Cinco Tacos + Tequila offers an ever-changing gallery for local artists

One of Winter Park's newest restaurants is half eatery, half gallery.

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  • | 12:31 a.m. August 24, 2018
Cinco Tacos + Tequila blends a restaurant with an art gallery.
Cinco Tacos + Tequila blends a restaurant with an art gallery.
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A new Winter Park restaurant off U.S. 17-92 is half eatery and half art gallery, giving local artists a platform to display and sell their work.

Cinco Tacos + Tequila only has been open for a few weeks, but already it is becoming a hub for both the visual and culinary arts. The owners of the California/Mexican eatery at 140 N. Orlando Ave. decided early on it was going to be a haven for arts and culture — that was the vision of Cinco partners Michael Quatrini; Ed Perrott; Greg Pranzo; Mario Lopez, who starred on “Saved by the Bell;” and Chris Kirkpatrick from NSYNC.

“What we wanted in this atmosphere was to kind of have a cultured atmosphere where food and art and everything collide, and where local artists can have a place or forum they can hang out and meet folks that are interested in buying their artwork,” Quatrini said. “The artwork here is available for sale. We’re not just using wall graphics — it’s really fine art.”

“It creates sophisticated conversation and it (makes) people to want to gather,” Pranzo said. “It’s culture; it’s life.”

The collection of art all began with a permanent mural along a back wall painted by artist and designer Lionel Brackman, who was inspired by a traditional mosaic in the town of Tequila, Mexico.

“As the place was evolving, Lionel’s painting this by hand — he’s not airbrushing it, he’s literally painting it with a paintbrush,” Quatrini said. “Everybody was intrigued.”

That ended up drawing the attention of Orlando artist Jay “Jbon” Bonadio, who painted striking portraits of women dawning Día de los Muertos face paint. The artist’s signature touch is how he melts shattered glass on top of the painted canvas to give it a sparkling brilliance that’s pleasing to the eyes. 

Jbon and Brackman ended up collaborating on another permanent piece that depicts Albert Einstein writing an equation in neon lights: “tacos + tequila = Cinco.”

Orlando artist Mateo Blanco, famous for his larger-than-life portraits of Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey made from coffee beans, also contributed a few pieces to Cinco. Inspired by the singer Madonna, the “Desire” series by Blanco is essentially multiple pieces of art in one – an optical illusion portrait using slits. Depending on where you’re standing when you look at her, Madonna’s pose shifts.

“(Blanco)’s very interested in art that changes as (you look at it),” Quatrini said.

What makes Cinco unique compared to other art galleries is that the restaurant doesn’t charge any kind of commission. It’s a collision of culture the founding partners hope will evolve into a venue for art receptions and events in the future. The restaurant takes pride in being a platform for artists, Quatrini said. Information on purchasing art soon will be available on the restaurant’s website, but for now, the restaurant makes artist business cards available for any would-be buyers.

“We’re doing it for a lot of reasons: we want the place to look cool and updated,” Quatrini said. “We’re grateful for all the artists that put their work up, but I’m also fascinated how it is a great venue for them and selling their artwork. … We’ve been open three weeks and we’ve had 4,500 people come in here. From the artists’ standpoint, it’s great exposure for them.”

Quatrini said the restaurant still is looking for more local artists to have their work featured on the walls of Cinco. An artist to be announced soon will be doing a piece on the exterior of the building, as well.

“We’re excited, because we want it to change over,” Quatrini said. “We want people to come and see something different and unique. We’re happy to sell something, because that brings another interesting piece.”

“There’s plenty of walls here and plenty of room,” Pranzo said.



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