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Feb 24, 2009 06:45 PM

Gjelina on Abbot Kinney

My hand chopped lamb burger was grilled to one’s liking, sandwiched between arugula, a slightly spicy herbal seasoned red sauce, and pain rustic was to die for. The skinny fries are lightly seasoned with herbal sea salt cooked to perfection, my standard, of course. I have visited Gjelina twice so far, the service is consistently impeccable yet very friendly and casual cool. The décor is arty Italian country modern with lots of aged wood, table and floor. We love the clear light bulb chandelier above the bar! The space is airy, comfortable, and it just always offers a delightful dining experience.

1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 450-1429

posted by foodiesdesire

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  1. The service by the owner was beyond rude to a large party of ten. We got to the restaurant while we were waiting for our table to be ready we ordered 2 bottles of wine for cocktails. While we were waiting they told us to stand against the wall while we were drinking. Once we were seated within 5 minutes they took us to the private room behind the main dining room and before you go outside to the patio. It was a private area that seemed to be perfect for us until the owner showed up just as we were sitting down. The owner owner barked out to us that we needed to be quiet or else we were going to have a problem. all of us were stunned. we are in our late 30's working professionals having a normal good time and had not even ordered yet and being snubbed by the owner was beyond in appropriate. Being in the room off of the patio and behind the restaurant you would think could handle any kind of noise. Because of how the owner of not being accommodating we finished our wine quickly and left and went to James Beach, where James "The Owner" was more than helpful and accommodating to our party of 10. the food and atmosphere is always great and look forward to going back to James Beach again and again. All of our friends who were apart of our party will never going back to Gjelinas because of how our experience was handled specifically by the owner!

    8 Replies
    1. re: jurgies

      it sounds like you were exposed to the two worst things about the restaurant: the owner and the overpriced wine list.

      it's a pity, because the food itself is terrific. of course, after being treated badly by the owner, you wouldn't have been able to really enjoy the food. . . . .

      1. re: westsidegal

        FWIW, I have eaten @ Gjelina several times and have always been treated wonderfully, so I can't comment about your complaint #1, however, the wine list is something I feel should be addressed here. The short wine list at Gjelina is, IMO, exceptional. The prices reflect the fact that the wine staff feels confident in their decision to feature higher-quality, lesser known wines from across the world. I personally would MUCH rather pay 10-15$ for an excellent Lagrein or Macon than 5-8$ for some crap mass produced "chocolate and vanilla" Cabernet or Chardonnay. How can someone fault a list where an organic Zinfandel is sitting next to a red Portuguese blend? In taking a stand for quality over quantity, Gjelina deserves recognition...
        (and no, I don't work there, just eat there a lot)

        1. re: jdwdeville

          Does anyone know the corkage policy at Gjelina?

          1. re: Foodandwine

            we were treated wonderfully but...

            the food.. is just so mediocre. the pizza.. is.. well.. it needs a bit of viagra. and to the front of the house gent (Chris?) who sat next to us, I have eaten Neapolitan pies in Italy.

            1. re: Foodandwine

              $20 for corkage. this is definitely the way to go at gjelina

          2. re: westsidegal

            I was there with a friend this week and really enjoyed the food. We shared the brussel sprouts, the pork belly, the lamb sausage pizza and the flourless chocolate cake. The pizza was a little on the salty side but that's the only criticism I have of the food. I am still thinking about those brussel sprouts ... so good. I do think their wine-by-the-glass list is overpriced for what is there and the pours were not very generous. Granted, I appreciate what they are going for with their selections, and any place that avoids the overly oaked fruit bombs in favor of something a little more diverse and food friendly has my support. I just think they should be able to do it for about $2-3 less per glass. I can't speak to the wine-by-the-bottle list because we didn't really focus on it. Parking was also a problem which surprised me a bit - drove up and down Abbott Kinney and the side streets and smaller lots for 10-15 minutes. Not that I'm a fan of valet parking, but I was surprised they didn't have any.

          3. re: jurgies

            I am glad that you left - makes the restaruant/owner see that such rudeness will not be tolerated. Nothing makes me more irritated than people bitching about poor service (to everyone but the manager/owner) but still spending their hard-earned money at the places they are being mistreated at. Kudos to you!!

            1. re: jurgies

              I'm a little surprised. If you're talking about Robert - the owner - I would have a hard time even imagining him being as rude as you described. But I doubt you were making this up. I don't doubt you're leaving out some crucial details - like maybe you actually were loud.

              James is great - and both he and Robert worked together at 72 Market St. I doubt even James would think Robert has a rude side.

            2. I'm still trying to understand all the fuss for this place. Yes, great location, great design and ambiance, but decent food and mediocre service. Perhaps the problem with this experience is the occasion of a group celebration. I'm guessing the evening would have been different if venturing to the restaurant with only one other person and expecting nothing more than a casual dinner with a friend and a glass of wine. Unfortunately, I was with a few friends celebrating a birthday...without the traditional hoopla. The outside patio is a bit too casual with very low seating. Three of us sat side-by-side-by-side on a lumpy banquette. A bit too close for comfort for my blood. A few items to note - it's Venice and there's no valet parking. Even in a recession, the popular area is still difficult to find a place to park. - if you run out of your best offering of champagne, have your manager pick up something comparable before you open. - If asked about garlic allergies and the menu, don't tell me that "everything on the menu has garlic." Could someone offer to send the chef out to make some suggestions/alternatives? We ordered quite a bit from the menu. The food was tasty, but a bit too salty. The pork belly was delicious and the flank steak was good. These two were probably the most memorable from the night. Overall, go to Gjelina if you're wanting something low-key...despite it's good appearance, the restaurant is nothing more than a neighborhood spot trying to look better than it is.

