Gjelina, Venice Beach

Chrissy ON Feb 20, 2013 AT 11:07 am

by Chrissy Iley

Gjelina’s is far away from me in Venice Beach. It’s so popular that only if you go at 4.30 in the afternoon you may not have to stand in line. Otherwise there can be a long long wait. They don’t take reservations. You might even have to share a table. All the things I would normally despise and dismiss, but Gjelina’s is kind of wonderful. The food is simply gorgeous.

Gjelina, Venice Beach

Chef Travis Lett describes it has ‘rustic Cal – Med’. The unbelievable pizzas and various other gorgeous offerings are cooked in a wood-burning oven. The pizzas are delightfully thin-crusted but at the same time hearty and flavourful.

The spicy lamb pizza with confit tomato and rapini and pecorino is a sensational treat. My friend always orders it and it never disappoints. The Gruyere, caramelised onion and fromage blanc and arugula pizza is a fabulous combination of comfort and uplift.

The salads and vegetables are otherworldly delicious and even healthy. Last night I had peas and pea shoots and burrata on toast with pea tendrils and mint pesto. They were called ‘smashed English peas’ although I’ve never known their like in England. Divinely sweet and nutty and richly squashed.

‘Whoever thought we’d be having food orgasms over peas on toast,’ said my friend. We went on to order the roasted beets with sherry, yoghurt and horseradish. The exquisite contrast of the sweet beet and the sharp horseradish was inspirational.

We waited in line for this inspiration while we drank a delightful rosé . Later we knew we would share a dessert which I would have most of called Butterscotch Pot de Crème with salted caramel. Again perfecting extremes to an addictive deliciousness.

The waiters are knowing, amusing, attentive, but not in your face. The choices for vegetarians are endless although the wood roasted meats have their own following. The vegetables though seem more flavoursome and juicy than anywhere else in California.

When you order a pizza you get a little saucer: grated pecorino in delicious curls, crushed peppers, and extra herbs.

We sat at a rustic table on swivelling metal high backed tall stools. Bizarrely no one interrupted our conversation and we didn’t hear anyone else’s. The magic of the food seemed to make space, time and conversation live in it’s own world.

It may have started off as a local eaterie named after owner Fran Camaj’s mother, a casual sort of place, seasonal and smart. It turned with an amazing trajectory into THE restaurant in LA. I have seen Victoria Beckham and Gordon Ramsay eating there.

I also saw Elijah Wood there. He was in the line and someone rushed to get him a table and he said he preferred to wait like everyone else but saw a little boy waiting with his mother looking a little bored and uncomfortable and asked if the boy could jump to the front of the line in his place.

Gjelina is like that. It makes everyone feel good and want to do good.

Gjelina, 1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd  Venice, CA 90291, United States, +1 310-450-1429, www.gjelina.com

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