There are hard-to-get reservations, and then there’s the last-minute, Friday night, 10 p.m. reservation at Gjelina on Abbot Kinney in Venice, CA. While your acquaintances will be jealous and impressed that you secured the privilege of dining at the hottest fucking spot in the hippest neighborhood de jour, the reality is that all you have to do is call up the restaurant and hope there’s an opening.
Dinner at Gjelina is a dark, loud, full of foodie pretension and worth the wait on the curb. They specialize in small plates and pizzas with a Mediterranean vibe. I went with some friends and we killed four pies and several tapas-style dishes. The pizzas were solid–a decent thin crust that, while a little limp, held ingredients appropriately, like the lamb sausage and tomato confit offering with rapini that had a great balance of smoke, sweetness and acidity. The Blanco (or more commonly known by girls from New England as the “Blanko”), their white pizza with olives was also good, but the huge cloves of roasted garlic on top felt like overkill, and squashed any hope of some late night necking. I focused strictly on the pizzas, but my friends got a few plates, and while they were satisfied with their arugula and sweet corn salad, the pork belly over polenta left more to be desired.
By LA standards, Gjelina is a really cool spot with an interesting menu and a great wine list/microbrew selection. The biggest problem though, was our dick waiter who was too cool for school and seemed offended by our mere presence in his section. I get it, we’re in LA, sorry, VENICE, and you’re mad that you didn’t get cast in that pilot that just got picked up, or that the waves weren’t breaking how you’d like today, but dude, no need to ignore our table, get annoyed with our orders, or flick our credit cards down at us to sign the bill.
I get what Gjelina is trying to be (and it almost feels like they’re trying too hard), but the execution on the food and the overall experience just wasn’t at the level I expected. I can name three places within an hour of my house in goddamn New Hampshire that make a superior pizza (Corner Grille, Upper Crust, Sal’s). That being said, it’s still probably one of the best restaurants on the west side, and I’m glad our friends hooked us up so that we were able to judge the hype for ourselves. Because after all, it’s more about who you’re with and what you’re drinking than where you’re eating.
NOTE: While I’d certainly go back to Gjelina to try more of their dishes, I’d recommend their take out option right next door where you can grab salads, sandwiches, and pizzas to go.