the color scheme of each shade.
Charo was born in 1942 in Murcia, Spain as Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza. She was discovered early in her life by Spanish bandleader Xavier Cugat (who later came to Hollywood and was featured with his latin band in many musicals) who promptly married her and presented her as a singer in his orchestra. Her trademark “cuchi cuchi” comes from her nickname for her dog from childhood. Charo says: “I was 3 years old and I had a dog called Cuchillo, and when Cuchillo was happy he wiggled. (Cuchillo means “knife” in Spanish ) And that ugly dog, when he bites you he cuts you. When I was very young I copied him and I used to say ‘como Cuchi, como Cuchi’ (like Cuchi, like Cuchi). Everybody thought that it was very cute when I wiggled and said cuchi-cuchi and they gave me cookies and candy. Now, every time I say cuchi-cuchi, people give me money.”
She educated herself and is an accomplished classical guitarist after studying with guitar virtuoso, Andres Segovia, father of modern classical guitar music. She’s fluent in 5 languages – French, English, Italian, Japanese, and her native Spanish. She moved to the US and made many appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and on Love Boat. She moved to Hawaii in 1988 and performs regularly in Las Vegas. (You can rent her house in Hawaii when she’s not there.) She was last seen on Hollywood Squares and in a phone commercial – still gorgeous at 75 and shaking her stuff.
We decided to call our restaurant Cuchi Cuchi because the name implies fun, sexy, naughty – a feeling you get when you’re happy. People in Latin cultures understand the meaning of this word better than Americans whose few associations are with Charo or babies. Our muse’s photo adorns the bar entrance wall.
TAROT CARD READINGS
The Tarot is a mysterious deck of cards of unknown origin. At least 600 years old, this deck is the direct ancestor of our modern playing cards. They originated during a time when the mysterious and irrational had more reality than they do today and they can serve as a bridge to ancestral wisdom. The figures on the cards have been through many incarnations. Three of the most popular cards and texts were created by Paul Foster Case, Aleister Crowley, and A.E. Waite.
The cards are a symbol of our projection of our inner world upon the outer world. They represent symbolically those instinctual forces of the psyche which Carl Jung has called the archetypes (collective unconscious patterns). Jung proved that consciousness is not only a rational process but is profoundly interdependent with the unconscious (a healthy mind has a balance of the two). He even correlates colors w/archetypes, i.e. blue (thinking); red (feeling); yellow (intuition); green (sensation).
As far as we know, Cuchi Cuchi is the only restaurant in this area that features Tarot Card Reading or some form of psychic service (could be palms, tea leaves, etc.) in an informal and entertaining setting. (schedule may change so please check our website).
The lovely creature on CC’s facade, was created by local artist Mark Steele – www.marksteeleart.com. She represents the glamour and excitement of dressing up and having a night on the town with friends; of meeting someone who enriches your life at first glance; an era where naughtiness was encouraged and when good times flowed out of mouths and bottles; a time where a city, instead of yawning, came to life at night. She and the flowers on either side of her are made with wire, epoxy and many different types of colored mirrors and tiles. The pieces are mounted on copper panels which, over time, have developed a naturally green patina.
Mark has also made some lovely pieces for Dalí in Somerville. They are the huge triptych painting in the middle room, the panel on the front of the host desk, and the outside sculpture over the kitchen door.
Our staff is decked out in vintage clothes and jewels from our CC costume closet and CC vault library. We want to project a time when luxury, sensuality, beauty, naughtiness and a bit of excess were cultivated and people could indulge in these for a few hours.
Please come to see us for 2 kisses, a hug and a memorable evening.
Tamara, Fernanda and all of the Cuchi Cuchi staff welcome you….