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Gielina, the emperor's new clothes

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kevin Jun 20, 2011 07:17 PM

Ok, I finally tried it the other. Both locations. And maybe due to all the hoopla, and notice that it has gotten and all the build up on "Best Of" lists, et al, but anyhow I just found Gjelina to be ok to middling at best. I had the lamb sausage pizza at the takeout operation, Gjelina Take Away, the crust was alright but the flavor was just not there, and i don't think the cheeses on it pecorino or assiago really work. (disclosure: I think do not like pecorino at all, though I do love parmigiano reggiano, and grana pandano). Also, the takeout operation looks like a pop up store, I'll give it this much that it feels like a bakery in SF almost or Berkeley. and the cortados sounds interesting, short cappachinos, i take it.

Then at Gjelina I had a lamb sausage pizza, the cheese was gloppy not too appetizing though the bits of ground duck sausage were kind of tasty though no where near great or amazing.

And I had the butterscotch pudding for dessert, which was ok, though I have had that dessert at Mozza a whole bunch of times, and maybe I'm wrong but it tasted maybe a little worse, nothing special since they are other butterscotch puddings in town that are as good, if not better.

oh, well.

just my humble opinions, but i just don't get the big hoopla about this place. on the other hand, somewhere like Animal I could see why it is held in such high esteeem for most people that have tried it out.

I may go to the carry out and grab a carrot cake and a cortado in the future. but that'll probably be i

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Gjelina
1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

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  1. westsidegal RE: kevin Jun 20, 2011 07:22 PM

    the times that i went to gjelina, the items that impressed me the most were their vegetables.
    i doubt that i'd head there for pizza or for any other non-vegetable-oriented meal.

    may just not be the place for you.

    2 Replies
    1. re: westsidegal
      k
      kevin RE: westsidegal Jun 20, 2011 07:29 PM

      yeah,

      the vegetables... yep, i don't know, if i get dragged there again, i may try those vegetables.

      1. re: kevin
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        bulavinaka RE: kevin Jun 20, 2011 08:13 PM

        Different strokes - definitely not your cuppa tea...

    2. carminabee RE: kevin Jun 20, 2011 08:42 PM

      I'm confused. You've been twice, and BOTH times you had the lamb sausage pizza?

      3 Replies
      1. re: carminabee
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        silence9 RE: carminabee Jun 21, 2011 03:07 PM

        In the OP's 2nd description of his sampling of the _lamb sausage_ pizza, he speaks about " ground duck sausage". This leads me to believe that, possibly, he had the lamb sausage pizza the first time (at the takeout operation) and then the duck sausage pizza the second time (at the restaurant itself), mistakenly labelling it as lamb but obviously describing duck...

        But back to the issue of a very limited sampling (pizza x 2) of a menu often praised for its small plates, vegetables and charcuterie: the pizza x 2 review of both the takeout and sit-down resto seems akin to saying something like: "I tried a wildly popular chinese restaurant, sampled their bbq pork fried rice one time then sampled their shrimp fried rice the second time, and it occurred to me that I don't understand the appeal of this place". Granted, he did branch out and sampled one dessert that was apparently guilty of a being as popular at other restaurants elsewhere.

        When i find that others seem to enjoy a restaurant that I simply don't 'get', i have found that wandering way way out of my comfort zone and ordering the least likely item to please me, does, to my pleasant surpise, indeed often please me. Live a little, my friend, and stray beyond the likely familiarity of sausage pizza. That seared okra or japanese snapper crudo may have your name on it :-) No condescension meant, I've been situated under similar circumstances.

        1. re: silence9
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          will47 RE: silence9 Jun 21, 2011 03:24 PM

          I have only tried the vegan / vegetarian vegetable dishes there (not a large number), but wasn't really impressed with them.

          1. re: will47
            s
            silence9 RE: will47 Jun 21, 2011 03:31 PM

            Yes, but what did you think of the lamb sausage pizza :-O Just kidding....

      2. s
        sushigirlie RE: kevin Jun 20, 2011 08:55 PM

        The food appeals to lighter palates but is good across the board.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sushigirlie
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          will47 RE: sushigirlie Jun 21, 2011 12:02 AM

          But not great, right?
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/747642

          1. re: will47
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            sushigirlie RE: will47 Jun 21, 2011 05:23 AM

            Exactly.

