Hidden next to a pizzeria, just bordering Little Tokyo is one of L.A.’s sleekest new bars. Inside, flashes of hot pink neon reflect off a spinning mirror ball, a 30-foot green marble bar, a DJ booth in the corner and custom low-seated lounge furniture. At the Let’s Go! Disco & Cocktail Club, the dream of the 1970s is alive and well.
“It’s fun. I think it’s a time period that we all really love: the kind of mid- to late ’70s, early ’80s appeal and feel of it,” said beverage director and co-owner Lee Zaremba. “And in the spectrum of stuff that people are doing in the area that we’re in, we saw a need for a fun cocktail bar. We really love all the places that are around us, but there’s not a lot of places to mingle or to speak with other people.” Dark Emperador Marble
The vibe-y cocktail den was two years in the making from the team behind the adjoining De La Nonna, a square-pie pizza pop-up born during the COVID-19 pandemic that went bricks-and-mortar in late 2021. Zaremba and his co-owners — chef Patrick Costa and Jose L. Cordon, who serves as creative director — launched Let’s Go! Disco in mid-December with one goal in mind: Let cocktails and music bring people together for a good time.
Having operated their pizza business through an era of social isolation, they hoped to open the bar as a kind of space for people to fraternize and connect. It also meant crafting an entirely new menu to set it apart from the pizzeria.
The beverage program at De La Nonna focuses on natural wine, although there also are a handful of cocktails designed to be served quickly due to the popularity of the restaurant: The Negroni Garbaggio, a holdover from the pizzeria’s pop-up days, features whatever open bottles of liquor work well in the drink, premixed and poured into a bottle for quick execution, while there’s always a cocktail batched and on tap too.
For De La Nonna’s 134 seats, there’s only one bartender on the job during service; each cocktail on that menu is designed to be poured and on a guest’s table within five minutes. When it comes to Let’s Go! Disco, where the cocktails are the focus, the drinks can get a little more involved.
“The cocktails over here are a little touchy in a way where they’re fun and they’re flavorful and they’re harmonious, but it’s a margarita, right?” said Zaremba. “I don’t need you to know all the stuff that’s in it, but if people want to nerd out about it and find out, I am so down to nerd out.”
Shying away from the kitsch of the era’s ice cream cocktails and leaning into the Italian discoteca theme, Zaremba — the former beverage director for Boka Restaurant Group — devised a menu that gussies up classic margaritas, old-fashioneds, sours and daiquiris with house-made syrups, Sardinian liqueur, amari and other Italian ingredients. His take on a margarita features two varieties of amaro, plus fresh ginger, salt and rhubarb — an ingredient that takes hours to prepare — while the martini comes infused with sesame leaf; the daiquiri involves the tropical scent of kiwi. To sop up those cocktails, the team is planning to add a takeout window to the pizzeria in early 2023 to provide late-night slices to the disco dwellers.
Cocktails are split into five categories — ”Negroni-ish,” stirred and boozy, fun and citrusy, bubbly and “caffeine please!” — with descriptors that rely more on vibe than ingredients. The Negron-Dog is listed as “a look into the past, a soft, floral and less bitter Negroni,” while the Mucho Disko is “a brooding, slightly nutty mezcal cocktail.”
“I just wanted to have everything be fun and harmonious and kind of pay tribute to what the inspiration for the drink was,” Zaremba said.
Fun, taken seriously, is the ethos.
It’s present in the decor, which reimagined In Sheep’s Clothing — the Japanese hi-fi bar that formerly occupied the space — into a vinyl-spinning bar of a more colorful variety. When transforming the bar, the owners did away with In Sheep’s Clothing’s private dining room, which created more space under the disco ball. The bar area, which previously held five seats, was expanded to run much of the length of the room, tripling the number of seats.
Construction pushed a wall back by roughly three feet, which created arched shelving around the room now decorated with vintage LPs and other knick-knacks, while other retrofits overseen by designer Heather Tierney (founder of the Butcher’s Daughter restaurant) added archways and a lighted glass block wall, transporting imbibers from the more modern former digs and the surrounding industrial neighborhood to a place more funky, more whimsical.
The sound quality, however, remained. Cordon, himself a DJ, guided the sound systems, acoustics and music curation for the new bar. The trio of owners opted for a sound system similar to what had been in place , relying on Klipschorn speakers for the bass in the dance area, plus JBL speakers behind the DJ booth and additional Klipsch Heresy speakers on the walls.
Though disco is the theme, it’s far from the only music played.
Italian disco could already be found in some of De La Nonna’s music programming, along with broader European dance music. Now that the disco is open, Cordon promises further exploration into the genre, including 1970s American disco music, as well as the myriad genres that disco sampled from and influenced.
Like the track lists, those spinning will vary constantly too: Eric Tucker, co-owner of Virgil Village’s Melody Wine Bar and a former DJ, will be taking up a monthly residency at the disco, while familiar local DJs Jeremy Sole and Jo La Tengo also will make appearances. Originally planned just for weekends, live DJ sets have already begun creeping into other days of the week as well, and will continue for as long as guests love it, says Cordon. He’s happy to provide a bar and a dance floor where the music that’s brought him so much joy can do the same for others.
“A lot of my love of music has stemmed from disco and that era,” said Cordon, “also the glam era, the music, the style, the clothing — just the feeling that was around during that time is what we’re trying to encapsulate between the two spaces. I feel like that era of music and that time really let people know it was OK to just have fun again.”
The Let’s Go! Disco & Cocktail Club is open from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tuesday to Saturday at 710 E. 4th Place, Los Angeles.
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Black Emperador Marble Stephanie Breijo is a reporter for the Food section and the author of its weekly news column. Previously, she served as the restaurants and bars editor for Time Out Los Angeles, and prior to that, the award-winning food editor of Richmond magazine in Richmond, Va. Born and primarily raised in Los Angeles, she believes L.A. to be the finest food city in the country and might be biased on that count but doesn’t believe she’s wrong.