Dinner Blooms in Venice

Jason Neroni serves up California classics at the iconic Rose Cafe

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Chicken at Rose Cafe
At Rose Cafe, menus change not just with the seasons but with the days, so you're always having the season's best. (Photos: Pascal Shirley)

Lush ivy-covered walls, beds of herbs and flowers and glowing wicker lamps—this describes the enchanting patio of Venice’s Rose Cafe.

When the beloved neighborhood restaurant reopened last fall after a snazzy, eight-month revamp by new ownership, it initially continued its 35-year tradition of serving breakfast and lunch only. But it has recently added dinner service, and we’re ecstatic—because nighttime is the best time to experience the covered patio’s enchantment and chef Jason Neroni’s globally influenced California fare. At dinner, Neroni—who previously made a splash at now-shuttered Superba Snack Bar and who owns renowned pizzerias in New York City—moves beyond daytime breakfast, salads and sandwiches to present a wider range of more complex and market-driven dishes.

The interior of Rose Cafe
The brick-paved, ivy-covered patio is the perfect place to enjoy a magical California night.

The buzzing cafe embodies the hip-‘n’-healthy ethos of Venice with its boho-chic vibe and conscientiously sourced ingredients, which include primarily organic meats and dairy and seafood that’s either wild-caught or farmed with organic practices. The menu changes almost daily, but expect rustic entree choices like aromatic lavender-honey chicken roasted in the wood-burning hearth (half, $29; whole, $52) and moist grilled Alaskan halibut ($39) lip-smackingly sauced with celery root crema and charred Meyer lemon marmalade.

While the housemade pastas and charcuterie draw raves, the dishes that most impress us are the ones that showcase the restaurant’s chiefly organic, locally grown vegetables—and Neroni’s skill in preparing them. This might be best exemplified in the smoky grilled asparagus ($15), which is topped with herbed ricotta, summer truffle vinaigrette, a fried duck egg and peppery nasturtium leaves from the cafe’s garden.

Neroni practically started the city’s cauliflower steak trend back when he was cooking at Superba Snack Bar, and his charred cauliflower “T-bone” ($16)—served over fava bean puree and topped with a crunchy, sweet-salty mix of chopped roasted almonds, capers, golden raisins and nasturtium blossoms—is not to be missed here.

Enjoying these dishes while sitting under the ivy-shrouded patio’s awning, with fairy lights twinkling above, is a magical way to welcome summer.

Rose Cafe
220 Rose Ave., Venice
(310) 399-0711
rosecafevenice.com