Richard Foss

Jimmy’s Kouzina makes sense, other changes still a mystery

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by Richard Foss

Game Over For Second Half?… There has been a sports bar on PCH near Fifth Street in Manhattan Beach for 50 years, beginning with Mr. Pockets and most recently Second Half. That tradition may have come to an end. Second Half closed a few weeks ago and extensive renovations have been underway. From the fact that no sign was posted by the management and their website has no information, I’m guessing it’s curtains for this longtime locals hangout. The opening of the new Gelson’s is likely to change the neighborhood, and this could be the first manifestation of that development…

Under Old Management… If you have noticed the sign for Jimmy’s Kouzina where Old Venice used to be, you might think the place has changed hands. Don’t worry, it hasn’t. This is the latest homage to the founder of the restaurant, Jimmy Hantzarides, who died several years ago in a tragic bicycling accident. The rebranding is sensible for a purely practical reason. The name Old Venice led people to expect Italian food, but the menu has been leaning more Greek for a long time.

Newcomer On The Pier Plaza… Many local restaurateurs have learned just how hard it can be to get a change to their operating permit. ITA Italian Street Food beat the odds and opened in the space that used to be Hooked, which  had limited prep areas and needed a kitchen upgrade. Fresh baked folded pizzas are their specialty, and while I haven’t been able to get there yet I have heard rave reviews. Welcome to the neighborhood, ITA, and may everything go smoothly for you from now on (21 Pier Avenue, HB)…

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Under Construction, Or Not… There’s something going on at the former Gasser’s Lounge on Aviation, and I had a tip that this will be a foray into cocktails from a restaurateur more noted for upscale family dining. I haven’t been able to confirm that yet, but emails to the company’s president haven’t been responded to. Another mystery is the former Tapas & Vino, a prime space in Riviera Village that has been closed for any months. The owner of that business has not responded to phone calls requesting information, and there is no evidence of any work in progress. Their website is still up but hasn’t been updated. Any information on either of these mysteries would be much appreciated…

Coming Attractions… The South Bay got its ice cream made with liquid nitrogen when Smitten opened in El Segundo, and it will get its second when Creamistry opens in the Whole Foods shopping center in Redondo. The attraction of this style of ice cream is not just the tech wizardry of seeing it made in front of your eyes, but the fact that it’s incredibly creamy with none of the ice crystals that can form when ice cream sits for even a few hours. Watch for an opening sometime this fall…

Event Alert… Gabi James will be hosting the first wine dinner in their newly remodeled upstairs space on August 20, and the restaurant specializing in Spanish food has quite sensibly invited winemaker Michael Cooper of Vinos del Vientos. Under Californian Cooper’s management this winery in Aragon,  has been redefining Spanish wines, including making the first blush wine from the Cariñena grape. Come experience a Spanish food and wine revolution – the price is $100 per person for five courses. Reservations can be made by calling Gabi James at 310-540-4884…

Acting Like You Own The Place… There have been caricatures of restaurateurs and chefs as control freaks, martinets who enforce their idea of proper decorum. This does happen occasionally because there are some big egos in the business, but the opposite can be a bigger annoyance to customers. Case in point: we were dining at a Hermosa Beach restaurant with a restful, quiet patio when four people at an adjoining table decided to share their tastes in music with the other customers. They had brought a boombox and played aggressive rock at blasting volume, then talked over it. The servers  obviously noticed the situation, because they had to ask other patrons to repeat their orders, but they seemed confused about what to do about it. A manager who walked by glanced at the offenders, scowled, but then did nothing. After about 10 minutes I had enough, so I marched over to their table and offered the offending diners the choice of them turning it off or me breaking it. They chose the former, and the other diners on the patio were able to finish their meals in peace. Though the outcome was what I desired, this really wasn’t my job. The people who should have done it were not doing their job, part of which is to maintain the pleasant environment.

Space Available, Food Extraordinary… I don’t often list events at Primo Italia in this column because most are intimate and held in a small room so that they sell out within days of being announced. On September 6 they’ll be holding a larger soiree to benefit No Kid Hungry, featuring “culinary MC” Billy Harris, who seems have invented the category of gastro-raconteur. There will be libations, tastes of Italian specialties from Chef Michelangelo Aliaga, and live music. Go to Eventbrite.com and enter Primo Italia to see the menu and line-up. Tickets are $150 and will sell out, so act fast…

And In Conclusion… Any new restaurants I should know about, any events, any other places to get great calzones? I’m at Richard@richardfoss.com…

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