Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo are planning to open a third location of Jon & Vinny’s, their popular Italian American restaurant, in South L.A.’s View Park neighborhood next year.
In January, Shook and Dotolo’s company Joint Venture purchased the former Yee’s Chinese Food restaurant at the corner of Buckler and West Slauson avenues. The 5,000-square-foot building sold for $2.4 million, according to property records.
The prolific chef-restaurateurs, at the helm of a growing hospitality group that includes Jon & Vinny’s in Brentwood and the Fairfax District and Helen’s Wines, as well as the restaurants Animal, Son of a Gun, Trois Mec, Petit Trois and Kismet, initially planned to use the Yee’s space as a second commissary kitchen for their catering operation, Carmelized Productions.
But after community members expressed interest on the social networking app Nextdoor, Shook said he and Dotolo reconsidered their plans, deciding instead to transform the building into a full-service, all-day restaurant.
“We still have to get approval from the city and the neighborhood council before we move forward, but the people we’ve met so far have been very supportive,” he said. “We wouldn’t be doing this without their blessing.”
Along with neighboring suburbs Ladera Heights, Windsor Hills and Baldwin Hills, the hilltop community of View Park is one of the most affluent predominantly African American enclaves in the country, often referred to collectively as the “Black Beverly Hills.”
But in the last decade, some residents have expressed concerns regarding gentrification and shifting demographics, namely the growing number of affluent white home buyers in the area.
The rapid redevelopment of Inglewood, less than a mile south of Yee’s and the future site of two professional sports stadiums, has also prompted discussion over the potential displacement of communities of color and associated businesses.
Last weekend Shook and Dotolo hosted an informational “open house” event at the Yee’s space, offering free pizza to residents and showcasing renderings of the restaurant’s Jeff Guga-designed white oak interior, which will resemble other Jon & Vinny’s locations and feature a wine store curated by partner and beverage director Helen Johannesen.
“It was super important to us that we didn’t do a lesser version of Jon & Vinny’s,” said Brianne Chan, a Joint Venture spokeswoman. “Yee’s was open for 40 years, so there’s a lot of excitement and expectation about what’s coming next.”
The permits necessary to open the restaurant, including the lengthy process of obtaining a beer and wine license, are still pending. Construction is barely underway. But Shook figures the interim time can be used by community members to share feedback on a project that will likely be a lightning rod for larger conversations about development across South L.A.
“We want neighbors to get to know us and understand what our intentions are first,” he said. “They’re who we’re trying to serve.”
4400 W. Slauson Ave., Los Angeles, jonandvinnys.com