I hate how grossly overused this phrase has become, yet the fact remains: we eat with our eyes first. And let me tell you, my eyes devoured the entire display table at the new Gjelina Take Away in Venice. I’ve never seen such attention to detail lavished upon salad presentation. GTA doesn’t just offer a cauliflower salad with salsa verde, they select three colors of cauliflower, the purple, green and orange florets enticing the eye’s palate. Bean salad is piled vertically, smoked almonds tumbling over the lightly dressed yellow and green beans and shaved parmesan. Beet and carrot salad is vibrant with chunks of avocado and a drizzling of yogurt. Every single dish on display is artfully put together, and I appreciate that they showcase the ingredients with an extra respect. I know I’ll be coming back again and again until I’ve had everything. With 90% of the produce coming from California farmers, GTA’s counter is hard-core food porn for locavores. Of course, we also eat with our mouths, and that I did. I greedily dispatched the bean salad, crunching on perfectly crisp stalks and savoring every tart, vinegary, smoky, salty bite. The tuna conserva sandwich on homemade olive batard was stuffed with big chunks of fresh tuna, not flaky crumbles in mayonnaise. Atop the tuna, slices of roasted red peppers add sweetness and fresh peppery arugula lends crunch. The sandwich is moistened with a spread of aioli. It is a delight.
Like Mozza2Go and Charles Phan’s Out the Door in San Francisco, GTA offers a wonderful opportunity to eat master chef creations without the premiums we’re charged for sit-down service. For just $12 at GTA, you can get a trio of salads or any of the sandwiches, which currently include pork meatball and BBQ beef. The breakfast sandwich, which comes with a fried-to-order egg, chard, bacon and tomato sauce on a homemade English muffin is just $5. Right now they’re breakfast and lunch only, open from 8am-4pm. The offerings include breakfast porridge, granola, pastries, salads, sandwiches, pizzas, hand-crafted beverages including espresso drinks and berry limeade, and freshly baked bread. In accordance with health requirements, they don’t have to keep their salads under glass because they sell everything within two hours of putting it out. It's that fresh. Okay, so Gjelina doesn't have the best rep right now due to the whole "no substitutions, even for pregnant celebrities" debacle, but if it makes you feel any better, GTA does accept subtractions. (Still no substitutions though.) So go ahead, feast your eyes on GTA. And then feast your belly.