The Villa Nova, 9015 Sunset Strip
This restaurant was originally called the Mermaid Cafe built in the late 1920's. In 1933 it premiered as The Villa Nova and taken over by film director Vincente Minnelli and silent film actor-director Allen Dale. Dale had a strict rule: No press allowed!".
Marilyn Monroe went on her first (blind) date with Joe DiMaggio in 1953, and director Minnelli chose it as the spot to propose to Judy Garland. The Villa Nova was sold in early 1972 to Elmer Valentine, Lou Adler, and Mario Maglieri. The named it The Rainbow as a tribute to Judy Garland. Originally they wanted to name it Over The Rainbow, but could not get clearance. On April 16, 1972, the Rainbow had a huge opening starting with a kick off party for Elton John. It quickly became known as a hangout for celebrities of all types. John Belushi ate his last meal here (lentil soup) at table #16. The owner is still Mario Maglieri.
Now Let me introduce you to 90 year Charlotte Dale. Her husband, actor Allen Dale ( born Alfred DiLisio in Abruzi, Italy) opened the original VILLA NOVA on Vine in 1933. It moved a few times and then settled at the Sunset location (now the RAINBOW BAR AND GRILL) in 1944. It was at this time they met, fell in love and were soon married. They ran the place together from 1948 - 1968 until they moved it to Newport Beach. (They closed just this past year/2013) Her son, Jim contacted me via Vintage Los Angeles and I just interviewed her for my next Los Angeles Magazine article. She hadn't walked into the Rainbow for YEARS and she was STUNNED to see so much of the original interior INTACT along with the murals and stained glass her husband installed. This woman *IS* VLA! Imagine her stories. This is the location where Marilyn Monroe had her first date with Joe Dimaggio (which angered Mickey Rooney) and where Vincent Minnelli proposed to Judy Garland. They basically witnessed gangster, Mickey Cohen's attempted murder right outside the restaurant and Charlie Chaplin was the one that helped them get their business off the ground. By the end of the night the entire staff of the Rainbow was surrounding her table where she graciously held court. She's sharp, funny, detailed and sentimental. I have to say she made me cry a few times listening to her recall her early days in Los Angeles. I don't want to give too much away since it will be all documented in the article, but these are reasons I wouldn't want to be doing anything else with my life. She's one of the last restaurateurs of the golden of Hollywood left and I'm honored to document her stories.
My exclusive mini documentary featuring interviews with Charlotte and Mikael Magierli at the Rainbow Bar & Grill
Villa Nova and Club Largo seen in this 1966 photo. Largo became the Roxy. See my Largo entry for extended groovy info.
Original Villa Nova Menu from the 1940s. EBAY SCORE!
Alison Martino is a writer, television producer and personality, and L.A. pop culture historian. She founded the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles in 2010. In addition to CityThink and VLA, Martino muses on L.A’s. past and present on Twitter and Instagram and on her website, alisonmartino.com
Alison is also currently a columnist for Los Angeles Magazine.