Best known as a bucolic showbiz suburb (and birthplace of white-bred/-bread icons Opie and Tammy, aka Ron Howard and Debbie Reynolds), Burbank also has a dark side (and we're not talking about the greedy landlords trying to gouge local businesses on rent). In addition to goth-y retail shops and a treasure trove of vintage fashion and home decor favored by local retro hounds, Burbank boasts another unlikely and even more against-type anachronism — a heavy metal guitar hero–inspired wine bar.
D’Argenzio Enoteca is a beautiful little spot where the restless spirit of the late, legendary Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Randy Rhoads enhances an already fabulous vibe. Lovingly curated by the ax-man’s sister, Kathy Rhoads-D’Argenzio, and her lifelong soulmate/husband, Richard D’Argenzio, it’s a complex and delicious confection of disparate aesthetics and cultural contradiction that nonetheless resoundingly succeeds. The paradoxical charm of the room's tastefully layered woods, textured with ceiling beams, bar-supporting casks and wrought-iron chandelier lighting transposed against multiple representations of guitar god Rhoads and his polka-dot Flying V ax, typify the unusual setting. The uniformly cheery customers dine at communal tables, with plenty of quality vino flights a-flowing, all providing a cozy home-style setting for this unusual family saga.
The tale reaches back to 1940s North Hollywood, where the Rhoads matriarch's private music school, Musonia, and the D’Argenzio family’s cabinet-making shop both were doing business where the wine bar currently stands.
“We were both born and raised here,” Richard D'Argenzio explains. ”Woodworking was the family business for 70 years — this was my father’s cabinet shop. We went to Italy 15 years ago and got inspired to turn the shop into a little wine bar — our family has vineyards up in Santa Rosa, where all the wine is made. And we wanted to make it fun, so we started doing music here six or seven years ago, and then people found out about the connection with Randy.”
“Richie was my first boyfriend,” his wife gushes. “We started dating 47 years ago and have been married for 42 years. My mom opened Musonia in 1947 — the same year as his dad’s cabinet shop, so yes, it’s destiny.”
“Music was the driving force for Randy, and he got it from our mom and Musonia,” Kathy Rhoads-D’Argenzio says. “He was teaching there when he went to audition for Ozzy. He didn’t want to go, he was already in Quiet Riot, but Mom told him, ‘Go — it could open the door to a world of opportunity.’ That’s the only reason he went. He took a little amp that Richie had just refinished here at the cabinet shop earlier that day, and he was just warming up when Ozzy stopped him and says, ‘That's enough — you've got the freaking job.’”
Osbourne, recently sacked from Black Sabbath, was at his all-time lowest point then, but the classically trained Rhoads brought a high-voltage jolt of dynamic musical juice that galvanized the singer and, ultimately, the entire genre. With Rhoads as lead guitarist, co-writer and co-producer of critical albums Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman, the pair achieved metal immortality, a brilliant collaboration tragically cut short when Rhoads was killed in a 1982 plane crash.
“Ozzy is a good guy, very sweet — and we knew him at his worst,” Kathy says. “It gives me chills to think about the shape he was in. He was really doing nothing, with no hope, and Randy was instrumental in resurrecting his career. Ozzy and Sharon really honor Randy’s memory and we really appreciate that. We’re still good friends with them, and we do memorial tribute events for Randy with Ozzy here at the winery.”
The annual tributes brought a new twist and a wilder clientele to the room. “A lot of celebrities come in and we don’t even know who they are,” Richard admits. "People say, ‘What? You don’t recognize who that is?' Tom Morello and all the studio people, metal musicians like Tracii Guns, all kinds of guitarists."
So it’s a music venue now, with a special vibe — “Everyone who comes in here says that,” Kathy said. “It’s not a bar, just a place with a good feel, down to earth. People walk in strangers but they come out as family.”
D’Argenzio is famed for its special Randy Rhoads cabernet, a lovely wine with rocking drinkability. Proceeds from its sale go to the Randy Rhoads trust, which funds scholarships at UCLA and CSUN.
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D'Argenzio Enoteca does indeed exude a very welcoming, particular depth of feel, a relaxed atmosphere loaded with convivial ease and esoteric rock & roll spirit.
“Ozzy gave Randy the chance to really soar,” Kathy said. “But Randy was a very humble, down-to-earth guy; he wanted to quit rock & roll and go back to UCLA to study classical and music theory and get his master’s degree. Of course Ozzy said, ‘Are you freaking kidding? Why?’ And Randy told him, ‘It’s my passion.’ He wanted to explore and would have done something so innovative. ... What’s most shocking about it is that he never really knew the impact he had. He would be so surprised.”
Kathy gets a little melancholy talking about her brother, and when Richard shares that Randy's fans are constantly coming in and sharing how the guitarist changed their lives, she says wistfully, “It’s just the way it is. And it’s beautiful.”
D’Argenzio Enoteca, 1204 W. Burbank Blvd., Burbank; (818) 846-8466, dargenziowine.com.