              5 Replies
              1. re: montanezmla

                I have yet to try the place, and we're thinking about it for a group that would include a couple of teenagers. Thought it would be an interesting Venice/Abbott Kinney experience, and they'd have enough simple items on the menu like pizza and trendy items to feed the group and satisfy the foodies. Now worried about where to park on a Sunday eve. My back-up is 26 Beach but I could also see Hal's, Lilly's, Beechwood, or even Antica -- most will be coming from MDR. What do folks suggest?

                1. re: nosh

                  Parking on a Sunday evening shouldn't be too bad. In addition to the street, there is a free lot that runs behind the restaurant.

                  1. re: nosh

                    ...and if you can find parking for Hal's or Lilly's, you can find it for Gjelina-- same street, different block!

                    1. re: nosh

                      Electric Avenue Lodge is on the opposite side of Electric Ave behind Gjelena. There's usually some parking spots there as well, particularly if no event is scheduled there and also on a Sunday night, which tends to be a little slower.

                      The neighborhood that is directly southeast of Abbot Kinney usually has tons of parking as well. It's kinda dark over there, but the hood ain't the hood of the mid-90s and beyond. Your biggest worry is stubbing your toe on the uneven sidewalks or stepping in dog stuff...

                    2. re: montanezmla

                      " - if you run out of your best offering of champagne, have your manager pick up something comparable before you open. -"
                      --Seriously? How? Restaurants buy from distributors, who charge them wholesale prices in order to allow them to sell champagne at prices which make money for the business and therefore allow it to continue operating. If the manager was to "pick up something" day-of, then it would either be sold at a price I have no doubt would offend you, or it would cause the restaurant to lose money. Inevitably, the wine distributors in the area need more than a day to deliver something, and unusual "runs" do happen on one or two items that are hard to predict. At probably every restaurant you've ever eaten at, SOMETHING was probably out at the time. It doesn't mean the restaurant needs to run out and buy Dom Perignon from Bevmo to please you, it means you should be open to trying La Grande Dame instead.

                    3. I set up a dinner for a party of 8 last night (Sunday eve) at Gjelina, and our experience reflects many of the highs and some of the complaints about the place. First, they must be doing something right -- they were full when I showed up at 6:30 (for a 7:00 reservation) and still almost full when we left around 9. Much of the food was really good -- my brother repeatedly mentioned that this was exactly how he liked to eat, with several waves of mostly small dishes. I really liked the pizza we started with -- a margarita for the teens and kid (mostly) and the lamb sausage with rabe that had a real spice and crunch to it that started things off well for me and the adults. Two orders of mussels got things off well, an asparagus salad had some tasty, crispy grilled good-tasting spears with greens, and the adventuresome ones liked the octopus. Two orders of squares of pork belly on greens made their way around the table. We shared a plate of thin, salt & pepper fries. An order of fresh pasta with scallops started with a fragrant waft of garlic, but unfortunately was followed by an almost painful overload of salt. Finally, a wave of mains, the duck cassoulet for an adult, the hangar steak for a teen, and a couple of lamb chops which I enjoyed, gnawing the bones.

                      The strengths: Really nice people, our server, August, the chef, Travis, also a manager. A cute space. We really appreciated them permitting us to order in waves, and serve that way, and keep track of things without having to plan everything at the beginning. Tasty food. Reasonable prices. Free filtered water (I worried when they set down a carafe and filled a few glasses as we sat down, anticipating a charge.) A lot of things to like about the place, as is evidenced by their popularity.

                      Problems: Nowhere to wait -- they kept wanting me to stand on the south wall when I was early for my party. Uncomfortable seating -- our party of eight was jammed into a table that would have been tight for six, and I made my reservation over a week in advance. The couches are very soft and low, and with eight at our table we had to get up a lot to let people get in and out. I stole the chair placed on the end from my younger bro because I found it so uncomfortable to get up and down. I will say this -- our evening was successful because our server, the busboy, and the staff were so good and fast about taking and replacing used plates and empty dishes, or else the limited table space would never have worked. My biggest regret is that with the slow start and big party, people were too full and exhausted for dessert -- I want to taste that butterscotch and salted caramel!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: nosh

                        Hi nosh,

                        Thanks for the detailed report. :) How did the pizza compare with your favorites? Thanks.

                        1. re: exilekiss

                          The pizza was thin-crust, very crisp on the edges and nicely blistered and charred. It did not hold in the middle of the wedge, a good thing because it was more than adequately topped with a lamb sausage that had good flavor and a lot of spice. A small tray appeared with grated parmesan, crushed chili flakes, and what looked like oregano bulbs -- I didn't ask for it and didn't hear anyone else -- might be a gracious touch, or could be 'cuz the margarita was served without basil for the younger members of our party. I really liked this pizza -- it was wide enough to be satisfying and not chintzy, and was aggressively flavored and baked.

                          It was funny -- my brother was trying to explain Chowhound to our guests who hadn't heard of this site, and he talked about blogs where each dish would be lovingly posed and photographed. I thought about you, exilekiss, and people like kevin eats, burumun (gourmet pigs), perceptor, and I apologize to so many others who I bookmark and click to each time they post. Exile, I enjoyed the place -- a lot after I settled in and got over the small table -- and the pizza sticks in my memory as the strongest item. But the place is very much about scene and style -- your focus is so much more on the intricacies of each dish.

                          1. re: nosh

                            Hi nosh,

                            Thanks for the detailed description of the pizza. Lamb Sausage Pizza sounds delicious. :) (And thanks for your kind words. :)

                      2. Would you reccomend this place for Lunch, dinner or Bkfst? definately wanna try..

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: drewb123

                          i will vouch for the lunch food and the dinner food.
                          have never tried breakfast there, though.

                        2. i really like Henry's Hat and Carney's and Street and Loteria.