Gjelina Restaurant in Venice: I Just Met a Girl Named Gjelinaaaaa!

— by Caroline on Crack

Mushroom, goat cheese, truffle oil pizza

OMG, I must have another bite of the above pizza. The mushroom, goat cheese, truffle oil pizza from Venice’s year-old Gjelina restaurant. Soo delicious! So savory. Droool! Sarah (The Delicious Life, Tastespotting) and I had split it at the locals/foodie favorite on Abbot Kinney after our oh-so luxurious Ritz-Carlton massages (courtesy of the gift certificates we had gotten from the L.A. Live/Ritz-Carlton blogger party last October) in the marina.

Even though Gjelina (pronounced “ja-leena”) had told us on the phone they were all booked up for dinner, when we showed up anyway hoping to at least score some space at one of the two community tables, after a 20-minute wait a table for two opened up. Not too bad, but then again it was a Sunday evening.

Sarah let me have the seat against the wall but it probably would have made more sense for her to take it since all the wooden tables were set so close together only slender, petite people could scooch in there. But I bulldozed my way between two empty tables and it was fine. Once those other tables were occupied, I was locked in and couldn’t get up to go to the bathroom but at least I had a great view of the restaurant.

By the looks of it, I would never have guessed it’s a Mediterranean restaurant, at least that’s how the L.A. Times categorized it in its review last year. Its airy wood-beamed ceilings, brick floors, vintage decor and industrial feel connote a gastropub. No white walls or Grecian urns here. The dark-walled dining room was warmly lit with a 19th-century-esque Edison-looking chandelier hanging over the food prep area. Out at the back of the restaurant was an outdoor patio, where I’d like to sit during my next visit here, as well as a tiny lounge area to the right of the patio entrance. And apparently in a couple of months there will also be an upstairs area that will specialize in “vegetable-based” fare. Ooh!

The bustling and chatty crowd itself was a mix of the young Abercrombie beachy types and older affluent-looking folk all in casual dress all leisurely enjoying their food and drinks as if they never intended to leave. And in the middle of it all was me and Sarah.

We didn’t take too long to decide what we wanted to eat off this farmer’s market fresh menu since we were going for something with not too much sin on it. The mushroom pizza ($14) seemed the less evil albeit delectable choice since it didn’t have anything like bacon, lamb sausage or buffalo mozzarella. We also ordered the charcuterie/cheese plate of grilled nectarines, proscuitto, radicchio, burrata and arugula ($12) and side garlicky grilled broccoli with chili and vinegar ($8).

And everything was EXCELLENT. I loved all our picks. The grilled nectarines and burrata were heavenly and fresh. The garlicky broccoli was very spicy and crisp. But the piece de resistance pizza was downright divine. I’m glad I had split it with Sarah because if I wasn’t super aware that she was still a slice or two behind me I would have easily polished off that whole dish. Instead I forced myself to be satisfied with the three slices that I had and looked forlornly at her slices as she boxed them up to take home. “You take them,” she then said. But with all the strength I had in me I resisted. I would just have hated myself if I had eaten her share, too.

Instead I downed more of the Allagash White I had ordered. Yup, this is a beer-and-wine-only establishment, unfortunately for me. I would have loved to see what they’d do with a cocktail menu considering they are into fresh, seasonal ingredients. In any case, they have a nice selection of beer on tap that range in price from the $6 Racer 5 IPA to the $8 Allagash White. There are some bottled beers ($8-$16) as well as Tecate in a can ($4). I found the wine-in-a-glass options too rich for my blood, being of the double-digit price range ($11-$15). I don’t know why, but if they were cocktails I wouldn’t have been as squeamish.

And of course we ordered dessert: the butterscotch pot de creme with salted caramel and creme fraiche ($8). We split it…for the most part. Fortunately for me Sarah couldn’t make it past the first couple spoonfuls. Ha! ALL MIIINE! It was sooo delicious and surprisingly not as ubersweet as its ingredients would imply. The butterscotch was soo creamy and the huge salt crystals in the caramel made for a nice nommy contrast with the sweetness.

In any case I LOVE Gjelina and would love to go back soon but might not be as lucky as I was this time in scoring a table, especially on a weekend night. Apparently there’s a month wait for a table at dinner on a Friday night. Eek. Would love to check out the brunch though. Asparagus and smoked salmon soft scramble? Dear lord.

1429 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Venice, California 90291 (map)
(310) 450-1429
Twitter: @Gjelina
Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30am-3pm
Daily 5:30pm-12am
Weekend Brunch 10:30am-5:30pm

Gjelina in Los Angeles