By Pat KRAMER
After years spent revamping the historic property at 9955 Sunland Blvd. in Sunland, restaurant owner Jorge Valladares opened his Italian restaurant Villa Terraza on April 28. Located at the site of the 1930s Old Vienna Gardens, Villa Terraza features a varied menu of Italian cuisine, principally pasta, steak and fish. Chef Jose Lopez, of the celebrated Genio’s Restaurant in Burbank (as well as Lakeside Country Club and Pikes Verdugo), runs the kitchen with Jorge’s wife Nelly and his son Justin. The entire menu can be viewed online at http://www.villaterrazarestaurant.com.
Villa Terraza has been a long time in the making according to owner Valladares, who originally acquired the property as part of a partnership in 2005. At the time, the property was so run-down that transients had been making it their home. Valladares recalled that he had to remove hundreds of loads of dirt that had been dumped at the site before the property could be rehabbed. After three years of rebuilding this unique historic property, the restaurant opened in 2008, but when the economy tanked, his partner opted to close the restaurant.
Several more years went by before Valladares was able to get back on his feet to acquire the permits necessary to reopen. Once the restaurant is in full swing, it will be hosting private events in the completely revamped banquet hall that seats 140, as well as offering the full restaurant service seven days a week for lunch and dinner with seating for 79 patrons, both inside and outside on the scenic patio with its garden landscaping. Restaurant hours are Sunday – Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday/Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The story behind the historic property is an interesting one. Local historian Don Ray said that German immigrant August Furst purchased the property that housed the Old Vienna Gardens (seen above) and his family home high up on the hill, known as Furst Castle, in 1936. From that point through the mid-1940s, neighbors complained of subversive activities behind the restaurant’s closed doors, including German American Bund meetings, possible radio transmissions to German U boats, armed guards, and the presence of savage German shepherd dogs guarding caves containing an arsenal of weapons.
Also on the property that the restaurant occupied were a lake and a small zoo that featured monkeys, an ocelot and exotic birds. Mr. Furst eventually sold off the restaurant and castle property in the 1970s and quietly retired leaving behind a legacy of stories that continue to interest many about alleged WWII spy activities.
For those who would like to hear more about the history of this historic property, Ray will be giving his fact-finding presentation, “The Furst Family: Shadow Hills Residents, Restaurant Owners, and Nazi Spies?” at the Burbank Historical Society at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 14. The Burbank Historical Society is located at 115 N. Lomita St. The event is free.
Speaking about his new restaurant, Villa Terraza owner Valladares said, “I want the community to know that my restaurant and property belongs to them. My goal is to bring the property back to its original glory and to offer the community a nice place to dine with their families in the local area.”