Jackson Kalb is most excited about the Italian beef sandwich served on a silver platter at his new Hollywood restaurant Jemma. “We are making bread in-house and spent a year-and-a-half developing it,” he says. Using shaved prime rib, Cooper’s sharp American cheese, giardiniera, horseradish, and jus on the side, it’s equal parts Chicago and LA.
Kalb built a career cooking approachable Italian American food at the neighborhood spot Jame in El Segundo, the destination-worthy Ospi in Venice, and the seafood-centric Jemma di Mare in Brentwood. But Jemma, opening on Friday, October 27 on the ground floor of the Aster Hotel in Hollywood, could be Kalb’s most complete expression of red sauce Italian American food thus far, serving fresh pasta made daily on the premises, thin-crust pizza dough that took four years to perfect, and shareable entrees like pork osso buco. And of course, hefty deli-style sandwiches — even for dinner.
Occupying about 4,000 square feet with room for just over 100 people, Jemma’s versatile menu has all the intricacies of a top-flight Italian restaurant without the fanciness of Funke, the expense of La Dolce Vita, or the difficulty of nabbing a table like Donna’s.
Kalb’s menu at Jemma also recalls his other restaurants, including Jemma di Mare’s fontina and caciocavallo-topped garlic bread and veal Parmigiana; Jame’s kale salad with almond dressing and angel hair pasta with pomodoro; and Ospi’s spicy Calabrian soppressata and honey pizza. Spicy rigatoni alla vodka plays into the trend that Carbone popularized in New York City while the mandilli (hankerchief pasta) covered with silky almond-pine nut pesto points to Kalb’s past tenure at Arts District’s Factory Kitchen. Other riffs on Italian American classics include chicken Milanese with brown butter, roasted chicken scarpariello, spicy eggplant Parm, and crispy Rhode Island calamari. In addition to Italian beef sandwiches, there are crispy chicken or eggplant Parm sandwiches, along with chicken pesto and burrata caprese options.
The restaurant’s ingredient details are worth touting. The pizza crust uses Cairnspring Mills flour that’s fermented for over two days, while the sauce is made with ripened tomatoes from Lodi, California. Pastas are made with a blend of Italian and domestic wheat flours and local, pasture-raised eggs. And while pizza snobs might flair their noses at ranch, marinara, or vodka sauce dips, Kalb is embracing the chain pizza delivery tradition.
The cocktail list features many types of Negronis and martinis, plus several light creations like a limoncello spritz with lemongrass and prosecco. Wines by the glass alternate between California and Italy, plus a few French picks. Two mocktails — a raspberry-cucumber number and a ginger, mint, and makrut sipper — make sure no one feels left out.
Jemma and its celebration of Italian American fare joins a number of recent openings catering to the carb-loving hearts of Angelenos including Dante in Beverly Hills, La Bettola di Terroni on Larchmont Avenue, and Best Bet in Culver City.
Jemma Hollywood is located at 1717 Vine Street and serves lunch and dinner dailyfrom 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and until 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Reservations are available on OpenTable, with validated parking in the hotel.