Establishing Heritage: Gastropub Brews Up Faithful Following

Craft+beer+enthusiasts+crowd+the+bar+as+Heritage+staff+take+orders+from+the+24+rotating+California+breweries+on+tap%2C+mapped+on+the+wall+at+left.

Erik Jorgensen / Oak Leaf

Craft beer enthusiasts crowd the bar as Heritage staff take orders from the 24 rotating California breweries on tap, mapped on the wall at left.

Andrew McQuiddy, Features Editor

The D’Argenzio family believes in heritage right down to the roots and that extends to their latest project, the Heritage Public House.

“You can come down here, have a beer and a meal with a friend or significant other and really relax,” said Michael Fajardo, a tasting room associate for a local winery. “They have a real laid-back atmosphere,” he said. “The whole wooden bar, the red, the black. It’s a very rustic type feel.”

Dino D’Argenzio had ‘rustic’ in mind, designing the new location, transplanted from its original spot in Vintner’s Square on Cleveland Ave to 1901 Mendocino Ave.

Rough, unfinished farmhouse slats form the ceiling and richly grained picnic style tables line the main dining room. Even the pool table has red velvet versus green, matching the barn-red paint trimming otherwise natural wood panels. Out back, more tables (sheltered by umbrella tops) surround a fire pit for dining under the stars.

Bringing the outdoors inside, into everyone’s lives, underlies D’Argenzio’s farm-to-table blueprint for Heritage Public House, which sports 24 beers on tap, along with a wall “Tap Map” for patrons to chart where the California-only ales originated.

Ruth McGowan’s Drinko-de-Ryeo trucks down from Cloverdale, Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s Mendo Mello flows from Boonville and San Marcos ships Port Brewing’s Shark Attack Double Red.

Fajardo prefers hop-laden beers, but tried the Double Dread Red by Mad River Brewing (Blue Lake, CA).

“It’s not terribly hoppy,” he said. “The malt is kind of medium, maybe on the high side for my personal preference, with a kind of chocolate, espresso, nutmeg backbone on it.”

Such attention to flavors and the ingredients creating them flow smoothly from D’Argenzio’s background.

The entrepreneur discovered bio-dynamic farming in the early 1960s and earned his B.S. in Agronomy (agriculture business) from Montana State University, Bozeman. Curriculum projects led him out to the local fields of grain.

“I just fell in love with farmers,” D’Argenzio said. “They’re just down-home, real solid people.”

The Navy veteran arrived in Sonoma County in 1974, worked with his cabinet-maker father, then went into real estate, helping people open businesses large and small.

After D’Argenzio fostered a strong rapport with Santa Rosa Junior College’s programs and personnel, from Leonard Diggs at Shone Farm to Betsy Fischer in culinary arts, the original Heritage became the official tasting room for Shone Farm wines.

That tradition continues today as Heritage Public House represents and sells wines from Shone Farm.

In addition to farmers, family formed another major foundation in D’Argenzio’s Heritage plans, so he naturally brought in wife Maria and son Roman.

Roman and his partner Erlina Othman, advertising graduates who met at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, helped refine Dino’s vision for the new venture. Othman’s home brewing experience, plus the couple’s people skills, marketing and advertising knowledge, all matched the tasks ahead.

“It just dawned on us,” Roman D’Argenzio said of the move to Mendocino Ave. “We were looking for a better location and more foot traffic. We already had a following, but we wanted to expand.”

The pub’s fans, including a homebrewers’ club, the Sonoma Beerocrats, gladly followed Heritage to the campus area. Some patrons live within a few hundred feet of the two wine barrels framing the front door.

“This has every aspect of every cross-sectional demographic of Sonoma County,” Dino D’Argenzio said.

John Dang, a Heritage regular since its inception, calls the pub’s reincarnation a “destination” place, due to its increased size and multiple television screens. Planned events include stand-up comedy performances (such as those by SRJC film instructor Nick Hoffman) and band shows on the pub’s two-foot-high stage.

Dino D’Argenzio hopes everyone feels welcome at the new gastropub, which focuses as much on good food as on good beer.

“All of our team’s heritage,” D’Argenzio said, “whatever our backgrounds are – Erlina’s, Roman’s, Andrew’s – all of us together produce this product through Heritage Public House.”

Andrew Oldfield, Executive Chef at Heritage, worked at Sonoma’s Forchetta Bastoni (aka the Fork and Spoon).

“I grew up working on a tomato farm in Rincon Valley,” Oldfield said. “I spent a lot of time in Sebastapol working with farmers, bringing food down the culinary pipeline. I’m trying to make it as feasible as possible to go 100 percent organic.”

Locally grown ingredients fill the menu’s selection, from the Bloody Beet Burger (with beet slices, arugula, blue cheese and red onions) to the Grilled Lady Fingers (grilled asparagus, mayor lemon, extra virgin olive oil and rye bread crumbs). Niman Ranch provides the beef and the blue cheese comes from Pt. Reyes. Oldfield stays local even when transplanting mid-west favorites like Chili Mac for the late night menu.

“We don’t want it to be just the ‘salty something’ that you have with your beer,” Othman said.

Both sides of Dino D’Argenzio’s grandparents were themselves salt of the earth, Italians from the old country and a powerful influence on him, growing up.

“They’re big garden people,” D’Argenzio said. “Go pick it, make something out of it and eat it fresh. Next day, go pick some more. Literally farm-to-table stuff. It was part of our heritage. I’ll never forget it.”