Abbot Kinney in Venice is one of my favorite streets in Los Angeles. It has unique and funky shops and several great restaurants and it’s the perfect place to spend a few blissful hours on a Saturday afternoon. My favorite restaurant on Abbot Kinney is Gjelina, which, despite the lack of signage outside, is no secret to many Angelenos. Gjelina is one of the coolest, hippest restaurants in LA. The decor is vintage industrial chic with rustic wood tables and exposed “Edison Bulbs” dangling from weathered metal bars. It’s loud and fun and filled with an eclectic mix of fedora and Retrospecs-wearing hipsters, eccentric Venice characters and some of the best looking people in LA.
But while the food disappoints at many of the other trendy hotspots in LA, the sophisticated rustic cuisine at Gjelina is incredible. A pizza (or two) is a must-have. My favorites are the Pizza with Lamb Sausage, Confit Tomato, Rapini, Pecorino & Asiago and the Pizza with Squash Blossoms, Cherry Tomatoes, Zucchini, Burrata & Parmesan. The pizzas have a thin, crispy crust and are among the best in the City. Gjelina also has really excellent vegetable dishes. I love the Wood Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, Chili & Vinegar, the Charred Brussel Sprouts with Dates, Bacon and Vinegar, and the Wood Roasted Sunchokes with Salsa Verde. I also recommend ordering the delicious Roasted Half Jidori Chicken with Pea Tendrils, Cippolini Onions, Nantes Carrots & Riesling. Save room for dessert, because Gjelina has one of my all-time favorite desserts, Butterscotch Pot de Crème with Salted Caramel and Crème Fraiche a.k.a. one of the best cups of butterscotch pudding you will ever have.
But one word of warning about Gjelina (and the reason why I rarely take my wife there): per their menu, changes and modifications to dishes are “politely declined.” They are very serious about this policy and make no exceptions. Earlier this summer, Victoria Beckham and dining companion Gordon Ramsay got their knickers in a knot when Gjelina declined pregnant Posh’s request that her Smoked Trout Salad be served plain, without the accompanying grapefruit, avocado, red onion & lemon, and with the dressing on the side. Gjelina refused and Ramsay went ballistic and ranted to the press. I guess we won’t have to compete with these two anymore for Gjelina dinner reservations, which can be difficult to get.
Gelina is located at 1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice. Gjelina Take Away, where you can get breakfast and lunch dishes to go, recently opened next door.