One of Hollywood’s most recognizable spaces is getting a saucy new tenant, as none other than Top Chef alum Jackson Kalb is taking over the ground-floor restaurant that used to belong to Cleo on Vine. The jewel box Hollywood hangout spent years as a hotspot for locals and out-of-towners alike, and now Kalb is promising to debut an upscale casual Italian-American restaurant inside next year, named Jemma.
Not to be confused with Kalb’s planned East Coast Italian seafood restaurant Jemma di Mare, coming to Brentwood in 2023, Hollywood’s Jemma will fall much more in the meaty, sauce-focused Italian-American genre. Yes, that means simple pastas as well as higher hydration, non-Roman pizza, fried delights, and drinks.
“Obviously we’ll have spaghetti and meatballs,” says Kalb, laughing. “I hope it’s not just that simple, of course, but that’s the idea.” On the pizza front, Kalb says that he’s currently playing around with unique flour combinations from Central Milling, and looking for something a little heftier than the cracker-thin crusts found on many other Italian pies around the city. He admits that he “doesn’t even know what style to call it” himself, only that it will be a deviation from anything he’s offered before, including at his Venice restaurant Ospi.
“Ospi was specifically focused on Southern Italian cuisine,” says Kalb, and while some of the most popular dishes over there — like the spicy rigatoni and crispy provolone — can feel more like New Jersey-ready riffs rather than “authentic” Italian food, he swears that was mostly by accident. “I thought they’d be on the menu maybe for a few weeks, and now they’re some of our best sellers.”
Jemma will expand into that genre a bit more, offering a broader red sauce look at what’s possible when one of Los Angeles’s busiest chefs brings his own take to a tried-and-true genre, and right on the Walk of Fame no less. The unique mix of tourists, locals, and commuters at Hollywood and Vine means that the food needs to appeal to a broad swath of diners all at once, which is why Kalb plans on opening Jemma seven days a week, lunch through dinner, right from the start.
He’ll have plenty of competition, both in location and cuisine type. Italian-American food is perhaps the most popular dollar-for-dollar dining option in the city (as is the case in many parts of America), with places from Jon & Vinny’s to Dan Tana’s to Little Dom’s all serving up reasonably similar fare. The building where Jemma will sit also recently opened a membership club upstairs as well, which includes a public rooftop restaurant named Lemon Grove helmed by Marcel Vigneron, another Top Chef alum. Look for Jemma to open at 1717 Vine Street in Hollywood by July or August 2023.