Hello, Gjelina on Abbott Kinney in Venice. I want you to understand that though Mother is very ANGRY with you, she loves you, and nothing (short of a chef switcheroo in the kitchen) is going to change that. Let’s talk about your good points. Like the FOOD:
Awesome pal Michael and I started with a gorgeous fried egg on top of grilled radicchio salad, which was gently bathed in a garlic and olive oil dressing that made it soft and comforting, as if it had been warmed by the Mediterranean sun. (What a waste of sumptuous sauce to have NO bread with which to sop it up. BAD GJELINA. But I digress.)
Our gruyere, caramelized onion, fromage blanc and arugula pizza ($13) was the perfect balance of salty/nutty, sweet/jammy, creamy/melty and zingy/fresh, respectively. And the crust — thin, crunchy, lightly blistered, artfully extracted from an oven capable of bringing the heat — made me want to cradle the chef to my bosom for all eternity.
Finally, my perfect pillows of gnocchi with peas, prosciutto and lemon brown butter were TO DIE FOR. It reminded me of a similar dish my sister and I loved at a pasta joint near the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. (What WAS that place called?!)
Anyway, I can’t find a picture of the pasta, but here’s a delicious picture of Gjelina chef Travis Lett, whom, if you’ll recall, I’ve promised to hold to my bosom. If he’ll let me. And not call the police or anything:
But I was talking directly to you, Gjelina, wasn’t I? And now it’s time to take your lumps. (Lumps of pillowy, sweet, savory… NO!! FOOD IS NOT ENOUGH!) Let’s start with design. Your peaceful patio seating out back is, in fairness, spectacular and your decor is unarguably pretty:
BUT. Your dining room is crowded, noisy and narrow. Tables are on top of each other to the point where it ALL feels like communal dining. We actually shared a butterscotch pudding with the complete strangers next to us. (Here’s hoping no one has a cold. Or a cold sore!)
You have no bar, no liquor license (!!) and no place for patrons to wait without constantly being bumped by waiters, staff, and customers-in-waiting. And another thing. Our uninterested, unsmiling, anemic-looking waiter was mediocre at best. AT BEST, GJELINA.
Our drinks went un-refilled, our entrees took too long with no explanation, and it’s not like you’re GIVING it away, girlfriend. Prices are reasonable, but they add up fast. Luckily, you’re popular with customers like these, in attendance the night we were there, surprisingly sans fanfare and entourage:
So as you can see, Gjelina, we have a love/hate, agree to disagree situation here. Sigh. I’ll be back soon, because I’m weak, but in the meantime, could you at least have a chat with the people who issue licenses to serve vodka? Because if I’m going to wait an hour or so, bumped like a buoy in a sea of waiters and West Siders, Momma’s gonna need a drink.