Since 2019, South Los Angeles residents have passed by the shuttered Yee’s space on Slauson Boulevard. For a while, the standalone building was down to its studs, with a rebuild ebbing and flowing across more than two years of pandemic-slowed work. Now Yee’s is gone, and in its place stands Jon & Vinny’s Slauson, an ode to the Italian-American experience from two Florida guys who also happen to help run concessions at Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium. Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo will open the doors on Monday, November 15, and as with the beloved former tenant, a community will be watching.
The new Jon & Vinny’s straddles the Hyde Park/View Park border, on a very busy stretch of Slauson near Overhill. The vibrant block has transformed considerably over the last few years, with neighboring spots like 2018’s Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen and the barely-year-old Jerusalem Chicken (one of Eater LA’s local restaurant picks) competing for customers alongside longstanding community staples like Simply Wholesome.
Dotolo and Shook are familiar with the general area, having moved a chunk of their operations into South LA five years ago, opening an Inglewood catering space and commissary kitchen that has hired extensively from the community for their multi-million-dollar cooking empire. The partners’ company Joint Venture purchased the 5,000-square-foot Yee’s space in 2019 after the owner of the nearly 30-year-old restaurant moved to Hong Kong, though at the time they indicated that they would use the kitchen space for more catering logistics, not a Jon & Vinny’s.
The surrounding View Park and Hyde Park communities voiced concerns about the purchase early on, hoping the Animal, Son Of A Gun, and Trois Mec partners would focus on hiring from within the community while also serving accessible and affordable food that made sense to locals (should they ever decide to open a restaurant of any kind on the property). The neighborhood is more family-oriented and demographically different from the younger customer base found at the original Jon & Vinny’s location on Fairfax.
“One thing that is clear, we are a community and we love our small businesses,” says View Park resident Teresa Mack, who hopes for deeper commitments from Dotolo and Shook moving forward. “Jon and Vinny will have to engage with the community and let us know who they are and what they do besides make money. We have a lot of local businesses to support that got here long before.” Mack also hopes that community members continue to support the other longstanding businesses in the neighborhood, not just the big newcomer on the block.
“[Don’t chase] the new shiny object,” says Mack. “Spread your dollars and support local businesses and definitely all of our legacy businesses like Copies Plus, Simply Wholesome, Superior Cleaners, and so much more.”
Shook and Dotolo say that they have taken (and continue to take) these concerns seriously, regularly attending council and neighborhood meetings through the years. Through that lens, they started to understand the View Park and Hyde Park area’s longstanding relationship with the building they now own. “The small-town community that exists inside LA? You could feel it,” says Shook of View/Hyde Park. “When we went to the council meetings, you could tell how much people care about this neighborhood. There’s a lot of community effort here in all levels. We didn’t know about Yee’s, but people that grew up in this neighborhood knew about Yee’s.”
The original purchase of Yee’s was based almost exclusively on the building’s location in conjunction with the group’s existing catering facilities, say Shook and Dotolo. It wasn’t until hearing from some members of the community directly that they decided to make the building a consumer-facing restaurant all its own. “When people found out that we had bought the building, they reached out to us via email from the Jon & Vinny’s website,” says Dotolo. “There were upwards of 50 emails that made us change direction. I feel it was meant to be.”
A majority of staff and management hired to run the new Jon & Vinny’s live within a five-mile radius or less, adds Dotolo. The group is also intent on creating a comfortable, welcoming physical environment for diners, planting vines to stretch around the building and keeping the ample parking lot intact — an unusual bonus for traffic-choked Los Angeles. “It looks so beautiful, it’s the nicest Jon & Vinny’s we have,” says Dotolo. “It feels good. The staff really brightened the place up.”
As operations get going next week, the View/Hyde Park community will be watching closely — not just to see what the restaurant is physically building or serving on its menus, but to understand what it’s offering to the historic neighborhood and its longtime residents, now and moving forward. Jon & Vinny Slauson opens Monday, November 15 at 4400 W. Slauson Avenue, keeping daily hours from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; reservations are available via Resy.