The Village in Studio City has been a long time coming for two reasons. First, there was big talk of Ellen DeGeneres opening a restaurant in the former Bokado location with other celebrity names bandied about, but restaurateur Frank Leon ultimately ended up taking it on himself. Second, although Studio City probably has more restaurants per square foot than any city in the valley, it has needed a restaurant with enough space for a relaxed gathering spot where you can stop by for a meal or a drink and a bite. With its open air ambiance, small plates, pizza and a creative cocktail list, The Village is that spot — a unique gastropub that combines Spanish, Italian and Mediterranean influences.
Leon originally made his culinary mark in Studio City 27 years ago when he opened La Loggia. At that time, the restaurant scene in the 818 was scarce. In fact, La Loggia was known as the “studio commissary” because so many entertainment execs and talent were known to dine and deal there. He followed with Next Door Tapas about eight years ago. Leon replaced his third restaurant, Bokado, with this latest creation.
The open air ambiance of The Village creates an instant buzz as you enter the rustic wood doors. The 1200 square foot outside street patio is shielded with smoky glass. A retractable roof is overhead, while the space is filled with high and low tables, bar stool chairs, a brick wood burning pizza oven and a photo booth. The interior seating is part regular restaurant, part loungey bar all surrounded by a library of books with a mod mix Moroccan theme incorporating tufted cushion seating, edison bulbs and eclectic bric brac. The entire restaurant is 2400 square feet and can hold up to 250 people. There’s also an area that can be curtained off for private parties.
The menu is part small plates, mozzarella bar and pizza bar — there’s something for everyone, including a good selection for vegans and vegetarians. I’ve visited a few times since The Village opened a month ago. The pizzas are very thin with an airy bubbly crust. Real tomato is used instead of a pureed sauce. I loved the zucchini flower pizza which was similar to my favorite squash blossom pizza at Pizzeria Mozza. I eat brussels sprouts everywhere and The Village ranks among the best — crisply sauteed with a sweet/salty cider glaze. Oxtail mini burgers are delicious — delicately filled between thin silver dollar bread slices with a sweet/smoky bite accompanied by skinny fries. Fried cauliflower is light with a calamari feel, except it’s a vegetable and paired salsa brava for a kick. There’s crispy grilled calamari if you want that too. Leon’s namesake, Frank’s Quinoa Salad, is one of DeGeneres’ favorites (he often personally cooks for her)—a mix of quinoa, garbanzo beans, french lentils and cherry tomatoes mixed with pesto. The famous chopped salad from La Loggia is here too.
There are other dishes on the menu that I’m looking forward to trying, including shortribs and white polenta, all the pizzas (the jamon-iberico with ham, figs, fontina cheese, arugula and walnuts sounds particularly tantalizing), the beef and lamb burger which is full size and prepared with fried egg, cabrales cheese and carmelized onions)….and the list goes on – fish n’ chips, meatless tacos, truffle jalapeno mac and cheese, kobacha, and everything on the mozzarella bar, of course (eat variations alone or add to a dish). I also indulged in one of my favorite desserts ever — a thick butterscotch budin with sea salt and rosemary cookies.
The liquor menu is curated by Ron Patric and Randy Evans whose combined mixology experience includes consulting and designing cocktail menus for top LA restaurants and A-lister events such as The Emmys and Golden Globes . There’s an excellent select wine list, plus cava and prosecco. The beer list is bottled and on tap with domestic and international choices. Cocktail offerings up the fun factor with ingredients including bacon, various fruit syrups and herbs, caramel and bitters, as well as a nod to the literary/political world with names like The Rum Diary, Bubbly Zelda and Churchill.
True to the concept of The Village, you’ll find the very affable Frank Leon walking around the restaurant greeting patrons as friends — and you might even make a few new ones yourself.
The Village, 12345 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA 91604 818-752-9222. Open Sunday to Wednesday from 5 p.m. to midnight, and Thursday to Saturday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Stay tuned for Friday lunch and Sunday brunch offering in the near future. Valet and street parking. Plates and pizza ($5-$16), cocktails ($12-$14).
Karen Young is the Founder/Editor of MY DAILY FIND. Got news? Tips? Email email@example.com
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