Of the various restaurants in the Orange County area, Amelia’s Restaurant boasts a history as rich and flavorful as the tastes it delivers.
Amelia Arbace Seton began a business that would become one of the oldest family-owned restaurants in Orange County. Known as a cozy landmark on Marine Avenue, Amelia’s Restaurant has a long history that includes three generations, each filled with a story of their own.
Amelia married her beloved Greg Seton, a U.S. Army Staff Sergeant in 1945 in Sorrento, Italy, where she had been born and raised. In 1946, Greg and a pregnant Amelia moved to Silver Lake, Los Angeles. Greg worked with his father in their family real estate company, and Amelia spent her time with their two children, Hetty and Randy. She also volunteered at their church and spent countless hours working for the community. When their schedules allowed, the family would visit Balboa Island.
On one of their vacations, they found that their favorite restaurant, The Cape Cod House, was for sale, and Amelia pleaded with Greg to buy it. Much to his chagrin, Amelia asked for the help of her father-in-law and soon opened her own restaurant in October of 1961. It quickly became one of the favorite dinner houses in Newport Beach, and it was well liked by some of the Hollywood crowd. Claire Trevor and Milton Bren were two of the many admirers that persuaded Amelia to add some Italian dishes to her mostly seafood menu. Amelia had a brother with a restaurant across from the opera house in Vienna and another brother with a restaurant in Capri, so it was not a challenge for her to include authentic family recipes.
While Amelia was starting the restaurant, she rented a home on the island. After two years of commuting back and forth to their Los Angeles home, Greg left the real estate industry, moved to Orange County and committed to the restaurant business with his wife. By 1967, they had built their home on Topaz and that remained their home.
Since age 19, daughter Hetty always helped her mother in the kitchen at the restaurant. On a busy Saturday night, Amelia got the flu and Hetty had to take over her position. Hetty found she could run the kitchen and loved doing it. It was the beginning of the next generation. Splitting her time inside and outside of the kitchen, Hetty met her husband, John Robinson, while he was dining at Amelia’s on a visit from England. They married three years later and have been running the business for 35 years now. John runs all of the back office operations and involves himself with various groups throughout the community.
In 1982, Hetty and John had a daughter, Alexandra. Focusing more on motherhood and the management side of the restaurant, Hetty spent six years training Jose Oliveros to someday take over her job as head cook. Twenty-seven (27) years later, Jose remains the head cook and brings in his wife and youngest son to help.
Seating her first table at 5 years of age, Alexandra has spent many hours working as a waitress, hostess and even a bus-girl at Amelia’s. Over the past few years, Alexandra has focused her time on a career with HOM Real Estate Group. Appropriately, she specializes in the sale of homes on Balboa Island. Alexandra still lends a hand at the restaurant with marketing. In addition to following in her grandfather’s footsteps in real estate, it isn’t an impossibility that she might someday take over the restaurant. Although currently Alex also has her own events-planning business, “Posh Events.”
Through the changing economies and growing island popularity, Amelia’s Restaurant has remained a business that prides itself in personal relationships and family values. It has become a staple in the Orange County Community.