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Santino's Hybrid Cuisine Sprouts in Venice

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Santino's, that Santa Monica mainstay, has opened a new location in Venice, this one, a panineria. Let's review: Back in February 2009, Santino's had to shutter due to a fire in the building. The popular grill and tapas joint suffered major damage and is still closed. But while owners Sergio Amata and Hythum Kiswani worked on rebuilding, they also kept their eyes open for new locations. Santa Monica building codes are some of the most demanding, so the old Santino's hopes to reopen in "a couple of months," but this leaves us time to check out the new location. Amata and Kiswani scored a spot right next to the beach on Venice and Windward. The space used to be a Quizno's, but health department regulations forced them to shut down nearly a year ago. Amata and Kiswani know the building's owners, so the deal was finalized in a matter of weeks. Having installed a brand new kitchen, they are in the process of refurbishing the space with rustic wood tables and local art, giving the sandwich spot a casual, local feel. A splashy, colorful paint job and friendly staff complete the look.

As for the food, there's a lot of the same that Santino's became known for: Tapas like eggplant rolls, cheese fondu, empanadas, and ceviche are on the smaller side and cost between $2.50 and $7). If an Argentinean-Italian married a Spanish-American, this menu would be their love child. There are salads, mostly inspired by the Mediterranean - Caprese, Italiana, and Griega - but there's a Cubana with guacamole and onions and an Americana, or green salad, to even things out. Unsurprisingly, panini feature prominently on the menu. There's a Milanga (breaded top sirloin) and Chickenesa (breaded chicken breast) for $8. Most of the others - Mortadella, Salami, Pastrami, Tuna, Roast Beef - will run you just $7. Which leaves room for dessert. There's flan, tiramisu and panqueques, those dulce de leche filled crepes with a sweetness so cloying that it begs for a cafe con leche. Fortunately, Santino's has that too. — Daniela Galarza

Santino's

1611 Pacific Ave. ,Venice., CA

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