At this weekly Sunday dinner party in Silver Lake, all are welcome — even the Uber driver
It was a typical Sunday evening at the Caivanos’ house in Silver Lake.
As Resa Caivano chopped homegrown zucchini and Swiss chard in the kitchen, husband Diego grilled vaca vacio — flank steak filled with chard — at the outdoor asado as more than 30 friends, family and neighbors gathered at their hillside home. As jazz music played throughout the house, the mood was festive as children jumped in and out of the swimming pool — including the Caivanos’ daughters, Naiya, 11, Elia, 9, and Xenia, 7 — while guests harvested vegetables for dinner and relaxed on 25-foot-long benches surrounding the pool.
Every Sunday, the couple open their home to the community for Sunday dinner.
“It’s important to get together,” says Resa, a family practice doctor. “Food brings people together.”
But regular visitors know that the Caivanos’ dinner parties are less about the food and more about the community.
“We wanted to create a place where people can come,” says Diego, an emergency room doctor. “It’s been such an important part of our lives — to have a safe space where all are welcome and can be who and what they are without reserve or judgment. We are using the community of family, friends and acquaintances for self-care.”
Before they moved to the house last year, the couple hosted Resa’s cousins, known as “The Tias,” and their college friends at their Silver Lake duplex. Soon, East Coast transplants were added, followed by friends of friends. Before long, the couple were holding standing-room-only dinners for 30 in their 750-square-foot bungalow on Commonwealth Avenue.
“My mom and dad always helped people,” Resa explains. “People always showed up on Sunday. So my parents would make extra food.”
Clearly influenced by her family, Resa recently invited her Uber driver to dinner when the East Coast transplant sounded homesick. He now attends intermittently. “He says he comes when he needs to feel grounded,” says Resa. “That’s what it’s all about.”
(Mark Boster/For The Times)
(Mark Boster/For The Times)
At a recent gathering, dinner is a collaborative endeavor where people contribute wine, cheese, charcuterie, home-baked bread and pies. Everyone has a job, whether it is running out to the garden for rosemary or oregano, working the outdoor grill and pizza oven, or cooking side by side at one of the eight burners on the bright blue vintage stove.
If food is love, then the Caivanos’ kitchen is the heart of Silver Lake.
“It’s a nurturing and welcoming environment for all the expats,” says Aisha Singleton, who collaborates with Resa on the menu and serves as head chef. “To be here feels like finding your way in a sprawling city.”
“It’s been such an important part of our lives — to have a safe space where all are welcome and can be who and what they are without reserve or judgment. We are using the community of family, friends and acquaintances for self-care.”
Lately, the family has started using an app to coordinate the guest list and menu planning so they don’t run out of food. Who cleans up? “Everyone,” Resa says. “It’s a collaborative effort. We laugh, we joke, we cook, we clean. “
Brooklyn artist Gina Cunningham, 64, lives in Silver Lake half the year with husband Peter Eves, 71, and attends the weekly soiree with her two daughters and grandchildren. “It is a beacon for us,” she says. “We don’t have friends and colleagues in Silver Lake. We have become friends with all kinds of people. When we fly into LAX, we always fly in on Saturday so we don’t miss Sunday dinner.”
“Everyone is welcome,” says Eves, who received an invitation from Diego on the soccer field. “They are unique and special people. They work long hours as physicians. Sometimes Diego has to leave and go back to the emergency room. And yet they provide for everyone.”
The home reflects the funky, stylish intelligence of the owners with a nod to practical, natural elements, like the flourishing edible garden planted on top of their garage and a natural pool filtered by plants.
Longtime friend Brooks Atwood, design director at OfficeUntitled in Culver City, says he designed the Caivanos’ home as a machine for living. “It’s more about enjoying life and being able to plant, grow, eat, feed, and be with friends and family,” he says.
As a regular, Atwood compares the Caivanos’ Sunday dinners to a cleanse. “You can wipe off all your issues of the week and start fresh.”
At 3,000 square feet, the two-story home is grand, but its execution was humble. Working alongside his father, Marcelo, Diego served as the general contractor, building much of the house himself. (He subcontracted the foundation, plumbing, stucco and framing.) Together, father and son carried every rock, beam, plank and brick up the steep hillside. They even carried the piano, which belonged to Resa’s grandfather, noted jazz musician Sabby Lewis, on their backs. “We constructed the house with pleasure,” Marcelo says with a smile.
Interior designer Faith Blakeney added color and softness to the austere architecture, which helps create a warm, communal respite in a concrete jungle overrun by development.
At a little past 7 p.m., sweetbreads, steak, turmeric chicken, salmon, chimichurri, salads, pasta and vegetables from the garden are served buffet-style on the kitchen island, where simple white dinner plates are stacked sky-high. Because there are no overhead cabinets, the room has an expansive feel that allows guests, some of whom are in bathing suits, to socialize easily. Glasses are stored in a hallway pantry, where a second dishwasher handles overflow dishes.
The first floor, which has no interior walls, opens onto the pool area, making it easy to accommodate as many as 100 guests. There is a juxtaposition between the refined — a sculptural staircase that is like jewelry — and natural materials like the reclaimed barn-wood walls and kitchen cabinets.
After dinner, as the sun sets behind the Hollywood Hills, the kids return to the pool, bathed in the warm, pink tones of the California sunset. Indoors, dancing ensues.
As friends and family bask in the natural beauty of the sunset, the home feels emblematic of what is best about California: connecting to the outdoors and to one another.
“Half of the people here have slept on their couch at some point,” says filmmaker Sarovar Banka of the couple’s open-door spirit. “They have helped so many people.”
Adds Atwood: “The house has become a vessel for the community. I’m thrilled and overjoyed that people are enjoying the house the way they are.”
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