A Tribute to a Man Behind the Bar Who Serves up a Heart of Gold

His best shot.

During this time of giving, love, compassion and sharing, there is one South Bay icon who embraces it all. He can be found at the Manhattan Beach bar where he has been serving drinks and smiles to regulars for two decades. 

If an out-of-town guest just landed or you moved here, you could comfortably slide into Shellback Tavern—one of the friendliest watering holes around. Even if you drink out of fancy flutes and eat $50 filets, chances are you have also shuffled by this place, enticed by the fun sounds of Flip Cup, the sing-along jukebox or the better-than-average-looking beachgoers. The bar has swagger like a rock star or pro athlete on a day off—nothing fancy and no bad days.

The captain of the ship since 2001 is Rico (Rodrigo) Dealba. Born in Jalisco, Mexico, he moved to L.A. as a kid in 1989 and started working for Bob Beverly at Grunions—another Manhattan Beach bar—a couple years later. At the same time, he lost his mom. 

At 16, he bought a house in Lawndale with some of the hard-earned money he was making while in high school as well as some help from Bob. He graduated from Lawndale High School in 1995 and got married a year later. 

If you have ever talked to Rico, you know there are no reasons to not like him. He is loved by many. He works hard and makes sure everyone—staff and customers—is taken care of. Always giving.

Rico and staff have been awarded Best Bartender/Best Dive Bar several times and are the creators of the famous Fanta Shot. Inspired by this 180 Energy Drink and vodka beverage, there are now Fanta Sea T-shirts and hats on sale with Rico’s likeness front and center. How popular are Fanta Shots? Well, 10,000 were sold during the 6-Man Tournament last year. Always sharing.

Home life isn’t much different. The daily chaos there comes from his four kids between the ages of 6 and 17. Recently, COVID-19 took the life of his wife’s brother, a single dad who had five kids ages 3 to 14. Rico is currently getting custody of all five. That’s nine kids at home, and eventually they will have help from other family members. Love and compassion combined.

If you ever felt the need to give a smile, a dollar, a hug or a helping hand to anyone in your life, now is the time. Check out Rico’s GoFundMe at gofundme.com/f/rico-fantas. Enjoy your holidays and the ones you’re with. Be grateful for what you have. 

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