December 29, 2010


Venice, CA, widely known for its canals and eccentric characters, shares little to no resemblance to its namesake, Venezia, Italia (i.e. - Venice, CA is not really a city whereas Venezia is, albeit a sinking one). Whenever I walk down Abbot Kinney (named after the tobacco millionaire, Mr. Abbot Kinney), there're several things that cross my mind: (1) who pays $200 for a ripped-up t-shirt?!; (2) this is so Berkeley meets Silverlake; (3) I'm not wearing skinny jeans, Vans, or a flannel top - do I belong? As unhip as I feel, I go wherever good food beckons, and unsurprisingly, there are several good eateries in AK hipsterville.

Why hello, Gjelina (pronounced "Jelina").

A Venice "hotspot" is quite the understatement given their overbooked status on a Monday night. (don't bother arriving without a reservation... and don't give in when they tell you "someone" called in to cancel your reservation - betch puleez).

First off, Gjelina is easy to miss given its dark, wooden paneling and lack of an external sign. (Feeling instantly hip? Check). Inside, the dark plaster walls, reclaimed wood tables (some communal) and dim lighting a la chandelier and Edison bulbs give off a French rustic, romantique, and almost industrial vibe that's both welcoming and intriguing. The outdoor patio is equally enjoyable for design junkies (or wannabes like me). But since I have more of a taste for food than an eye for architecture, onto the grub!

Knowing full well that Gjelina is an absolute superstar to some and an underwhelming hype for others, I went with one thing in mind: pizza. That was the only thing that received praise across the board, and I wanted to have my say too. Well...

2007 Barbetta - Antica Masseria Venditti from Sannio, Campania, Italia (whew!) - $45 { link }
Of course, wine is a must. I couldn't get the all the ingredients in this Italian red wine, but basically this dangerously tastes like sangria. (and God knows I love sangria!). There's a blend of wild berries, cherry, and a hint of... violets. Low tannins too! Dangerously delicious.

Charchuterie plate (salami, shaved pork shoulder, proscuitto, sweetened fennel, red beet slices, lamb pate, mustard, preserve, pickles and toast) - $12
Not much can go wrong with sliced meats and bread. I liked how they included a dollop of preserve to balance out the sweet from the salty.

Mushroom, goat cheese, fontina, truffle oil pizza - $15 (with a side plate of crushed red pepper, grated Parm, and dried oregano)

While I'm not typically a fan of thin crust pizza, the delicious ingredients melded nicely on the cracker-thin crust for a non-greasy finish. Also, how can one deny cheese and truffle oil?

Lamb sausage, confit tomato, rapini, pecorino, and asiago pizza - $15 { not pictured because I was too busy stuffing my face. }

I didn't enjoy this one nearly as much as the mushroom pizza, namely because I found the lamb sausage and cheese too salty. Also, the crust on this was more burnt than the other. (no bueno).

While our dinner selections weren't overly exciting, it gave me a taste of what Gjelina has to offer, and from the little I noshed on, it was all quite satisfying. Not mind or taste bud-blowing, but definitely worth a visit. Next time, I shall sample more of their small plates and brunch options.

In related news, Gjelina will be opening a take-away pizza parlor just up the street { link }. Get ready, Abbot Pizza Co. Time for them to bring their A-game and for us to loosen up our belt buckles.

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cuisine: American with some Italian/ Mediterranean flair
location: Venice, CA
hours: M-F: 11:30 AM - midnight; Sat-Sun: 9:00 AM - midnight
(weekend brunch until 3:00 PM)
website: { websiteyelp }
attire: Casual
parking: street

notes: Make reservations.