By John Grossi
There are many factors that contribute to making Long Beach a vibrant music scene across diverse genres. On any given weekend, you can visit spots ranging from coffee shops to bars, churches, and performing arts centers to see live musicians pouring their hearts out on stage.
One stage in particular might be most special to many in the Long Beach community of musicians. Their first one. For thousands of professional and aspiring musicians growing up around Long Beach, their most memorable learning experience was being thrown into the fire and forced to rock the house at Di Piazza.
“My legacy here will be to continue exactly what the Di Piazzas built - giving an opportunity to a lot of the upcoming type of bands,” says new owner Steve Guillen. “That’s where I see our place – we stage the up-and-coming bands in Long Beach. We’re not big enough to hold the major artists but we’re a good fit for the bands on their way up. That’s for sure.”
Guillen, a long-time friend of the Di Piazza family, was offered the opportunity in 2019 to take over the institution when the Di Piazzas decided to step down. No beginner to the music scene himself, for 25 years Guillen has been in the restaurant and entertainment business, most recently owning popular neighborhood bar Iguana Kelley’s. He’s also a prominent event organizer in Long Beach and beyond. Guillen produced the Dia De Los Muertos Festival Downtown and has also been a part of Beach Streets, The Long Beach Boat races, and several other festivals and events in Hollywood, LA, and San Diego.
He plans (post-pandemic) to bring the best of all his experience to Di Piazza, ensuring its continued renown as the local venue for up and coming bands. For newcomers, expect a sports-oriented, family-friendly restaurant vibe with live music Wednesday-Sunday night.
Bands are vetted for their skill level, ability to draw a crowd, and a variety of other factors. The better, often older bands play the weekend prime time spots, but Guillen is committed to always having a spot for the aspiring younger musicians- whether that be high school band slots open 3-4 days a month, or even housing music-lesson recitals during the daytime on select weekends.
“High School and Middle School bands are very dear and close to me - I grew up as a kid who played in municipal bands and school bands, stuff like that. I really appreciate the schools that come and hold their recitals here. Promoting student performances - to me, it’s an important factor of how we do business here.”
As we write this article in Fall of 2021, Guillen has yet to implement most of the plans he has for Di Piazza. Buying the venue/bar immediately before a pandemic has led him to take a much more “day-by-day” approach. But the music community is excited to have someone dedicated to the legacy of a place that has meant so much to Long Beach musicians.
“We’ll continue to stay along with what the Di Piazzas did, which was to be that space for both the up-and-coming and larger bands, but more so the up-and-coming shows for “all-ages.”
As for the restaurant side of Di Piazza, Guillen wants to remind the community he is dedicated to creating a family atmosphere. “We love the families coming here. I think that’s the number one thing I want new people to know - we’re a family and family- friendly business.”
Here’s to Di Piazza and the opportunity it presents – the chance for budding musicians to take that first scary step onto the big stage and perform live before a Long Beach audience!