If Russ & Daughters ever packed her bags for a new life in California, her West Coast version of herself would be Gjusta, a laid-back deli and bakery in Venice. Gone are the high strung New Yorkers fighting for a table, replaced by people who don’t seem too stressed about anything, much less finding a place to sit down and eat. Maybe it’s because a lot of them aren’t working, as I noted on a Friday afternoon the large number of people who were here and not working at some sort of day job. No wonder everyone is so happy out West.
Despite the low-key attitude, the food at Gjusta is seriously good. Everyone around me was ordering plates of massive sandwiches. There’s a lot to choose from, ranging from a traditional meatball sandwich to a banh mi. Of all the sandwiches to pick from in the world, we ending up ordering a tuna sandwich, of all things, and it was the best decision I had ever made in a long time. This was no plain Jane, mushy, chicken of the sea creation that used to frequent my lunchbox. This sandwich had so much texture and pickled flair—who knew a tuna sandwich could be crunchy and so tangy and delicious without the aid of copious mayo?
Gjusta is also famous for its smoked fish plates, and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can opt for the Chef’s choice, which features three smoked fish of the kitchen’s choosing. I would steer you to the salmon and trout, however, rather than risk being disappointed with a smoked fish salad. It comes with several pieces of thick, crusty housemade bread rather than a traditional bagel, a swap that gives the dish some more crunchy vigor.
And just when you think things can’t get any better, then you discover the amazing desserts and pastry selection at Gjusta. Our blueberry pie was as American as they come, with a thick crust that tasted like biscotti and a perfectly tart filling that was punctuated with sugary crumbles. Before leaving, I picked up a butter croissant for the road so that I could keep the good thing I had going at Gjusta for the morning after. By then, the desire to move back West was a little less strong. The nightmares of LA traffic were all coming back to me. But the little bite of pastry from Gjusta did sway me again a bit.
320 Sunset Ave
Venice, CA 90291