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Lost Parrot Cafe Finds an After-Dark Crowd

By Sam Moskow
The Review

Chalk-drawn latte menus lining the Lost Parrot Cafe’s entryway were among the final clues of its cafe status when doors reopened at 6 p.m. on Nov. 7. Four-top tables that typically seat 230 groups a day instead fanned out around an impromptu stage for another sold-out crowd — one craving comedy, not coffee.
Both South Pasadenans and passersby taking a bet on Yelp’s top search result for “best brunch near me” have found a home at the Lost Parrot Cafe for the past five years. Now, it’s hoping to embed itself even further into the DNA of the community as an after-hours venue space.
Live @ LP, the comedy show held at Lost Parrot Cafe earlier last month, is part of an effort to bring some life into “sleepy South Pasadena,” manager Jonathan Rinella said. It was their third evening event that week — following Taco Tuesday and Wednesday Wine and Music — and will return New Year’s Eve with double-header family-friendly and midnight-countdown shows.
The effort is evident of the “symbiotic” relationship Rinella says the Lost Parrot Cafe enjoys with its community.
“You start off with what I think people would like, which is basically what you like, and then either you stay rigid or you stay malleable so that you don’t break,” Rinella said. “It’s a lot easier to bend than it is to break.”
Rinella’s personal history with the Lost Parrot Cafe runs deep. He and the owner, South Pasadena-native Justin Prietto, washed dishes together for the catering company that previously occupied the Huntington Drive property over 20 years ago. When the 100-year-old building came on the market, they jumped on the opportunity to act on their dream of turning the catering company’s once-a-week dine-in service into a real restaurant — named partially as a joke given the hundreds of green parrots living within the City of Trees.
They first served Peruvian-inspired brunch and dinner amid stacked books and board games and even a piano for patrons to enjoy when they launched in May 2018 with then co-owner Winston Secrest.
With the suspension of in-person dining during the pandemic, they pivoted to grab-and-go options, including handcrafted tiki cocktails.
“We came out of that with the intention of really serving our community in the sense that we needed to listen to what other people wanted from us,” Rinella said of the pandemic.
In doing so, they’ve assumed a Pacific Coast fare and instead lined their shelves with curated for-sale plants that double as decor. Having ditched their dinner service and the piano, Lost Parrot Cafe is up for grabs after their doors close at 4 p.m.
When they’re not hosting an event of their own, the baseline price for their space is $800 for the evening. For an additional $200 they serve tapas, and they’re able to accommodate all menu preferences thanks to a full kitchen and liquor license.
Early last month, Live @ LP attendees enjoyed a complimentary drink with their $25 door admission — a design of Lost Parrot Cafe’s own barista Titi Lee, who produced the show.
Lee, whose pronouns are they/them, was a stand-up comedian in New York City for a decade before moving to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting in 2015. When the Writers Guild of America strike disrupted their plans, Lee turned to part-time Uber driving. A nearby Uber stop last June ultimately led Lee to Lost Parrot Cafe, where they inquired about job openings.
“My first thought wasn’t to do comedy there — it was that I would like a part time job — but it just sort of felt like it could be all these things at once,” they said.
In Lee’s first week on the job, Rinella approached them about hosting a comedy show after learning of their experience. While Rinella covered the logistics, Lee put together a five-person lineup featuring Janaya Future Khan and Robert Schultz for the first show on Sept. 14 — selling all but two of 45 tickets. Lee also delivered a set at both Live @ LP shows.
Sourcing talent from within its staff is yet another way Lost Parrot Cafe keeps community at its core.
“This is all one big, unpretentious group of people who are all trying to reach their goals. And so that’s kind of what we want to do for the people who work here and for the people who come in here,” Rinella said.
That includes Lost Parrot regular and plumbing salesman Jeremy Graham, whom Rinella recently hired to service their heating system.
Graham considers Lost Parrot Cafe to already be the communal space it’s aspiring to become.
“This place is like a portal. I don’t know if you know of energy portals, but this is one of them,” Graham said. “I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve met here where I didn’t know them, but this is all we had in common. I feel like a lot of synchronicity happens here.”
Rinella said he hopes for Lee’s comedy show to become a weekly fixture at the cafe, which Lee echoed. Lee has created a mailing list for those interested in upcoming shows and reduced early ticket sales.
The upcoming New Year’s Eve shows will begin at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., respectively. Tickets are $35 to $75 and can be purchased at
Lost Parrot Cafe is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and located at 1929 Huntington Drive in South Pasadena.

The Lost Parrot Cafe has launched live comedy nights and will return New Years Eve with double header family friendly and midnight countdown shows

First published in the December 29 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

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