If you've ever tried to grab a Saturday afternoon meal at Gjusta, Travis Lett's Venice deli and restaurant, you'll know that it's entirely possible to wait an hour in between taking a number and having that number called so you can place an order. After that comes the seat-hovering game, whereby you stand awkwardly in the back patio seating area and wait to pounce on the first available seat, often ending up squished next to other parties at one of the long wooden picnic tables. Even on weekdays, the morning and midday and afternoon crush at Gjusta can be intense.
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But there is a way around all of this, which is to dine at Gjusta in the evening. For some reason, the place is almost always half deserted after 6 p.m., despite serving almost all of its daytime menu, plus a bunch of dinner specials, until 10 p.m. every night.
Eating at Gjusta in the evening is like eating at a whole different restaurant. It's quiet. The patio is calm and has plenty of open tables, which are even more charming in the evening under the lights strung overhead. You can order from the expansive sandwich menu, or from the pizza and cold salad case, or you can order from the short dinner specials menu. There you'll find a simple mezze plate, and entrees such as a pork chop with pepporanata, grilled octopus with hummus, and tagliatelle with bottarga, white wine and breadcrumbs. I was excited to try the fried chicken offered, but it was unavailable the night I went.
Even without the fried chicken, dinner at Gjusta was lovely for a laid-back midweek meal. I didn't even feel guilty lingering for conversation at the table after we were done, knowing there were plenty of places to sit for the other in-the-know dinnertime guests. No hovering required.