        2. f
          foodiemahoodie RE: kevin Jun 21, 2011 12:44 AM

          Hey Kevin, why don't you fill out your profile so other Hounders can get an idea of what you think is great. Gives us a basis to understand your taste.

          I think Gjelina is very good. I've never had a bad meal there. The menu is interesting and the food is well prepared. The service is decent and sometimes better (always friendly), and the crowd is young, cool and stylish.

          FWIW - I've always liked their pizzas - never had the lamb sausage though.

          Give us an idea of what you think is better in that price range with contemporary food in a casual setting?

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          Gjelina
          1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

          16 Replies
          1. re: foodiemahoodie
            westsidegal RE: foodiemahoodie Jun 21, 2011 12:53 AM

            fwiw,
            despite having had their pizza several times, it has been so less-than-memorable that i really don't even recall which types i've had.
            on the other hand, their roasted cauliflower was the best rendition of the dish i've ever tasted. . . .

            1. re: westsidegal
              s
              sushigirlie RE: westsidegal Jun 21, 2011 05:24 AM

              I look at the pizzas as akin to appetizers. They're very light, but they have good character.

              1. re: westsidegal
                i
                ilysla RE: westsidegal Jun 21, 2011 09:10 PM

                I agree (about the pizza and the cauliflower). The "problem" for me was that I had roasted brussel sprouts at an SF restaurant 1-2 wks before eating at Gjelina, and I think the chew and texture of the brussel sprouts works better than cauliflower.

                I thought the pizza was fine but enjoy the potato pizza I recently had at The Six better.

                Enjoyed their mussels (more for the chorizo and broth than the actual mussels) but thought the pudding was far too sweet and heavy.

                Thought the service was warm, professional, and unobtrusive. And whatever red wine the server recommended was absolutely fantastic and reasonably priced.

                Overall, I thought the place was good (even very good, at times) but not amazing. I can understand why others like it, though.

                1. re: ilysla
                  Porthos RE: ilysla Jun 21, 2011 09:35 PM

                  The "problem" for me was that I had roasted brussel sprouts at an SF restaurant 1-2 wks before eating at Gjelina, and I think the chew and texture of the brussel sprouts works better than cauliflower.
                  ======================
                  Brussel sprouts excellent roasted with lots of pig fat.

                  Cauliflower I prefer deep fried in the style of Mozza and Spice Table. Awesome stuff.

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                  The Spice Table
                  114 S. Central Avenue, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA

                  1. re: Porthos
                    i
                    ilysla RE: Porthos Jun 21, 2011 11:55 PM

                    I totally forgot about the Spice Table! (not to hijack the thread) I think the fish sauce is what makes the dish, though. And, in case anyone was wondering, there is a vegetarian version of the sauce which apparently tastes very similar to the "real" thing....

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                    The Spice Table
                    114 S. Central Avenue, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA

                    1. re: ilysla
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                      will47 RE: ilysla Jun 21, 2011 11:59 PM

                      Does Spice Table have any other vegetarian options?

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                      The Spice Table
                      114 S. Central Avenue, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA

                      1. re: will47
                        Porthos RE: will47 Jun 22, 2011 12:10 AM

                        Sambal fried potatoes, citrus salad, bok choi with mushrooms. But most of the signature and standout dishes are meat based.

                        The skill of frying that cauliflower also makes the dish. The crunchy outside and the tender fragrant cauliflower inside. I actually rarely use the fish sauce because it's so delicious on it's own.

                2. re: westsidegal
                  TonyC RE: westsidegal Jun 22, 2011 12:21 PM

                  Gj's pizza is so bad they should stop making them. I think I did mention that to the manager. His response was, natch: have you eaten pizza in Italy... *shrug*

                  1. re: TonyC
                    Porthos RE: TonyC Jun 22, 2011 12:39 PM

                    Interesting. Is he implying that it's authentic roman-style pizza then?

                    I had it once. It was decent. I much prefer Mozza. I just assumed their pizza was cal-cuisine hybrid pizza. Not sure why he had to pull the Italy card. And if he did, he should have specified Naples or Rome.

