Gjusta, opened October 29 in Venice, comes from the team behind Gjelina and GTA. Carved out of an industrial building on unlikely Sunset Avenue, just a block from bustling Rose Avenue, Gjusta serves similar fare to GTA (Gjelina Take Away) but with much more of everything.
A long space with white brick, a marble counter and an open kitchen, Gjusta will serve breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day until early next year, when the owners plan to extend the hours. At the moment, the focus is on takeaway, unless you want to stand at the counter, but a large patio space is being constructed and should be done by January, along with a parking lot.
So what caused the Gjelina empire to expand? As owner Fran Camaj says, “We needed somewhere to bake bread.” The food is casual yet up-to-the-minute with seasonal and healthful options next to decadent desserts and meaty sandwiches. The style has both a European and American flair, with Middle Eastern flavors thrown in for good measure. Camaj says, “It’s built to feed people.”
When you walk in, the first counter displays sweets: scones, cookies, an audacious banana cream pie, an iced kabocha squash/chocolate tea cake with pumpkin seeds and a gorgeous lemon poppy seed cake topped with blueberries. This counter also serves coffee, like the cortado found at GTA, lemon shrub (served in mason jars) and smoothies in various combinations, like hemp, banana and nut milk. Behind the counter, breads line shelves like bric-a-brac.
The next counter displays colorful smoked and pickled items. You can purchase a wide array of items, from pickled radishes and jardiniera to a shocking orange chili sauce in adorable bottles and oil-cured mackerel. There's also smoked salmon pastrami.
A third area of the café showcases salads and also serves up sandwiches, pot pies and soups. The salads skew hearty and rustic, like the squash with red onion and the chickpea and cauliflower flavored with cumin. There is also a leek dish topped with Romesco sauce and a smoky Broccolini. The sandwiches range from porchetta melt to the tuna conserva, a favorite at GTA.
Already packed on its second day of business, the space feels a little chaotic as people wait in every corner to be attended to.
But the staff is helpful and enthusiastic. Where else in the world can you be helped by a man named Halleluya Walcott? Walcott watches customer Jeffrey Karoff eat his blackened cod sandwich with gusto, and says appreciatively, “Is that not a delicious sandwich?”
Gjusta's addition to the neighborhood is the first of a trio of new projects that will form a sort of golden triangle. Bill Chait (Bestia) and Jason Neroni are revamping the Rose Café one block over and Paul Hibler is rumored to be taking over the La Fiesta Brava/Mexican market one block over and up.
320 Sunset Ave, Venice.