Here’s the deal – we worship Gjelina and all of her glory. And The Tasting Kitchen sits directly next door. It’s important to disclose right now that when given the choice between the two, you should always choose Gjelina. However, sometimes you don’t have the two hours to spare waiting around for Heaven, and in that case, The Tasting Kitchen is your move. Think of The Tasting Kitchen as Gjelina’s younger sister who will never be quite as pretty or smart, but can certainly be fun to hang out with.
Even on Venice’s Abbot Kinney Blvd., a street littered with nauseatingly trendy spots, The Tasting Kitchen holds its own. It somehow manages to remain unpretentious, much like the rather attractive crowd inside. You look at them and think, “Oh wow, that person spent today surfing and doing cool things I don’t even know about. Let’s be friends!”
The Tasting Kitchen’s space is a mix of exposed brick, wood beams, huge windows, and even olive trees that all combine for a pretty unique effect. Again, if you f*cked up and didn’t make yourself a reservation at Gjelina for your birthday, this is a great consolation spot. If you don’t have a reservation, it’s also fairly easy to walk in and get a seat at one of the communal tables at the bar.
The food is mostly Italian, plus a few random outliers, like wings and a burger. There are cheeses and charcuterie, various small plates and veggie sides, a few very solid entrees, and many perfectly-cooked pastas. The menu is best shared, and if you do it right by ordering a little bit of everything, this is not going to be a cheap meal. Or anything resembling it.
Regardless of its second-best status, The Tasting Kitchen is a standout on the overwhelming eating scene that is Abbot Kinney. It may always have a tough gig sitting next door to Gjelina, but it’s earned enough points in our books for some well-deserved time in the Venice sun.
The poached egg is what crowns this polenta the prettiest girl in the pageant.
The octopus is perfectly charred, just the way we like it.
Like most Sunday mornings, we woke up the morning after our most recent meal here wondering if this dish actually happened the previous night. It was that fantastic. Giant pieces of really crispy bread loaded with ricotta, apricot, and some other delicious things.
We recommend eating all of the mussels and then dumping the fries into this sauce.
Essential for the mussels.
The bizarrely shaped pasta, spicy sausage, and breadcrumbs are a must-order.