                    1. re: Porthos
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                      linus RE: Porthos Jun 22, 2011 03:49 PM

                      i promise i'm not being hostile, but could you please explain to me why it matters what a manager says when you tell him his pizza blows?
                      o.k., maybe he doesn't know pizza in italy as well as you -- or maybe he does. my point is, i don't think it's his job to debate pizza with customers.
                      the joint is packed every night. pizza is still on the menu, so obviously, people like it and they make money serving it.
                      what does a customer who complains about the pizza at gjelina really expect the manager to do/say?
                      not everyone likes everything. if you don't like the pizza at gjelina, don't order it. if you don't like the other food there, don't order it.
                      if you order something in a restaurant, and you don't care for it, are you really entitled to some kind of...satisfaction? compensation?
                      expecting something to change in a crowded gjelina because of a complaint about the quality of the pizza, or expecting a calm, cool, collected, intellectually satisfying debate about pizza the world over? seems a bit much to me.

                      1. re: linus
                        Porthos RE: linus Jun 22, 2011 04:18 PM

                        i promise i'm not being hostile, but could you please explain to me why it matters what a manager says when you tell him his pizza blows?
                        o.k., maybe he doesn't know pizza in italy as well as you
                        =================
                        Firstly, I don't see you as being hostile.

                        Second, I don't claim to be an expert about pizza in Italy or pizza at all. Chances are that the manager does know more about pizza than me.

                        Third, I totally agree that the customer is not always right and agree that if you don't like it, don't go or don't order it.

                        However, the manager could have shrugged and walked away or recommended another pizza that might be to TonyC's liking. But pulling the Italy card is not necessary IMO, especially if their pizza isn't supposed to be authentic roman style pizza. If you don't like the pizza at Spago, does someone pull the Italy card? No. Because it's not pertinent. I don't see how TonyC's travel history is pertinent to his issue with Gjelina's pizza. Do you?

                        Now if TonyC had complained that the pizza at Antica Pizzeria in MDR was too soggy and the owner asked if he had ever had pizza from Naples, that *would* be pertinent line of questioning.

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                        Spago
                        176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                        Gjelina
                        1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

                        1. re: linus
                          w
                          will47 RE: linus Jun 22, 2011 04:20 PM

                          Well, I think the point is, a lot of places think their pizza is better than it is, and if you tell them that their pizza could be improved, they just think "oh - this person doesn't know good pizza". This is one reason that I rarely do complain about pizza at restaurants, even when it's not good.

                          I did think it was odd how large a percentage of Gjelina's menu is pizza, considering that's not really what they seem to be known for.

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                          Gjelina
                          1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

                          1. re: will47
                            l
                            linus RE: will47 Jun 22, 2011 05:27 PM

                            well, this guy pulled the italy card at that moment at that day. i agree, it's not necessary.
                            on the other hand, when you tell a full restaurant that sells lots of pizzas they shouldn't make them, well, maybe, all bets are off.
                            so i guess i'm saying tonyc's chosen comment is about as pertinent (probably the wrong word here) as pulling the italy card. they both seem equally fruitless and unhelpful.

                            i'm not sure i think the point is places think their pizza is better than it is. i think places probably think they make good pizza. there may be a distinction there.

                            it's like, you go up to springsteen(not that i'm comparing gjelina to springsteen, but i hope my drift is gotten) after he plays "thunder road," and tell him he shouldn't write songs. i'm not sure you'll get a clear headed, honest reply in return.

                            1. re: linus
                              Porthos RE: linus Jun 22, 2011 05:49 PM

                              so i guess i'm saying tonyc's chosen comment is about as pertinent (probably the wrong word here) as pulling the italy card. they both seem equally fruitless and unhelpful.
                              ==============

                              I agree. Restaurateurs and chefs are people too. It would hurt for someone to tell you your food or business sucks. Issues with service or an incorrect order is one thing. Calling someone's creation uninspired and insipid to their face is another. I don't tell chefs that I don't like their food even if they stop by and ask. I always say it's good and smile. If I really like it, I'll gush and keep saying how genius it is or how much I enjoy it...and go back for more.

                          2. re: linus
                            TonyC RE: linus Jun 22, 2011 05:21 PM

                            "pizza is still on the menu, so obviously, people like it and they make money serving it."
                            =============================

                            You just explained the phenomenon will47 observed. "Artisanal" pizza is the biggest money maker in the industry. It's on the menu because Gj wants to turn profit. Venetians keep ordering them because of the perceived cheapness. It has nothing to do quality of the pies, which, as most people have observed on this thread, is not very chowish.

                            Then again, it's still cheaper than a plane ticket to Naples? And cheaper than a drive to Antica?

