Picasso’s Gourmet Deli Gives New Meaning to the Phrase, "Culinary Arts"
by Dana Koster
Every conceivable surface of Picasso’s Gourmet Deli gleams with paint. As you walk in, deep claret reds and dazzling canary yellows pop from dozens of acrylic canvases lining the walls. Professionals on their lunch breaks from the courthouse and teenagers in oversized tank tops talk amongst themselves in the line to order, or sit at tables covered in bright India Ink birds and stylized paintings of bicycles.
The counter displays painted wine bottles and acid green vases, and if you peek beneath the baskets of artisan bread you’ll find that even the counter itself swirls with colored shapes. Behind it, ready to personally take orders, stands the grinning white-haired figure of Jordi Camps, owner and resident artist.
Before moving to California, Camps owned a restaurant in his home country of Ecuador. “We had a restaurant, and it was the same idea – art, good food, a place you can go and really enjoy. It gives you a place to show your art, and that becomes part of the business.”
So when Camps’ sister-in-law suggested he move to Modesto in 2000 to open a restaurant here, it seemed natural to call the place Picasso’s. Over the last twelve years, this downtown Modesto lunch spot has displayed Camps’ own paintings as well as those of others in the community, including dazzling works by his daughter, artist Margarita Camps. This coming December, the father-daughter pair will be featured in a joint art show in South America.
But Picasso’s Gourmet Deli is not just a vehicle for art – far from it. On a very basic level, Camps says, food and art are intertwined. “The food and the art together are so natural. They are something you create and you enjoy.” To illustrate this point, many of the sandwiches on the menu have art inspired names: the Renoir, a turkey sandwich that sings with the bright flavors of cranberry sauce and blue cheese, or the Mona Lisa, the Michelangelo, the Mozart.
“You cannot see the food as just food. That’s why we chose the different names for the sandwiches, why we chose pesto and sun dried tomato and honey mustard – because each of them has a different color. When I make the sandwich, the things inside look beautiful to me.”
It’s this focus on beauty and joy that keeps Camps’ customers coming back for more.