99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Gjelina

photo by Anne Fishbein

It may not evoke the old, funky Venice that so many of the neighborhood’s residents loudly mourn. But if you’re a fan of the newer, shinier Venice, the one with beautiful, stylish people and upscale boutiques and food that skews more California-chic than hippie-dippy, there’s really no better place to revel than Gjelina, a perpetually packed, convivial restaurant on Abbot Kinney. The back patio is one of L.A.’s greatest places to eat, bursting with sun-dappled, ivy-walled, brick-paved charm. The huge menu, of charcuterie, creative veggie dishes, small plates and pizzas, is a fantastic example of the joys of Euro-California cookery. You can get a slow-cooked lamb neck with preserved orange, chili and mint, or a pizza with wild nettles and Fresno chiles, and wash it all down with a bottle of Cahors, or perhaps a Portuguese field blend from Douro. The waits are long and you may well be eating elbow-to-elbow with strangers at a communal table, but the payoff is still quite grand.

-- Besha Rodell