                            1. re: TonyC
                              l
                              linus RE: TonyC Jun 22, 2011 05:35 PM

                              1) i'm missing something about how venetians apply to this discussion. are you speaking of the customers at gjelina? are you saying gjelina's customers order the pizza because they think it's "cheap"?
                              2) i'm too lazy to count up the yeas and nays on this thread and others, but it seems there are plenty of people on chowhound who like the pizzas at gjelina.
                              3) while i agree gjelina sells pizzas to turn profit, i'm unconvinced that's their sole motivation. certainly it's possible they like making pizza, and the pizza they make? there are any other number of high profit items they could sell, i suppose.

                  2. r
                    running pig RE: kevin Jun 21, 2011 09:51 AM

                    hmm...I thought the butterscotch pudding was outstanding. Oh well, different strokes.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: running pig
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                      citizenx RE: running pig Jun 21, 2011 01:29 PM

                      I have never had a bad experience ar Gjelina (food or atitude wise.)
                      I have to say I am a fan of the pizzas though I always order the guanciale. It's my favorite. As for the veggies, I like them but don't think they are all that "healthy". Lots of olive oil and/or butter. mmm

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                      Gjelina
                      1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

                      1. re: citizenx
                        westsidegal RE: citizenx Jun 21, 2011 04:39 PM

                        there are few restaurants in town that serve vegetable dishes that are prepared without additional fat.
                        what sets gjelina apart, imho, is that their vegetables actually taste like good vegetables to me, whereas at many other places (lucques, i'm thinking of you) the fatty vegetables just taste like fat to me.

                        1. re: westsidegal
                          k
                          kevin RE: westsidegal Jun 21, 2011 08:55 PM

                          damnit, i may have to return just for a couple veggie dishes given that i don't have to wait in line...

                          1. re: kevin
                            b
                            bulavinaka RE: kevin Jun 21, 2011 09:12 PM

                            If you're going to the Take Away side and if you like beet salads, give their's a whirl. The farro salad is always good, as is the panzanella. The kale salad is great, but there are variations. I strongly prefer the one with shavings of salami and parm season the kale with nice umami/savory notes. I don't care for the version with bread crumbs. Just tried their string bean salad today, and that was a keeper as well.

                    2. wienermobile RE: kevin Jun 22, 2011 01:29 PM

                      I have been going to Gjelina since they first opened a few years ago and I have always had great tasting and original food there along with very good service. Their ricotta cheese gnocchi in brown butter are little light pillows from heaven. I love their veggie dishes like their Wood Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, Parsley & Chili. I highly recommend Gjelina to out of town visitors and none of them have ever been disappointed.

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                      Gjelina
                      1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: wienermobile
                        Porthos RE: wienermobile Jun 22, 2011 02:07 PM

                        I have always had great tasting and original food there along with very good service
                        =====================
                        I agree that it's good food and that the service is also good. As for the food being original, not so much. This type of cuisine has been very common and very popular in the SF area for at least 5-10 years now. I personally *would* hesitate to recommend it to someone from SF. Not that they wouldn't enjoy it or like it necessarily, but because SF has this type of cuisine in spades (Zuni, Nopa, etc.) and they would be better off going for something LA does better than SF (eg. sushi, korean BBQ, dumplings, Son of a Gun, etc.)

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                        Son of a Gun
                        8370 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                        1. re: Porthos
                          k
                          kevin RE: Porthos Jun 22, 2011 03:43 PM

                          I think you hit the nail on the head, if I'm not mistaken I may have mentioned that it seemed very SF incluenced too, reminded me of Tartine Bakery in a way too, but i guess at the end of the day I'm not a huger fan of the Cal-Francisco cuisine where the veggies stand on their own and are sourced from great orchards etc.

                      2. Porthos RE: kevin Mar 18, 2012 03:39 PM

                        Just got back from brunch at Gjelina and I have to say, the pizza is much better than I remember it being when I first tried it a year ago. It's softer and chewier than I recall and definitely Neapolitan-esque. Almost like Pizzeria Ortica but without the thick bubbly crust. The toppings are more enticing though. Had the smoked mozzarella, tomato confit, arugula, jalapeƱo, lemon, bottarga pizza which was excellent. Wish it had more bottarga but that's probably the glutton in me.

                        Now if they would only do a spaghetti with bottarga and fried egg dish or spaghetti with shaved tuna heart and fried egg dish...

                        In any case, count me as a fan of their pizza these days.

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