It's hard to come out of an Italian restaurant without getting tomato sauce on yourself. Imagine if you were painting in an Italian restaurant.
Well, your fantasy comes true tonight at Gia Visto in Monroeville, where Colors & Bottles will be presenting one of its "painting with cocktails" classes.
"The primitivo is a robust, rustic red wine with spicy black fruit notes. And it goes perfectly with the cobalt blue."
Actually, the wine -- or beverage of your choice -- is not the focus here. It's the painting.
Colors & Bottles, based in Columbus, Ohio, brings novice painters to restaurants, galleries, cafes and bars to apply acrylic paints to canvas under the tutelage of an instructor and the influence of a social beverage.
The goal, according to Jenna Cool, the group's vice president of operations, isn't to produce fine works of art so much as it is to have fun and meet people.
"It's more laid back than your average art class," Ms. Cool said. "Other classes, the people are rigid and take it way too seriously. We're bringing a cheaper painting class, promoting different venues, basically bringing art to everybody. The wine or the drink relaxes them and gets their creativity out."
The instructor tonight at Gio Vista will be Sara Viragova, a junior at the University of Pittsburgh, where she is majoring in molecular biology major with a minor in Spanish.
OK, that doesn't exactly scream art instructor, but Ms. Viragova is a natural talent who has been dabbling in paint since she was little.
"I like to draw and paint. It's a hobby," she said. "In high school, I started teaching young people. I really like sharing art with other people. Because it's really personal, but it's so fun when you get to share it.
"Art should be fun, no matter what your skill level. Everybody should try it."
Ms. Viragova joined Colors & Bottles after seeing an online ad reaching out to teachers. She sent them some examples of her work -- including the one here that she will be bringing to tonight's class -- and got the gig.
"This is going to be my first event, so I'm really excited about it," said Ms. Viragova, who will leading by example. "People should just come with an open mind. We'll talk about the paintings, the techniques. But, really, I expect they'll just come with a good attitude, and we'll get everybody on the same page, get everybody included. I'll help out as much as I can, but we'll let everybody explore their own form of creative expression."
It's BYOB. At some venues, students are able to purchase their drinks, but Gia Visto has no liquor license, so you're on your own. (There is a $4 cork fee.)
The art supplies, however, are provided as part of your $20 fee. They'll even give you an apron. And you get to keep your painting.
"We use my painting as a template and go along with that or make it their own style," Ms. Viragova said. "It's pretty open to what everybody wants to do. It's not about grading or measuring success, but to trying something new and having fun. You're not judging yourself or comparing yourself to other people in the class. That's not what it's about at all."
Again, the drinking part is just to loosen things up. You're not supposed to go all drunken-artist here.
"It is a social drinking atmosphere, nothing too crazy, because you still need to be painting," said Ms. Viragova, who will not be drinking.
"I'm actually not 21 yet," she said.
The folks at Gio Vista, which opened in February, say they're excited to be part-bistro, part-studio.
"We're trying to break away from the norm. We are not your traditional Italian restaurant," said Jennifer Imro, the dining room manager. "Everything from our decor to the way we wait on tables to our food, everything is modern and on the cutting edge.
"We have started kids cooking classes. Every other Saturday, we invite children to spend three hours with owner and chef Jill Varmecky, teaching them kitchen etiquette, how the restaurant works. They tour the kitchen, then they each make salad, dinner and dessert for four people. And they get to take it home.
"So not only do the parents get to spend three or four hours to themselves, they get dinner for four. It's been a big hit. The kids love it."
The painting class goes from 6 to 9 p.m. Expect about 20 to 30 people of all ages.
Gio Vista is located on Old William Penn Highway in Monroeville. If you would like to participate in tonight's class, visit colorsandbottles.com. If you can't make it to tonight's class, others are scheduled at various venues in the weeks ahead.
Get a preview of tonight's event!
If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at email@example.com or 412-263-1456.
This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/