Iconic Neighborhood Restaurants: Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Agoura Hills and Westlake Village | KCET
Iconic Neighborhood Restaurants: Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Agoura Hills and Westlake Village
The first inhabitants of Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Agoura Hills and Westlake Village were the Chumash Indians, who made their homes among the canyons and rolling hills of Conejo Valley. They were attracted to the area by the plentiful streams and springs. It was the Chumash who named the area Calabasas, though to this day no one can quite agree what the name is derived from. Some say it was a Chumash word meaning, “where the wild geese fly,” while others believe it is comes from the Spanish word calabaza, meaning “pumpkin” or “gourd.”
In the 1700s, the Spanish began expeditions up into the Conejo Valley and they soon landed in the area of Calabasas. During this time, they established many ranches, which were eventually divided into smaller farms. Throughout the 1800s, Agoura Hills and Calabasas were popular stagecoach stops for travelers on the historic Camino Real. The rolling hills and Old Western towns of the Conejo Valley made for popular filming locations in the early 1900s. In fact, in the 1920s, Agoura Hills was often referred to as Picture City.
Just across the 101 highway from Calabasas is the neighborhood of Hidden Hills, which began in 1950 with A.E. Hanson, who had also helped to develop the small community of Rolling Hills. Westlake Village was another planned community developed in the early 1960s.
The beautiful landscapes and quaint neighborhoods of Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Agoura Hills and Westlake Village make for the ideal hiding place for some of Hollywood’s elite, including America’s most famous family, the Kardashians. These celebrities tend to frequent the area’s many historic and iconic restaurants, making these venues frequent fodder for the national tabloids.
Italia Deli & Bakery
Open since 1981, this family owned and operated bakery gives off the vibes of a classic New York Italian deli. The breads are all made from scratch each morning so early birds can enjoy hot rolls, fresh out of the oven. Also a small grocery, Italia Deli & Bakery offers imported treats like San Marzano tomatoes, 25-year-old balsamic vinegar and even Italian beers and wines that go nicely with their made-to-order deli sandwiches. Today, the deli is so popular that it isn’t uncommon to see lines out the door during lunch hours.
The first Italia Deli & Bakery was actually in Granada Hills and was opened by the De Giosa patriarch and his brother. Ten years later, they decided to open up another shop in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Agoura Hills and they’ve settled there ever since. The restaurant made local news in 1995 when owner Gina De Giosa and her family won the $56-million California Lotto. Each of the family members – 15 in total – put in $5 and each ended up with $1.9-million. Nevertheless, they decided to keep the deli open and in the family. Today, the deli is run by the De Giosa kids, including Michael De Giosa, who hopes that one-day his children and their cousins will take over the family business.
Italia Deli & Bakery: 5657 Kanan Rd., (818) 991-4838
La Paz Mexican Seafood
Oscar, owner of La Paz, moved to America from Mexico in 1966. His first job in Los Angeles was in the kitchens of the iconic Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. Over the next several years, he continued honing his skills in some of the most prominent kitchens across both L.A. and Boston, and in 1979 he decided to open his own restaurant. The first La Paz was in Canoga Park, but after about 10 years he decided to move his business to the quaint town of Calabasas.
The menu at La Paz is Yucatan-style Mexican cuisine, with a focus on seafood. Given Calabasas’s close proximity to the hills and beaches of Malibu, the fish is always fresh and delicate and best paired with one of Oscar’s 140 types of tequila. At La Paz, Sunday Brunch includes All-You-Can-Drink Margaritas and a live Mariachi band.
La Paz Mexican Seafood: 4505 Las Virgenes Rd #101, (818) 880-8076
Ladyface Alehouse & Brasserie
Ladyface Alehouse was opened by Cyrena Nouzille in November of 2009. She decided to name the microbrewery after Ladyface Mountain, which was named as such by the Chumash Indians. The topography of the mountain, which is the backdrop for the Ladyface Alehouse, appears to be shaped like a woman’s face and chest. The Chumash believed that this lady was gazing up toward the skies, dreaming of the return of her lover.
While the brewery may not be as old as some of the other restaurants on this list, it does hold to the traditions of the area. Not only does the name honor an old Chumash story, but the food is also inspired by California’s bountiful local ingredients. The brasserie has a charming country-pub atmosphere, inspired by a European influence. The beers are also inspired by Europe, with a touch of California. Popular brews include French and Belgian-inspired wheats as well as California IPAs.
Ladyface Alehouse & Brasserie: 29281 Agoura Rd., (818) 477-4566
Located in Old Town Calabasas, the building that holds Sagebrush Cantina was once a group of small shops built in the early 1900s. In fact, what is today a parking lot was once the local jail. When the restaurant was first opened in 1974, it was just a one-room storefront with two employees, including owner Bob McCord. McCord told the L.A. Times in 1986 that times were so tough at the start that he was once forced to sell his watch in order to buy food for the restaurant. Eventually, the customers started flowing and by the mid-80s, there were more than 150 employees and seating for 800 customers.
There was a time when locals disapproved of the cantina as it was bringing raucous crowds to their quiet town, but today people often refer to Sagebrush as the start of the new Old Town Calabasas, bringing tons of business up into the Conejo Valley. Indeed, the cantina can get quite rowdy, especially on the weekends. In the 1980s, L.A. Times estimated that McCord would sell 300 gallons of margaritas on the typical weekend, and that number has only grown in recent years. Today, the restaurant features classic cantina-style Mexican dishes as well as live music. If you stop in soon, you may catch their summer concert series before the season ends.
Sagebrush Cantina: 23527 Calabasas Rd., (818) 222-6062
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