Jon & Vinny’s is not Animal, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s first Fairfax restaurant that lists veal brains and pig head on its menu. Nor is it Son of a Gun, their seafood-focused eatery featuring tiny lobster rolls. As the duo’s first namesake restaurant, Jon & Vinny’s harkens back to the food both chefs grew up with, Italian-American comfort food that conjurs up images of red-checkered tablecloths and Nona stirring pots of bubbling tomato sauce.
There aren’t red-checkered tablecloths—the whole restaurant is sleek and awash in white oak that evokes a Scandinavian feel (the giveaway that we’re in LA: ‘90s R&B blasting). There is tomato sauce, though. It’s served over three large meatballs that fell apart under my fork, exceptionally seasoned and flanked by ricotta and some fantastic slices of garlic bread. It’s served on pizza, too, of which the most popular at Jon & Vinny’s is the LA Woman. I’d heard murmurs of this pizza before my visit, a simple pie topped with burrata and basil and a sprinkling of sea salt. It’s good, sure, but it doesn’t quite live up to the hype, and at $18.50 it is remarkably small for its price.
It is hard to order the cacio e pepe here and not compare it to former Bucato chef Evan Funke’s version, but we gave it a shot. Jon & Vinny’s iteration is a great one, with thick, homemade bucatini and just the right amount of cracked pepper (that is to say, a lot). Preceded by a fresh burrata and pear salad and some addictive cornmeal fried spring onions, it makes for a fulfilling meal.
Jon & Vinny’s is open for breakfast, too, and their pasty case is often filled with things like honey date scones and a "bombolone of the day." To end a meal, skip the strawberry bread pudding and go for the cinnamon meringue instead. One crunchy bite reveals a sticky, hazelnut cream filling that goes back to what this place is supposed to be about: comfort food. Kind of overpriced, kind of overhyped, but comfort food nonetheless.
What to Eat: The burrata and peach salad ($12.25). The meatballs ($15.25). The cornmeal fried spring onions ($9). The cacio e pepe ($15.75). The meringue ($2.50).
What to Drink: In the back of Jon & Vinny’s sits Helen’s, a small wine shop from Helen Johannessen, who has been the beverage director for the chefs’ projects since Animal opened. Sparkling, white, red and rose wine can be bought by the bottle or the glass, and I ordered a 2014 Gamay—which I couldn’t finish. I like chilled wine as much as the rest of us, but this glass, and the one that came after, were both frigid (and the first was slightly turned). I’ll give Helen the benefit of the doubt—she’s been doing this for a while and knows her wines—but it was an unfortunate part of our meal.
Where to Sit: The narrow, 45-seat restaurant includes booths on the right and in the back, and a row of counter seating on the left. A meal lasting for a couple hours can prove difficult, as the seating is hard and wooden, but snag a booth for maximum comfort (and better service). And if you’re coming for dinner, make reservations.