Venice is electric!  While Malibu is one of my favorite places to photograph because it is lively, has plenty of wall art, and the sunsets; Venice has all of the aforementioned and  you truly feel a part of something just even sitting here.

The boardwalk is busy. There are street performers, people on skateboards or bikes, and shoppers perusing the eclectic shops they have. I once found a purple summer sun dress here that I really liked.

Venice Beach is only 30 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, and from LAX (Los Angeles Int’l Airport) on a good traffic day so it is convenient to get to. We parked in one of the residential streets off of Abbot Kinney Blvd since we were not pressed for time and walked to the boardwalk.

This sign announces your entrance to Venice Beach.

A little history- Venice was built in 1905 by Abbot Kinney, and it was designed to mirror Venice, Italy. While the Venice Canal Historic District does not compare to the Venice Canals in Italy, it is interesting to see how this resort town of Los Angeles has developed its own personality and made its own name over the years.

Rather than a bunch of chains stores, Abbott Kinney Blvd is home to many unique fashion, food and home décor shops. This is where Gjelina is located.  It is a New American farm-to-table hot spot that has a restaurant and a take-away place next to it. I have read that they serve delicious pizzas so I really wanted to try one that I have not had before. Unfortunately, it was dinner time when we got to Venice and the wait was long so I bought a pre-made slice of my favorite pizza (margherita) from the GTA (Gjelina Take-Away).  I have read a mix of good and bad reviews of Gjelina online. It seems the gripe is about poor service yet there is a mandatory 20% tip. Good review on the ambiance and of course, the food.

Interestingly enough, I was at the library this past weekend looking for California inspired cookbooks when I came across one released by the restaurant’s chef, Travis Lett.  I decided to make the Pizza with Nettles, Raclette and Fresno Chile because it sounded different and not too complicated to make. Also, they have this particular pizza on the GTA menu.

A nettle is a leafy plant that grows prolific like weeds. It is more commonly known as stinging nettles because when you brush up against the hairs of this plant, the tips break off and releases chemicals that causes a stinging sensation against your skin. To avoid this, you have to be very careful in harvesting and handling nettle. However, when the leaves are cooked, they lose their stinging quality. Sounds like a very interesting thing to try so far, but sad for me as it is winter and these things grow in spring; so I had to substitute mine with watercress. Spinach would also make a good alternative option.

Raceltte is type of cheese from raw cow’s milk. It is sharp with a distinctive smell but it gives off a sweet aroma when baked. I discovered that nettles and raclette are not commonly sold at the chain grocery stores in my area. I even tried calling a couple of local nurseries to inquire if they carried nettles and was politely informed that they do not carry ‘metals.’ (I said nettles).

How was the pizza I made? It was delicious! I made the garlic confit from scratch and the jalapeno pepper added just a touch of spiciness to it that I love! So my visit to Venice resulted in me discovering something new (which I always like). I would love to hear about your experiences with visiting Venice or cooking with nettles or raclette. Please share below.

Pizza recipe here.

More info about Venice: