Business Buzz – February 2019


Tom D’Amato opened D’Amato Law offices in Orinda in 2017.
    The team he works with includes his wife Crystal, director of legal operations, paralegal Gina Taber and Tomislav Peraic, a practicing attorney. Photographs printed on glass, many boasting views of the California we all love and all shot by a friend, festoon the practice’s spacious office. “We like working in this location and have no plans to move,” says D’Amato with a smile.

(Elana O'Loskey, Photographer)
T.J. D’Amato of D’Amato Law was named president of the Orinda Chamber of Commerce in December.

    D’Amato’s client base includes lawyers, law firms, real estate brokers and agents, nonprofit officers and directors, architects, engineers, design professionals, insurance brokers and agents, accountants and other professionals. D’Amato, a graduate of Hastings College of the Law and a certified specialist in legal malpractice law, is one of only two attorneys licensed to do so in Contra Costa County. In 2018, he and Christopher Whang spoke at a presentation hosted by Hoge Fenton Jones and Appel entitled “Competency and Attorney Well-Being.”
    When T.J., as he prefers to be called, and Crystal moved to Orinda in 2006, they thought of the graduation parties they would have for their children. Now Crystal is a volunteer at Sleepy Hollow Elementary where 10-year-old Wyatt is enrolled; Cassidy, age seven, is in first grade. The entire family enjoys outings such as snow skiing at Tahoe and water skiing in the Delta. Crystal says, “Like most people in Orinda, we love spending time with our kids.”
    Being a civic minded kind of guy, T.J. joined the Orinda Chamber of Commerce two years ago and has enjoyed learning about local business owners and their needs. In December, he was named president. Current board members include Vice President Juliet Don of Chevron; Secretary and Volunteer Chair Holly Henkel of Compass; and Treasurer Ally Fattore of Mechanics Bank Orinda. Past President Roy Hodgkinson and Executive Director Cindy Powell are also part of this energetic team.
    Having served on the board of the Defense Research Institute, T.J. is no stranger to a working board of directors. He sums up his focus for chamber activities in 2019 in three words: Organize – Energize – Grow. The team will focus on advocating not only for storefront businesses such as retail and restaurants, but also the hidden business in Orinda: IT and virtual businesses, nonprofits, start-ups and home-based businesses. Promoting women business leaders is at the top of the list. The board’s message to Orinda businesses is: Join us – we are busy creating a growing, thriving and relevant chamber in 2019!
    To catch up with T.J. at D’Amato Law, drop by 25 Orinda Way, Suite 308, Orinda, M-F 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., call 925-317-1300 or visit To learn more about the Orinda Chamber of Commerce contact Volunteer Chair Holly Henkel at 925-360-2390, or visit

(Elana O'Loskey, Photographer)
Orinda resident Garbis Bagdasarian recently retired after more than 35 years as owner of La Meditérranée Restaurant on College Avenue in Berkeley.

Garbis Bagdasarian Retires after 35+ Years at La Meditérranée. 2936 College Ave., Berkeley
    When Garbis Bagdasarian decided to sell La Meditérranée in Berkeley, one of his conditions was that the existing staff retain jobs as many of them have been with him 20 years or more. This proved to be both providential and deleterious. Deleterious in that he had a good offer, except that this condition would not be met. He turned it down. Providentially, his cousin Levon Der Bedrossian, with whom he had been in partnership all along, decided to take over Garbis’ portion of the ownership and keep all the staff.
    Garbis attributes the long success of his restaurant to the combined efforts of his staff and their dedication to providing delicious food night after night with sincerity and good humor. It is important to him to express his gratitude to staff members he has worked with over the past three-plus decades. The veteran list includes: Rene Bogran; Ramon and Vidal Meriscal; Rogelio; Rayito; Betty Munoz; Emily O’Hallam; Cheppe; Yekatarina; Hugo Lastra; Michaela; Mimi; Alejandra Munoz and, finally, his son Ara, daughter Tara Bagdassarian and wife Silva.
    In December, staff and family gave him a combination birthday and retirement party. When asked about his retirement plans he says with a laugh, “My wife has a list .…” Travel is on the horizon as they both want to visit their daughter Tara in Armenia. But their garden in Orinda beckons to him as well.
    Garbis and his wife Silva Zobian are proud of their children, Miramonte grads Ara and Tara, now all grown up and pursuing meaningful careers. Ara is co-founder and chief operating officer of Verdical Hydroponics. Based in Oakland, it designs hydroponic indoor farming systems (see Tara works for PicsArt, which also has a San Francisco presence, at its Armenian location. It’s an image editing, collage and drawing application and a social network. “Tara loves it,” says Garbis (see
    What’s going on at La Med? Alicia Vanden Heuvel, general manager, reminds us that the new owner, Levon Der Bedrossian and Garbis are cousins and have always owned La Med together. Now that Garbis has sold his interest, Levon owns all four locations (three in S.F. and one in Berkeley). Levon is sending Alicia, together with his son Vanick, to take over front of house and kitchen management in Berkeley. Alicia reassures patrons that the same experienced, committed staff of veteran servers and cooks remain secure in their
    Expect some new menu items such as falafel, chicken shawerma, saffron kebabs, house made sangria and $10 off bottled wine specials on Monday and Tuesday. The weekend brunch menu sports a new dish, shakshuka – a traditional Middle Eastern egg dish with tomatoes and spices, served with zaatar and olive oil pita bread. Visit the refurbished La Meditérranée at 2936 College Ave., Berkeley, call them at 510-540-7773 or go online to
    Orindans, look out for Garbis, who now has time to relax at local cafés, look for history books at Orinda Books, enjoy art at the Library Gallery and catch dinner and a movie at the Orinda Theatre. You’ll have no trouble talking with him, because he speaks Armenian, French, English, Arabic, some Turkish, some Greek and some Spanish. We at The Orinda News salute your 35+ years at La Med and wish you every happiness in retirement.

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