Jon & Vinny's
Haters are gonna hate but Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo have done it again with the opening of their latest Fairfax District namesake, Jon & Vinny’s. They’ve given us meat (Animal) seafood (Son of A Gun) French (Trois Mec and Petit Trois) and now they are serving us Italian! Having been to all of them (except Trois Mec where figuring out their system for buying one of those golden Willy Wonka tickets required for making a reservation is like trying to sign up for the Affordable Care Act circa October 1st 2013), I have to say that Jon & Vinny’s has usurped Son of a Gun as my favorite of their restaurants’. I will also go as far as to say, that Delfina in San Francisco has been dethroned as my favorite Italian restaurant on the west coast. The food feels traditionally inspired with recognizable crowd pleasers like spaghetti Bolognese and Meatballs. Much more than a pizzeria, you’ll find a new American take on the old-faithful’s. Like I said, they’ve done it again, and what they’ve done will make you want to slap somebody like Cher slapped Nick Cage in Moonstruck it’s so good!
Just a few steps away from Animal (and just as difficult to get a reservation at) Jon & Vinny’s is open 7 days a week serving breakfast lunch and dinner (they also deliver). I gay squealed on the inside when I got a call from the hostess informing me of a 8pm cancelation which would make it possible for our party to be accommodated. The Jon & Vinny’s neon sign glows above the glass front in classic Italian colors of red and green. Inside, diners sit in booths made from light wooden panels. These panels go from floor to ceiling in a simple geometric pattern giving the impression of what I imagine it would feel like to sit inside a bamboo rice steamer. I’m not sure what the restaurant designer Shio Kusaka was going for, but I get the impression that a minimalist approach was key in keeping the attention on the food. Like the open kitchen of Petit Trios, the restaurateurs decided to repeat that feature in this restaurant, incorporating yet another typically Asian (specifically Japanese) motif reminiscent of going out to a Sushi restaurant where the chef prepares rolls in front of you and hands them to you himself.
If you’ve read my other restaurant reviews you know that I use a little system of evaluation on a scale of 1 to 10. A) Atmosphere, B) Appetizer, C) Cocktails/Beverage, D) Dessert/Coffee, E) Entrée and F) Service. I add up the scores for each category and divide by 6 to get the average. Having just described the atmosphere, I gave it an 8.5 as I rather enjoyed the eat-in-kitchen experience of having the chef hand us our food directly. However, demerits for the minimalist décor, which isn’t my favorite approach to design for an Italian Restaurant—even a hip, modern one.
I’m still not drinking alcohol (9 months into my “Dry For A Year” challenge) but the house-made lemonade and sparkling water were a solid 8.5. I’m dying to go back and try one of Helen Johannessen’s 200 to 300 wine selections conveniently located in the back of the restaurant. Complete with its own pink neon sign, Helen’s is also a retail shop where you can expect to find two price tags, one for dining in and one for taking out. You pass the shop on your way to the restroom, just another whimsical component of this adorably random design concept.
We started our journey back to Italy with appetizers: the burrata, white peach, arugula salad and Sonny’s favorite pizza. The seasonal sweetness of the ripe white peaches paired with the freshness of the creamy buratta made for an excellent salad. As a bacon aficionado, I couldn’t pass up the Niman slab bacon, which delivered the perfect bite of salted chessy- chewy goodness. Together they scored a 9.2.
If I knew how, I would have gotten up on the table and danced the Tarentella to celebrate what came next. Spaghetti Bolognese. If you order nothing else, when you go there, you must get the Spaghetti Bolognese. For the longest time the Chateau Marmont held the crown jewel of Bolognese here in Los Angeles. After a long and wide search through many popular restaurants that will remain nameless, I was met with disappointment after disappointment. I didn’t think it was going to happen but it finally did, making Jon & Vinny’s Bolognese the best in the city. Along with the Meatballs that came with a side of garlic bread that was out of this world, the entrées took the highest score of 9.6.
With the buttons on our pants about to pop, we couldn’t resist the Strawberry Cheesecake. The New York style yumminess earned a 9, pushing us over the top in a good way. Throughout the meal our server was attentive, personable and knowledgeable about the food. She recommended everything that we had that evening, so the success of the experience belongs as much to her as it does the Chefs. I gave her a solid 9 as well. Overall, Jon & Vinny’s scored a TBOT 8.9.
You really can’t beat authentic and affordable Italian food! Please go enjoy it and don’t forget to order the Spaghetti Bolognese!