Los Angeles chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, who serve veal brains and pig ears at Animal, and shishito pepper with bottarga at Son of Gun, have some decidedly different plans up their sleeves for their next restaurant. Jon & Vinny’s will open in early 2015, across the street from Animal, serving up what Dotolo describes as “California slash traditional Italian with an undertone of Jersey.”
What’s on the menu? Coffee and pastry in the morning, then pizza, pasta, salads, and desserts for lunch and dinner. In addition to all-day food offerings at Jon and Vinny’s, beverage director Helen Johannesen will run a wine store in the back of the restaurant.
Next to Jon & Vinny’s, Shook and Dotolo’s much-needed new catering kitchen will also open soon, freeing up the space for new menus and projects that their catering operations were taking up — inside the Animal dining room — during the day.
Shook and Dotolo are working with designer Jeff Guga. “I would say by the middle of next year 2015, Fairfax as a whole is going to be completely renovated into this new California modern design,” says Shook.
“It feels natural being there,” Doltolo says about the Fairfax neighborhood. “We grew up in the surf and skate world, as kids in Florida. Being in the neighborhood with those people during the day, it really feels a little bit like our youth. That’s the spirit of Animal from the beginning to now, to be able to contribute even more to the place. Now with the new building, it feels really good.”
For Jon & Vinny’s, Shook and Dotolo are planning a menu with a simple approach, closer to the kinds of foods they ate growing up and how they cook at home for their families. Pasta dishes will be made with hand-rolled, extruded, and dried pasta as well as serving their version of eggplant Parmesan and meatballs.
“A wider range of people will enjoy this food,” says Dotolo. “Animal is very specific. When people go there, one of the biggest things is that we have a set of rules to the way we dine there, ever since we opened, and we never changed that. We're also thinking more family vibe. Jon and I are both parents now. We weren’t when we opened Animal. Are we going to have crayons for kids to color with? It’s a possibility.”
When asked about the name for their new family-friendly joint, Shook explains, “We've been calling it Jon & Vinny’s from Day One, right when we bought the building. Canter’s is right across the street. Marc Canter runs that place every day. Their family is there. That nostalgia is what we are trying to create. The hope is this is going to be the one that we have forever.”